I’m not sure what they feed them at the Hyundai HQ cafeteria in Seoul, but whatever it is, it’s working. The Korean automaker has been on a hot streak these past few years, having upped its game across the board, whether that’s in design, build quality, or efficiency. The 2022 Tucson Hybrid crossover is yet another data point to support that claim, offering sharp looks, an interesting interior, and 38 mpg (6.2 L/100km), starting at just $29,050.
The Tucson first appeared back at the dawn of the crossover era in 2004. For this generation, Hyundai has lengthened the wheelbase of Tucsons destined for the North American market to 108.5 inches (2,756 mm). Overall length is still a manageable 182.3 inches (4,630 mm), with a width of 73.4 inches (1,864 mm) and a height of 65.6 inches (1,666 mm). As ever, a car’s styling is subjective, but in this case I think design director SangYup Lee’s team did a decent job. They’re calling the faceted style “Parametric Dynamics.” At the front, the daytime running lights are incorporated into the sides of the Hyundai grille, and at the rear there are distinctive taillights that remind me somewhat of the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Normal Tucsons are powered by a 2.5L engine, and there’s a plug-in hybrid Tucson due later this year, but today we’re only concerned with the not-plug-in Hybrid. This uses a 1.6 L turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline direct-injection engine, which on its own is almost as powerful as the bigger engine as well as being more torquey, providing 180 hp (134kW) and 195 lb-ft (264 Nm). But since it’s a hybrid, it also gets the benefit of a 59 hp (44.2 kW), 195 lb-ft (264 Nm) electric motor that’s fed from a 1.5 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. As ever, it’s not quite as simple as just adding the total outputs of the electric motor and internal combustion engine together (since they won’t both make peak power at the same time), but total output is 226 hp (169 kW) and 258 lb-ft (350 Nm).
All-wheel drive is standard on the Tucson Hybrid, as is a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency is an impressive 38 mpg across the board, although the Limited trim drops to 37 mpg (6.4 L/100km) combined. It’s relatively quiet on the move, thanks to some NVH improvements, including an acoustic windshield and better wheel liners.
On-road manners were perfectly acceptable, if unremarkable. Over the course of a week I averaged 36.5 mpg (6.4 L/100km) without trying, which is exactly what I want from a hybrid crossover. The Tucson Hybrid wouldn’t be my first choice for a blast through a sinuous canyon road, but for the school run or commute it’s hard to fault the level of ride comfort and efficiency.
A charming cabin
I was rather surprised with how taken I was with the Tucson’s interior. A split-level dash wraps around to the doors—something I first saw on the previous-generation Audi A8—and the infotainment system and main switchgear panel project down from the upper level, bisecting the dash. A 10.25-inch digital main instrument display is set into the lower level of the dash in front of the driver (in Limited trim; the lesser trim levels make do with a smaller display). And a fair amount of customization is available in terms of the UI theme of the main instrument panel, as well as 64 different colors of ambient LED illumination.
On the center console you’ll find the pushbutton controls for the transmission, which are basically the same as in the Sonata Hybrid. There’s a decent array of storage pockets, and our car was equipped with a wireless charging pad for your phone.
Since Hyundai located the Tucson Hybrid’s lithium-ion battery under the rear seats, there’s as much cargo room in the back as the non-hybrid version—38.8 cubic feet (1,098 L) with the rear seats in use, or 74.5 cubic feet (2,109 L) with the rear seats folded flat. Speaking of rear seats, thanks to the longer wheelbase, if you sit back there you’ve got 41.3 inches (1,049 mm) of leg room, 0.2 inches (5 mm) more than if you sat in the front.
Capacitive climate controls let the side down
I do have one complaint, and it’s the capacitive panel that lives just below the infotainment system. You have to use this to change the volume or alter the climate control, but there’s no haptic feedback, and even after a week I still had to look at the panel if I wanted to make it warmer, colder, louder, or quieter. Knobs or actual physical buttons would go a long way to resolving that. But other than that, the infotainment system (10.25-inch touchscreen if you go for the $37,350 Tucson Hybrid Limited, or an 8-inch unit if you don’t) is unobjectionable.
The standard package of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) includes adaptive cruise control and lane keeping; forward collision warning and emergency braking (which will recognize pedestrians and cyclists, as well as cars); junction and rear cross-traffic alerts; and blind spot monitoring, including a video display on the main instrument panel that shows you that side’s blind spot when you activate a turn signal. The Limited trim also adds rear emergency braking, as well as parking sensors and cameras.
If I sound impressed, I am. While I think enthusiasts will still prefer the way the Mazda CX-30 drives, most people aren’t enthusiasts, and some who are still prioritize fuel efficiency. If that sounds like you and you’re looking for an efficient compact crossover between $30,000-$40,000, you could do a lot worse than to consider the Tucson Hybrid.
Listing image by Jonathan Gitlin