Compact crossovers are America’s best-selling cars. They aim to please the masses by doing just about everything well. And as a consequence, they tend to be dull and indistinguishable. Call them the CBS sitcoms of cars.
Hyundai took a different route with the all-new Tucson Hybrid. In a segment that's all about compromises, the Tucson Hybrid makes none of them.
The Tucson Hybrid does its compact crossover duty well; it's spacious, efficient and gets the family from A to B smoothly and safely. But unlike most of its competition, it does those tasks while being striking to look at, feeling like a premium product and being genuinely fun to drive. And as usual, Hyundai does it all while meeting or beating its competitors on price.
Hyundai loaned me a Tucson Hybrid to drive around my home in Michigan for a week. And — this is rare for a compact crossover — I did not want it to go when they picked it up.
Hyundai named their compact crossover the Tucson — presumably by using their traditional method of donning a blindfold and throwing a dart at a map of the American West. The Tucson slots above the Kona and below the Santa Fe, and shares components with the Santa Cruz compact pickup. It’s also Hyundai’s rival for top sellers like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V.
The Tucson Hybrid, which does not plug in, is the lesser of the two electrified Tucsons. The 1.6-liter inline-four pairs with an electric motor to pump out 226 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. It averages 37 mpg in EPA testing. You can upgrade to a Tucson PHEV offering around 30 miles of EV-only range.
Yes. The fourth-generation Tucson is all-new for the 2022 model year. This is the first Tucson generation to get hybrid powertrains.
It’s also the newest-looking Hyundai vehicle. With its bold lines, distinctive wing-shaped grille with incorporated LED lights and tech-forward interior, the Tucson offers a vision of Hyundai’s future — which looks bright.
The Tucson Hybrid is surprisingly athletic and engaging to drive. It’s peppier than the base Tucson, packing about 40 more hp — and the engine delivers 82 lb-ft more torque than the RAV4 Hybrid. The electric motor provides ample oomph off the line, and the powertrain uses a conventional, driver-friendly six-speed automatic rather than the droning CVT typically found in a hybrid.
The Tucson Hybrid is not a track assassin; the power peters out quick when you push it. Still, this is a compact crossover that draws you in and entices you to use the shift paddles. The steering is spot-on without feeling unnaturally heavy. The Tucson Hybrid’s e-handling AWD system gives you torque vectoring for more controlled corner entry and smoother exits. Also, this SUV does a solid job absorbing Detroit-area bumps.
Sure, it’s not the most fuel-efficient of the compact crossover hybrids; I averaged in the low 30s with it with some spirited driving. But I would sacrifice a few mpg for the extra jolt of joie de vivre the Tucson Hybrid provides.
The Tucson Hybrid's interior is excellent. The fourth-generation model grew six inches longer, yielding more passenger and cargo space. The Tucson Hybrid was one of only four cars to achieve a perfect score on the Car Seat Fit Report Card. The interior feels modern and tech-forward with dual 10.25-inch displays. Material quality feels premium. And there’s even a smidgen of personality. You don’t get the Elantra’s mystery spot to the left of the steering wheel (look it up), but you do get a peculiar four-spoke steering wheel.
The one drawback to the interior is the haptic feedback buttons. They look clean and au courant, but aesthetics triumphed over function, as they're annoying to use. The last thing a driver wants to do is divert more attention from the road to precisely press a button...especially when it's the stereo volume.
Those shopping for a Tuscon Hybrid will notice that Hyundai also sells a Santa Fe Hybrid. Both SUVs are two rows and spacious. Their sticker prices overlap. And with the new Tucson growing a bit, their dimensions aren't that far off. I was in a prime position to compare them since we just leased a Santa Fe Hybrid.
The Santa Fe Hybrid is the more conventional-looking crossover. The grille doesn't incorporate the headlamps, and the interior has traditional push buttons. The Santa Fe is longer, wider and taller than the Tucson Hybrid, and has a tad more passenger space. The Tucson Hybrid technically has more cargo space. The Tucson Hybrid is lighter, has far more torque and earns five mpg more in highway driving.
Both the Tucson and Santa Fe will meet the needs of small families. The choice between them would likely come down to personal preference or — with the present vehicle scarcity — availability.
The Tucson Hybrid starts at $29,200. I drove the top-level (on the hybrid) Limited trim, which comes all but fully loaded at $37,500 MSRP. The only options are things like floormats, mud guards and a tow hitch for an extra $450.
Powertrain: 1.6-liter inline-four hybrid, 6-speed automatic, AWD
Torque: 258 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 37 mpg city, 36 mpg highway
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