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2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid First Drive: When Dynamism Trumps Efficiency

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Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid.

Hyundai is introducing a new, bolder generation of its Tucson for 2022. We had the chance to test drive the hybrid variant of the compact SUV, which will soon be complemented by a plug-in hybrid model. This Tucson surprised us with its liveliness, but it comes at the cost of fuel economy.

Original styling
Hyundai's new styling approach is described as "parametric dynamics". Don’t ask me to explain exactly what that means, but there is indeed a dynamic design to the vehicle with its multi-faceted exterior elements. There are more pronounced angles everywhere and a more sculpted silhouette. In profile, the Tucson has a powerful, forward-moving appearance. The front headlights disappear into the long hood.

The same approach is evident at the rear, where the full-width lights incorporate half-camouflaged triangular shapes that are only revealed when lit, echoing the design of the daytime running lights at the front. To ensure the purity of this design approach, the Hyundai logo has been moved up and integrated into the rear window, while the wiper is camouflaged under the rear spoiler. Overall, it’s a style that stands out in today’s somewhat grey automotive universe.

2022 Hyundai Tucson hybride, profile
Photo: B.Charette
2022 Hyundai Tucson hybride, profile

Lots of technology
The Tucson Hybrid, which retails for a higher-than-average starting price of $41,499, offers a long list of active and passive safety features. The list of safety functions includes all of the Hyundai SmartSense features that come standard in all Tucson models and include: forward collision avoidance assist (FCA) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist and lane tracking assist, long-range headlight assist, low driver attention alert, rear occupant alert and vehicle departure warning system in front.

In addition to all of these features, there’s a small button on the right side of the steering wheel that activates the Highway Driving Assist feature. It helps the Tucson stay centered in its lane during normal driving and works with the adaptive cruise control. When the cruise control is activated, the new Tucson thus has a semi-autonomous driving function.

In addition, Hyundai has a fun little gadget that allows you to park the vehicle remotely. When the engine is running, simply hold the forward button on the key fob and the Tucson will automatically drive to the parking spot. Pressing the reverse button puts it in reverse. This can also come in handy in a mall parking lot, for those times when someone’s parked a little too close for comfort.

You also have remote start, which allows you to heat or cool the Tucson remotely through the Bluelink app on a cellular device, including activating the available seat heating or ventilation, a feature exclusive in the segment.

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, interior
Photo: B.Charette
2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, interior

Comfortable and spacious
The new Tucson has grown in size. Its body is longer, wider and higher and its 2755 mm wheelbase is 85 mm longer than the previous model. As you might guess, this adds a lot more space for passengers and cargo. The back seats can easily accommodate three people, for example, and cargo capacity is also up. There are 1,095 litres of space with the seats up and 2,119 litres with the seats down, which simply fold down with the pull of a lever in the back. Only the CR-V offers more space in this segment.  

You get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a good Bose audio system with 8 speakers and a 10.25-inch screen. Shifting gears is now done via a push button that replaces the previous lever. The cabin's ambient lighting is adjustable in 64 colors and 10 intensity levels, plus you get an indirect diffusion ventilation system, unique in the automotive industry, which blessedly doesn't send air directly into your face.

On seeing the 19-inch tires on our tester, we had some concerns about ride comfort; these concerns proved to be unwarranted. In terms of ride and handling, the suspension does a good job of keeping roll under control without making things hard on the highway, despite those 19-inch wheels and 235/55 tires.

Both front and rear seats offer good comfort and the cabin is very well insulated from outside noise. And since space for the occupants is generous, it adds to the comfort level for everyone.

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid,  two rows of seats
Photo: B.Charette
2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, two rows of seats

Fun to drive
Hybrids are generally not associated with driving pleasure; it almost goes against their prime directive. But, though it’s not particularly sporty, the Tucson's drive is lively, even slightly edgy. Hyundai offers e-handling technology, which means that on entering a corner, the electric motor applies braking force to the front wheels, loading the tires and sharpening steering response; on exiting, it gives torque to the rear axle for better acceleration out of the corner. This delivers a driving dynamic not usually seen in a hybrid model.

In addition, the steering is precise and quick, and you can also modulate your driving setup via the drive modes. For example, Smart mode is ideal for city driving or on a long stretch of highway. Sport mode is our favorite, as it gives the steering more bite and changes the operating characteristics of the all-wheel drive system by sending more power to the rear for a greater portion of the time, enhancing the drive. There are also Snow, Sand and Mud modes, which tells you that in theory anyways, the Tucson is capable of some off-roading.

The hybrid model uses a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque. It runs on an electric motor and a 1.49 kWh lithium-ion-polymer battery.

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid,  front
Photo: B.Charette
2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, front

A dashing engine
The electric motor adds 59 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque, bringing the net output to 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid works with a 6-speed automatic transmission to drive all four wheels. That’S a unit we approve if, as it offers a more dynamic and smoother ride than the horrible CVTs too commonly paired with hybrid-powertrain engines. With the turbocharged engine and the electrical input, power is more than decent.

A little greedy, though
Hyundai claims an average fuel consumption of 6.4L/100 km with the hybrid model. On our two-day test drive that covered some 250 km of highway, we managed to average 7.5L/100 km. That's not bad, but it's nothing exceptional either. For comparison, a model like the Toyota Highlander hybrid is below 7.0 L/100 km, though the flip side is it’s less fun to drive.

Conclusion
The Tucson Hybrid proved to be livelier on the road than we expected. It has a very stylish interior, a host of advanced technologies and a powertrain that will suit a wide range of customers. Best of all, its size is compact enough for those who don't like big SUVs and roomy enough for the whole family to enjoy its comfort.  To be honest, I liked the new Tucson better than the new Santa Fe; it might overshadow it.

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid,  three-quarters rear
Photo: B.Charette
2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, three-quarters rear

We like

Elegant styling
Lots of technology for the price
Easy to use infotainment system
 
We like less

Fuel economy a bit disappointing
Hybrid configuration only available in top-of-the-line model

The competition

Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
GMC Terrain
Honda CR-V
Jeep Cherokee
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

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Photos:B.Charette
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