2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid First Test Review: Tough Matchup

Hyundai’s latest refresh of its popular Tucson compact crossover features a love it or leave it exterior style, the usual raft of options for a fairly reasonable price, and for the first time, a hybrid model. We recently had a chance to take the top line 2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid with all-wheel drive for a spin, and we put it through our test spin cycle for good measure.

While the Tucson Hybrid is a relatively capable and efficient machine, it’s one that had a tough time matching up against its stiff, hybrid-powered Japanese competition in our performance testing, even if it did stand out amongst its conventionally powered Tucson siblings.

Turbo Hybrid Power

Let’s start with the good news. We like the Tucson’s hybrid powertrain far more than we did the base 2.5-liter I-4 in the regular new 2022 Tucson. We found the 2. 5-liter engine to be underpowered and underwhelming. At its core, the Tucson Hybrid utilizes Hyundai’s turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 (180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque), along with a permanent-magnet electric motor (59 hp and 195 lb-ft); combined output of the two power sources is 226 hp and 258 lb-ft, according to Hyundai. Unlike the majority of hybrids on the market, which rely on continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs), the Tucson Hybrid employs a conventional six-speed automatic. The automatic delivers a more natural acceleration feel than a CVT, which dissociates engine speed from road speed.

Our test team went as far to call the Tucson Hybrid surprisingly fun during their time with it, but in a relative sense, of course. This is a 3,835-pound crossover designed for efficiently handling everyday duties, not a track-attacker. But even daily drivers want to be able to draw on some power when merging, passing, or otherwise hustling, and at 7.8 seconds from 0 to 60 mph, the hybrid Tucson is not slow.  The only thing is, both the 2020 CR-V Touring (7.5 seconds to 60) and RAV4 XSE (7.1 seconds) hybrids outpace the Hyundai. In the quarter-mile the Tucson Hybrid holds its own a bit more, with a 15.9-second pass (at 84.4 mph), which is better than the CR-V (16.0 at 86.3 mph) but a half second behind the RAV4 (15.4 at 90.1 mph).

Stopping and Going Around the Eight

Whether you’re zipping around town or avoiding an impact, you want authoritative stopping power. The Hyundai falls short—er, long—in this area compared to some rivals. Its 129-foot stop from 60 mph is average at best for a vehicle in this class, handily out-done by the CR-V (120 feet) and the RAV4 (115 feet). Though the brake pedal action feels solid, especially for a hybrid, the all-season tires were called out as possibly being part of the reason for the longer stop distances.

The Tucson Hybrid’s redemption? As our tester Chris Walton noted: “Wow, I was not expecting this to be as fun as it is. The power is quite surprising, there’s plenty of grip. The only iffy part is the transmission that’s not very smart in sport mode. I had to resort to manual shifting. There’s a surprising amount of grip and neutral attitude on the skid pad with very mild understeer.”

Walton’s positive comments were confirmed by the Tucson Hybrid’s performance in MotorTrend figure-eight, where at 27.4 seconds at 0.63 g (average) it bested the CR-V (28.0 sec at 0.60 g) and RAV4 (27.6 sec at 0.63 g). It also out handled both in the skid pad, pulling a 0.82 g (average), slightly better than the CR-V (0.81 g) and RAV4 (0.80 g). This is a genuinely peppy, fun-to-drive SUV—braking aside.

That dynamic excellence might just be enough to offset its fuel economy, which trails that of the CR-V and RAV4 hybrids. At 37/36/37 city/highway/combined, its EPA estimates fall short of the CR-V’s (40/35/38) and the RAV4’s (41/38/40). If there’s one area you really don’t want a hybrid to fall behind, it’s miles per gallon.

Away from the test track, there remains plenty to like about how the Tucson Hybrid handles its business. The steering is natural with a precise feel, and over pavement bumps and bruises, the hybrid Hyundai exhibits a generally smooth ride. At speed, the cabin exhibits a fair amount of cabin noise, but nothing out of the ordinary. As a daily driver, this crossover is arguably as good as any in its class, although as a whole, the non-hybrid 2022 Tucson did not fare well in a comparison test against its key segment rivals.

Inside the cabin, the 2022 Tucson is considerably bigger than the outgoing model. It’s reflected in the copious back seat, where there’s a huge amount of legroom for rear-seat passengers, and in the cargo bay. We like the new interior layout other than some kvetching about the touch-sensitive controls, and in the Limited trim you get all the top-tier fixings and a huge amount of safety features for a solid price of $38,704 all in.

Looking for something outwardly different from the pack? You’ve found it in the new Tucson. All creases and angles with an aggressive mug, you’re certainly not going to mistake it for the CR-V and the RAV4. It’s polarizing, though that may continue to work in Hyundai’s favor (what is that!?). One thing’s for sure, the Tucson Hybrid will definitely need every advantage it can get to stay abreast of its formidable hybridized competition.

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