I can hear it already. “We’re here for enthusiast cars, what’s up with two hybrid crossovers in a row?” The reality of it is that selling bland appliances allows low-volume fun stuff to exist, and thus it’s in everyone’s best interest that the driving appliances of the world are as good as they can be. This 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid is one such appliance, and it is very good.
At this point, I like hybrids for appliances. Clunky automatic start/stop at lights is made smooth, the cost of a small battery and motor is minimal, and the benefits in slower-speed city driving are huge. This 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, for example, can do thirty-seven miles per gallon in city driving, where its gas-only counterpart manages twenty-four. That’s a 54 percent improvement for $1,150 more upfront cost on a like-for-like Tucson Limited.
Are you at least intrigued by that math? No? Whatever, I’m going to tell you more about the Tucson Hybrid anyway.
What Is It?
This is a 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, the hybridized version of Hyundai’s compact crossover that competes with things like the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape. It’s smallish but four adults can fit with room for cargo behind the second row. This is an important segment for every automaker, and Hyundai redesigned the Tucson for the 2022 model year to stay competitive.
Basic gas-powered Tucson models start life as front-wheel drive and are powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.5 liter four-cylinder making 187 horsepower. Choosing the Tucson Hybrid makes all-wheel drive standard, and uses a 1.6 liter turbocharged four-cylinder (which I drove in the related-to-Hyundai Kia K5 sedan) as the gasoline base for the drivetrain. From there, Hyundai sticks a 59-horsepower electric motor between the gasoline engine and the six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.
That electric motor is low on power but high on torque at 195 lb-ft, and it makes it all from zero to 1,600 rpm – a convenient torque peak given the 1.6T’s 195 lb-ft of torque is made from 1,500 to 4,500 rpm. You get a solid shove of torque from a stop up to a practical-for-most level of revs. The two propulsion methods combine for a total output of 226 horsepower and 258 lb-ft.
Hyundai managed to add the hybrid system and only incur a 100 pound weight gain over an all-wheel drive gas-powered Tucson Limited, bringing the curb weight to 3,752 pounds.
MSRP of my 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Limited came in at $38,730.
It’s an Interesting Hybrid System – Really.
Hyundai chose to stick the electric motor between the gas engine and a traditional torque-converter automatic, with six actual gears. This goes against most traditional hybrids, which use planetary CVTs that drone on and on and send a racket into the cabin in the process. If you’re light on the throttle, you can use just the electric motor and feel the transmission change gears. It’s neat, and the real-world benefit is that the Tucson Hybrid feels like any other car under acceleration, but with a second source of boost beyond the turbocharger. I’d rather have this than a CVT with programmed-in fake gear changes to satiate weirded-out buyers.
Past the “we used gears” approach, Hyundai’s also got something called “e-Handling” on every Tucson Hybrid. It’s not explained super well, but I’ll try to break it down. The goal of e-Handling is to control body motion through hard cornering, specifically the Tucson’s pitch front to back.
Hyundai does this by changing the direction the electric motor spins as a sort of counter-balancing measure. They claim that as you enter a corner, the electric motor spins backward to apply incremental braking force to the front wheels. As you exit the corner and apply more throttle, the electric motor spins forward again to send torque to the rear axle and push you out of the turn.
In practice, e-Handling isn’t something you’ll notice on the Tucson Hybrid in nearly every day-to-day driving scenario. Where it did seem to have an effect was on back roads, allowing the Tucson to turn in with confidence and rotate a bit easier than you think it might. Make no mistake, the Tucson Hybrid isn’t “sporty” in the slightest, but it is refreshingly composed for an appliance. I was able to hustle it to a reasonable degree with surprising ease.
Beyond the Hybrid Setup, It’s Good.
Aside from the interesting e-Handling system, the driving experience of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid is good. The suspension is comfortable and well-balanced, and acceleration is generally acceptable, as is braking performance and pedal feel. Be warned, passing maneuvers on two-lane roads will require more space than you think. The little turbo and small electric motor are trying their best during high-RPM passes, but the whole drivetrain is tuned to feel best at lower revs, and it runs out of steam quickly if you go full throttle for very long.
Hyundai continues to punch a bit above their weight with the Tucson Hybrid’s interior, and it’s generally a nice, somewhat elevated place to spend time. One miss is with the all-touch controls for infotainment and, more annoyingly, climate control. Adjusting cabin temperature was difficult unless stopped, as you have to tap for each degree of increase or decrease, and the touch buttons didn’t always recognize every tap. Thankfully, volume for the just-fine Bose sound system could be controlled from a physical toggle on the steering wheel.
I never found a driving position that I loved, only liked, as I thought the driver’s seat was one you sat on, not in. It was comfortable enough, but I was perched on top of the otherwise-comfortable cushion. Regardless, a three-hour road trip didn’t leave me worn out or sore, which is good enough.
Rear seat room was also impressive, with plenty of space for my six-foot-one self behind my preferred driving position up front. And looking past the reclining, folding rear bench, you’ll find plenty of cargo room – nearly 39 cubic feet. That’s about 2.5 cubic feet more than the RAV4 Hybrid, and Hyundai leads by almost five cubic feet with the seats down.
I didn’t fall in love with the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, but it’s not really a car that you’re supposed to do that with. What I did do was drive it almost four hundred miles, with a variety of people and things inside, in good and bad weather, around Washington D.C. and on the highway, while achieving very good fuel economy. I didn’t quite hit the 37 MPG combined rating, but I came close at 34 point something with my heavy foot.
The formula for a compact crossover is easy to follow, which leads to plenty of just-fine options that are, honestly, forgettable. The Tucson Hybrid is indeed an appliance, but it is a very good one. It stands out a bit with its funky styling and drives very well for what it is. The hybrid drivetrain is a great pairing to the Tucson, and should be considered if you can swing the slight bump in upfront cost.
Now, Hyundai, since the Santra Cruz pickup is just a Tucson that met a Sawzall… can we get a Santa Cruz Hybrid next? Pretty please?