Daring to be different has never been a recipe for success in the compact sport utility market.
The majority of entries are anonymous and blend with everything else out there. Hyundai’s previous entry in this segment had always been average at best and never posed a significant threat. No longer fine with sitting on the sidelines, they have given the Tucson a full redesign. This is the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate Hybrid, which brings a handful of firsts into the segment.
The first time you lay eyes on the 2022 Tucson, it becomes a love it or hate it affair. With all compact sport utility vehicles starting to look similar, Hyundai’s designers were given the task to create something out of the box and boy, did they deliver. Naysayers will have issues with the side body creases, however, fans will find it unique and daring. Personally, I’m a fan of the overall design and applaud the risk Hyundai took to stand out in this very packed playfield.
Up front, things look fantastic. The grill with black chrome trim gives an aggressive and classy vibe at the, and the integrated LED daytime running lights are an industry first. When stopped at intersections during our test week, more than a handful of pedestrians took a double take at the new Tucson. Full LED head and taillights compliment the exterior further. Small touches like the hidden rear wiper blade on the trunklid and embedded rear logo clean up the overall design.
While Hyundai could have gone with a rather pedestrian interior, they decided to make it just as interesting as the exterior. The overall design is unique and provides a sense of open space that’s, well, refreshing. The strip that runs from the front doors across the dashboard cleanly integrates the air vents. Quality materials are used throughout but fall short of what you would find in the Mazda CX-5 which sets the bar in this segment.
Lower trim levels have a standard eight-inch infotainment screen while higher models get a 10.25-inch high definition unit. Our Ultimate model also includes standard navigation, ando ddly enough, the smaller screen allows for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay while the larger screen does not. Hyundai needs to rectify this with a software update.
The 360-degree camera provides a high level of detail that some luxury brands should take note of. Sadly, Hyundai has followed a mistake Honda made several years ago and was criticized heavily for; the lack of a volume knob. Actual buttons and knobs are completely absent for a clean and modern look, however scrolling through radio stations and adjusting the volume requires the driver to take their eyes off the road.
The similarly sized digital instrument cluster impresses with its clarity and customization. There is zero glare or washout effect with this screen. Here, the speedometer and tachometer double as blind spot cameras when the turn signals are activated. The first time you see this, you wonder why other manufacturers don’t do this. Not only is the view crystal clear, it raises the driver’s level of awareness of those around the vehicle.
Unlike most compact hybrid crossovers in this segment, Hyundai has decided to go a slightly different path, one that actually adds some “sport” to its overall demeanour. The Tucson brings a Smartstream 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder into the mix. Hyundai has mated this power plant to a traditional six-speed automatic transmission rather than a CVT normally used in this segment. This pairing brings a level of pep that is normally missing with compact SUVs. The Tucson Hybrid pumps out a combined 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque.
Where the performance affects the Tucson negatively would be in its fuel economy. It’s pretty good, but not quite at the level of the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, which is a more focused hybrid with zero intent of being anything else. Hyundai rates the 2022 Tucson Ultimate Hybrid at 6.3L/100km in the city and 6.6L/100km on the highway. We managed a very reasonable 7.1L/100km during mostly city commuting. The 52-litre fuel tank will happily accept 87-octane.
Compared to hybrid competitors such as the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, the Hyundai Tucson Ultimate Hybrid offers a sportier ride that some buyers may find too stiff. Those that take advantage of its handling capabilities will do so with a higher level of confidence, especially on twisty roads and on ramps to the freeway thanks to minimal body roll.
With an all new platform, interior space and cargo are one of the best in the segment. Tall drivers will find more than ample headroom even with the panoramic sunroof. Moving to the second row seat was quite comfortable without having to move the front seat up. Rear legroom tops both the Honda CR-V and RAV4. Cargo space comes in at a very impressive 1098 litres with the seats up, and 2,109 with the seats folded. Owners of the previous Tucson will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of room now available.
Hyundai has outfitted the 2022 Tucson with the latest safety features with Hyundai Safety Sense. Select any model other than the base Essential and your Tucson will be outfitted with Lane Following Assist, Driver Attention Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Avoidance, Lane Keep Assist, Blind Spot Collision Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear Occupant Alert and Driver Attention Warning.
Pricing for the 2022 Tucson starts at $27,799, however choose the Hybrid and your options start at the Luxury, at $38,899. At $41,599, the top-trim Ultimate Hybrid offers Highway Driving Assist, Remote Smart Parking Assist, the bigger 10.25-inch screen, and more. Also standard here are ventilated seats, a Bose premium sound system, and the Surround View Monitor. It’s worth mentioning that Hyundai does not offer higher trim Tucson models in conventional gasoline form – the Ultimate is only available with the hybrid powertrain.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate Hybrid is the clean slate that Hyundai needed in this segment. The level of performance and fuel economy is a hard proposition to beat and more than enough reason to open those purse strings. Those looking for something with a bit more bite may want to wait for the upcoming Tucson Hybrid Plug In that looks to up the ante a bit further especially against the very impressive Toyota RAV4 Prime.