Not ready for an electric car just yet?
Don’t worry you aren’t alone. While new EVs keep coming out at an accelerated pace, the charging infrastructure hasn’t kept up. For many, the convenience of a five-minute gas stop is hard to give up, so for those that aren’t ready to make the switch, hybrids and plug-in hybrids offer a practical stop gap until things catch up.
Hyundai and Kia sell the most electric cars in North America after Tesla, they are no strangers to gas-free mobility but they’ve been adding more hybrid and plug-in hybrid options as of late. The brand new 2022 Tucson is one of them.
Hyundai expects to sell more hybrids now, so my introductory drive of the new Tucson was in, no surprise, hybrid form. You can also get a gas-only version with a 2.5-litre inline-4 making 187 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque.
There are five different variations of Tucson. Prices start at $27,699 for a 2.5-litre front wheel drive Essential model and climb up to $41,499 for the Ultimate Hybrid seen here. All wheel drive is a $2,000 ask on Essential and Preferred trims but included on the N-Line and the hybrids. All trims are well equipped with even the base Essential trim getting niceties like Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, automatic headlights, multiple drive modes, and Hyundai Smartsense—a full gamut of safety and assistance features that includes forward collision assist, lane keeping and following assist, auto high beams, driver attention warning, rear occupant alert and lead vehicle departure alert.
There’s even more cool tech as you move up the ladder, like remote start that gives you the option of turning on the heated or ventilated seats, and remote smart park, where you can do your best Bond impression as you stand outside your Tucson and slot it into a parking space using nothing but the key fob.
Hybrid models are powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder routed through a conventional 6-speed automatic. A 44 kW electric motor and a 1.49 kWh battery pack help bump power production to 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Hyundai claims that the hybrid can travel over 800 km on a tank of fuel and gets a combined fuel consumption rating of 6.4 L/100 km. During my short time with the car and with a heavy foot, I averaged just over 7.0L/100 km.
A plug-in hybrid is due to hit the shelves later this year and it will get a 13.8 kWh battery pack and an estimated 50 km of electric range.
Hyundai’s design language as of late has been polarizing to say the least. Where some automakers stick to what’s worked in the past, Hyundai prefers to mix it up and try new things. Case in point, this new Tucson looks nothing like the old one. It could have jumped out of the set of Bladerunner with its polygon inspired sheetmetal and futuristic grille that camouflages its daytime running lights within its mirror-like facets. Everywhere I looked I found more to see, more to keep my eyes moving.
Step inside, and the visual feast continues, with contrasting shapes, colours and textures. Jeweled indicator stalks, hidden air vents, materials you wouldn’t expect, a fully digital instrument cluster, it’s all here. Even the steering wheel shape is interesting and it all gives off the impression that you’ve bought something bespoke, something more expensive than what the sticker indicated. The touch panel surrounding the 10.25-inch infotainment screen is normally a vexing item for me as I prefer real buttons but it works well here. I just wish there was a volume knob. Not including one is a definite oversight.
Volume knob woes aside, and the fact that cribbing about a small knob is about the biggest complaint I have, the Tucson offered a ton of room in its airy cabin. Five will be comfortable and there’s over a thousand litres of cargo space, more than even the class-leading Honda CR-V
The initial impression from behind the wheel is quite normal, thanks in no small part to the traditional 6-speed automatic. The handoff to electric power is seamless and the gas engine doesn’t sound like a misfiring lawnmower. In fact, if you didn’t tell me this was a hybrid it would take me a while to find out. Even the brake pedal feels natural. All good things, because the main problem with many hybrids is that they drive like, well, hybrids, and that typically has people looking into other powertrain options.
Hyundai also claims to have put an emphasis on driving dynamics and making the driver feel like they’re a part of the equation. So, has it worked? In a sense, yes.
Jumping out at me straight away is the steering weighting, which is tuned heavier than I’ve felt in most other Hyundais. Pop the drive selector into Sport and it gets heavier still, giving the driver a greater sense of control. It’s also stable and quiet at speed, feeling securely planted to the road at all times. While you’re not going to hear phrases like “excellent road feel” or “unflappable handling” used to describe the Tucson, it’s certainly more fun to drive than what Toyota or Honda are offering.
They’ve even used the electric motor to improve turn-in feel by applying a braking force on the inside wheel to help eliminate understeer, while sending power to the rear on corner exits. You can feel it at work on highway on-ramps, as the car seems to more eagerly dive into a corner.
This new Tucson has come out swinging with bold new styling, great driving dynamics and the best infotainment and tech in the class. Adding hybrid options will only make it that much more versatile and competitive. This one should not be ignored.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.