2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Review: Practical and Economical With a Touch of Weird

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No matter what’s under the hood, the Tucson strikes a confident pose on the road. If you want a car that’s full of angles, this is it. Door creases, fender creases, hood creases… there are more geometric patterns on this SUV than a 10th grade math textbook. I love the look, but it’s definitely not for those who simply want to blend in.

The Tucson’s plug-in hybrid powertrain uses a 13.8-kilowatt-hour battery that has enough juice for 33 miles of all-electric driving range, according to the EPA. On my Level 2 ChargePoint home charger It took 1 hour and 50 minutes to go from a 14% battery level to full and it cost me $4.32 to do so. Of course, your electricity rates may vary; I live in California and charged the Tucson at night, but depending on the strain on your local grid, it may cost you more or less.

The Tucson has all kinds of cool features that help you maximize range. An Eco chart shows me how good or bad I am at saving those sweet electrons, and an energy information page shows me my total range, my gas-only range and my electric-only range. I really like that the map can display a circle around my current location showing just how far I can make it on my current EV range. However, keep in mind that circle represents as-the-crow flies distance. Sure, that next charging station may be 15 miles away if you draw a straight line, but getting there on actual roads will usually take longer. Take everything with a grain of salt, but remember you have that gas engine to back you up.

With a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 90-horsepower electric motor on the rear axle, the PHEV is the most powerful Tucson in the lineup, knocking out 261 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power goes to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that shifts smoothly and seamlessly does its job in the background. The pushbutton gear selector is a little dopey, but it does keep the center console nice and clean.

Once the battery is depleted you’ll run as a regular hybrid, meaning your power won’t be quite as robust. However, I found this operation to be sufficient for highway merges and the like. The engine can charge the battery while providing forward propulsion, but If you want all the power all the time, you’ll have to plug it in every night.

The plug-in hybrid is the most powerful Tucson.

Hyundai

The good news here is that the all-wheel-drive system is mechanical, meaning you won’t lose power to the rear wheels when the battery runs out. Other PHEVs, like the Toyota RAV4 Prime, use an e-motor in the rear that can’t turn the rear wheels without electric power. The Tucson has a mechanical path for power, so all four wheels are motivated at all times.

The Tucson’s steering is light, which is average for this vehicle class. However, the Hyundai has torque-vectoring built into its all-wheel-drive system, automatically applying the brakes just a touch on turn-in, then throwing some torque to the rear wheels on corner exit. It’s not quite as fancy as Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control on the CX-5, but combined with the extra torque provided by the electric motor it gives the Tucson some noticeable pep. Heck, there’s even a sport mode and paddle shifters to eke out every last bit of fun.

The EPA gives the Tucson PHEV a combined rating of 80 mpge with a full battery or 35 mpg when running in hybrid mode. During my week with the car I had no problems meeting these benchmarks, even with my heavy right foot.

The Tucson comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen running the Hyundai BlueLink infotainment system, but my top Limited tester goes big with a 10.3-inch display. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both here, wired with the larger screen, but curiously the smaller display supports wireless smartphone compatibility. I don’t have many complaints about the infotainment system as a whole, save for the lack of a physical volume knob. I’m also not digging the panel of small, touch-sensitive buttons under the screen. They may be quick to react but your finger must hit the exact mark every time.

This interior is a volume knob away from excellence.

Hyundai

I love how Hyundai includes pretty much every advanced driving aid on the plug-in Tucson, including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert and a rear seat occupant alert. My Limited tester goes a notch above with Highway Drive Assist that combines adaptive cruise control with lane centering. The Limited trim also gets Hyundai’s cool blind-spot view monitor that puts a side-view video display right in the gauge cluster when the turn signal is engaged. Everything works as advertised and heavy commuters will love Highway Drive Assist as it really takes some of the stress out of stop-and-go traffic.

As wack-a-doo as the outside of the Tucson may look, the interior is pretty subdued. There are some nice touches like knurled turn signal and wiper stalks and my Limited trim has a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The Limited trim also comes with an upgraded eight-speaker Bose stereo system. It’s mostly fine but certain frequencies will vibrate the speaker in the door. Lower voices produce a rattling; higher-pitches are clear as a bell.

As for cargo space, you’ll lose a bit because of the large battery, and the Tucson is on the small side to begin with. There is 31.9 cubic feet of space behind the second row, which is pretty low as far as compact SUVs go. However, and conversely, fold the seats down and you’ve got 71.8 cubes, which is actually more than many of the Tucson’s rivals.

A standout in every regard.

Hyundai

Speaking of rivals, if you’re shopping around I’d look at the Toyota RAV4 Prime which has more power and 42 miles of all-electric range, but it’s stymied by a lackluster transmission and an AWD system that doesn’t work all the time. The Ford Escape PHEV delivers 37 miles of all-electric range but is a snooze-fest to both look at and drive. There’s a new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV coming later this year, which could be interesting, as well.

The Tucson PHEV is only available in SEL and Limited trims and there is a substantial jump in price between the two. The lower trim starts at $35,975 including $1,225 for destination, while the Limited is $7,800 more. I mean, I love heated rear seats, a panoramic roof and Highway Drive Assist as much as the next person, but that’s a little much. Stick with the SEL.

No matter which way you go, though, the Tucson PHEV wraps the versatility of plug-in power in a comfortable and stylish package. If it’s gas-electric power you want in a compact SUV, this should be at the top of your list.



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