The Hyundai Tucson is a pleasant family SUV that boasts distinctive styling and a spacious, practical interior. But its base inline-four is almost completely devoid of personality, with dull performance and lackluster fuel economy compared with other compact crossovers.
That changes, however, if you opt for the Tucson Plug-In Hybrid. Do that and the 2.5-liter snoozefest goes away, with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-banger taking its place driving the front wheels and a torquey electric motor mounted to the rear axle. The plug-in’s 261 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque are a useful upgrade over the gas-only Tucson’s 187 and 178, respectively – though the Toyota RAV4 Prime does even better with 302 hp. Still, the Tucson PHEV represents a solid value against its competitors, whether they be gas, hybrid, or plug-in.
Performance And Efficiency
The regular Tucson’s powertrain needs to be whipped in order to create forward momentum, but doing so taxes its already meager EPA fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon city, 29 highway, and 26 combined when equipped with all-wheel drive. The plug-in hybrid, however, is much less frenetic, thanks to a smooth rush of torque from both the electric motor and the downsized, turbocharged gas engine. Although it’s not particularly thrilling, the PHEV’s powertrain is much more refined in around-town driving.
The added competence doesn’t come at the expense of efficiency, either. The 13.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery recharges overnight even on 120-volt power (and in just two hours on a 240-volt plug), giving the Tucson 33 miles of all-electric driving. And once the battery depletes, the all-wheel-drive crossover achieves 35 mpg combined – an improvement of nine compared to its gas-only equivalent.
The Tucson PHEV’s 31.9 cubic feet of luggage room is less than its gas-only sibling – blame the battery for eating up 6.8 cubes. But passenger comfort is still quite impressive, with plenty of head- and legroom for four tallish adults, and the ride is quiet and smooth over most surfaces. The rear seat also reclines for added comfort on a long trip. My Limited tester also boasted leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control with Highway Driving Assist, and a 10.3-inch infotainment screen, so it was no slouch in features and amenities.
Although it’s a matter of opinion, I like the Tucson’s edgy exterior a lot. Many compact crossovers look like they’re trying too hard to be rugged, while the rest go for lowest-common-denominator banality. Instead, the Tucson goes for geometric, 8-bit styling that looks unlike anything else in its class. The flower-meets-sawblade wheel design deserves special mention. I absolutely love the way this Hyundai’s rolling stock looks.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Hyundai Tucson
Like most compact crossovers, the Hyundai Tucson PHEV has a somewhat cheap-feeling cabin. Most of the common touchpoints are padded, like the armrests, door inserts, and front windowsills. But the gloss black center console attracts fingerprints, and most of the dash fascia is done in chintzy-feeling plastic. Closer to the Tucson family’s base price, those issues are forgivable. The flagship-priced Limited PHEV, however, deserves nicer materials.
Pricey As Tested
The Tucson SEL PHEV starts at a reasonable $36,695 including $1,295 destination, with all the performance and efficiency improvements that come with the plug-in powertrain. But the Limited model I drove, whose only option was a $195 set of floor mats, demands $44,140. That’s a whole lot of cash for a compact crossover. If you’re limiting your search to plug-in hybrids, the Hyundai still represents a good value, as the RAV4 Prime is about $3,000 more expensive similarly equipped.
But folks concerned with the bottom line might rather have more luck with the Tucson Hybrid, which is $39,345 in Limited form and gets even better EPA fuel economy thanks to a smaller, lighter battery.
Weird Electronic Limitations
As with most other Hyundai Motor Group products, the Tucson gets wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with the base, 8.0-inch infotainment system. Spring for the 10.3-inch unit found in the Limited trim and smartphone mirroring suddenly requires a USB cable. It’s a small complaint, but the oversight is odd nonetheless.
Gallery: 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV Pros And Cons
2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Limited