How can automakers launching new entries into the increasingly crowded and hyper-competitive compact CUV segment differentiate theirs from the rest?
Maybe by focusing on three key attributes: styling, features and value. The ’22 Hyundai Tucson hits the mark on all three, with a few minor misses.
This all-new Tucson – Hyundai’s best-selling vehicle globally – is longer, wider and taller than the previous generation on a longer-wheelbase U.S.-market version of the global platform. With a long hood and short overhangs, its proportions are pleasing, and its side profile is sculpted with crisp geometric edges and angles.
The Tucson’s cabin (pictured below) feels open and airy and provides good passenger room in both rows. The integrated center fascia descends to the console like a waterfall. Unfortunately, its 10.25-in. (26-cm) infotainment touchscreen offers no knobs or hard buttons. A multi-air ventilation system provides indirect, diffused airflow to front passengers, a feature Hyundai touts as industry-unique.
Passenger and cargo volumes increase to 108.2 cu.-ft. (3,064 L), and 38.7 cu.-ft. (1,096 L), respectively. The second-row seats fold and dive to optimize either cargo or passenger room.
Standard in the ’22 Tucson is a Smartstream 2.5L 4-cyl. with both direct and multi-port fuel injection. Driving through an 8-speed automatic, it delivers 187 hp and 178 lb.-ft. (241 Nm) of torque and 26/33 mpg (9.0-7.1 L/100 km) city/highway EPA fuel economy with front drive and 24/29 mpg (9.8-8.1 L/100 km) with all-wheel drive. Available HTRAC AWD offers four drive modes – Normal, Sport, Smart and Snow.
Hyundai offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the new Tucson. The 180-hp 1.6L DFI turbo-4 in both versions makes 226 hp and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) total output through an HEV-tuned 6-speed automatic.
At 38 mpg (6.2 L/100 km) combined, or 37 mpg (6.4 L/100 km) in higher trims, this system is said to be 30% more efficient with 20% more torque than the standard engine. Both hybrids have standard HTRAC AWD, and the PHEV’s 13.8-kWh battery gives 70+ MPGe (3.4 L/100 km) and an estimated EV range of 32 miles (51 km).
With nearly 40 more horses and 80 more lb.-ft. (108 Nm) of torque, our $39,000 Limited hybrid test vehicle outperforms the $38,000 2.5L Limited AWD we drive on major roads and two-lanes near (where else?) Tucson, AZ.
The hybrids’ “e-handling” technology, Hyundai says, “precisely applies electric motor torque control according to dynamic inputs and road conditions to improve cornering performance.”
Turning into a corner, it applies incremental braking to the front wheels to increase their tire contact patch for enhanced traction and response. Accelerating out of the corner, torque is sent rearward for better traction.
The e-handling feature makes the Tucson surprisingly agile. But the non-hybrid strikes us as underpowered, especially for two-lane passing, even with just the driver and no cargo aboard.
The ’22 Tucson’s standard and optional features include segment-first exclusives such as remote smart park assist, remote start with heated and ventilated seats, digital key smartphone app (Android only for now) that can remotely control selected systems, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Hyundai contends its SmartSense safety suite offers more standard and available active safety features than any competitor. Notable among them are forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian, cyclist and junction-turning detection, blindspot view monitor, ultrasonic rear occupant alert, safe exit warning and driver attention warning.
The Tucson’s advanced Dynamic Voice Recognition uses simple voice commands and can assist with points of interest, weather status and stock market data. Its Blue Link Connected Car System (complimentary for three years) includes remote start with climate control, remote door lock/unlock and destination search by voice.
The big touchscreen (pictured below) does most things well but sometimes takes multiple touches to activate features. With no USB link to the sound system, portable music devices must be Bluetoothed in. And when we switch back to radio from Bluetooth, the system always defaults to FM radio instead of the AM or the satellite station to which we had been listening.
On the positive side, we love the (available) blindspot camera images that come up in the speedometer (left) and tachometer (right) circles when a turn signal is on.
Gas and hybrid 2022 Tucsons are available now, with an enthusiast-oriented N Line arriving in late spring and the plug-in hybrid this summer. With appealing new looks, an impressive potpourri of features and a base price of $24,950, this new Tucson appears to ace all three key criteria.