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Redesigned 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid offers bang for the buck

People looking for a small, fuel-efficient SUV for a good price may find a daunting road ahead. Enter the all-new Hyundai Tucson Hybrid.

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson gets a whole new look and lots of upgrades for the new model year.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson gets a whole new look and lots of upgrades for the new model year.Read moreHyundai

2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited Hybrid AWD: Say, that’s a great price for a hybrid SUV.

Price: $37,350 for the Limited Hybrid AWD.

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds likes the “smooth ride quality, plenty of standard tech and safety features for the money, roomy interior and comfortable front seats, long warranty,” but not the “sluggish acceleration from the regular 2.5-liter engine, touch-style center stack controls can be distracting to use, hybrid can’t match rivals on fuel economy.”

Marketer’s pitch: “The all-purpose hybrid SUV.”

Reality: Even better in person.

What’s new: The small SUV from Hyundai gets redone for the 2022 model year. It looks like a Range Rover Evoque, a squinted-eyed style, which is all the rage now.

This hybrid doesn’t plug in — there’s another Tucson model that does — but it offers power and fuel economy bonuses.

Up to speed: The Hyundai Tucson uses a hybrid power plant with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a 44.2-kw motor. Together they create 226 horsepower, 39 more than the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder version.

Real-world acceleration information was not as easy to find as usual. Consumer Reports didn’t offer specifics on the hybrid acceleration but said the hybrid shaved almost two seconds off the Tucson’s observed 9.6-second 0-60.

Still, the Tucson Hybrid felt lively enough to me. Sport mode was a real knockout, and Smart and Eco modes weren’t too bad, either.

The Tucson joined us for a trip around the Poconos and spent lots of time climbing mountains, and the performance over the high terrain was stellar.

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Shiftless: The six-speed automatic transmission is a throwback to days of yore. It functions acceptably in automatic mode. Shift mode is not so helpful. But it has plenty of power throughout the gears and never seems as if it’s dying because there’s not enough torque, a problem common to old-style transmissions that is probably alleviated thanks to the motor.

On the road: The Tucson also made a great companion through the winding woods surrounding Jim Thorpe and over Hawk Mountain, an old-fashioned climb and descent that crosses the Appalachian Trail. Closer to home, it handled all the hills and dales nimbly.

Driver’s Seat: Switching into the Hyundai Tucson from a Lexus may seem unfair to the Hyundai. Fortunately, the ES250 was not quite up to Lexus standards.

The leather-covered Tucson Limited seat is super firm, and I thought it was going to be a tough ride, but I quickly found that I liked the feel. I felt supported and held in place. I put some real miles on this SUV and sat in traffic for long periods and was never sore or tired.

Not only is the seat accommodating, but also the graphic interface is one of my new favorites. Eye-catching colors, plenty of information — a big improvement over previous Hyundai generations.

Friends and stuff: When I began kvetching about the Tucson seat, Sturgis Kid 4.0 sounded pretty smug praising his new backseat accommodations in response. The comfortable rear seat reclines and offers plenty of head-, leg- and foot room for his 6-foot-2 frame and size 14 flippers.

Cargo space is 31.9 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 71.8 with the seat folded.

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Play some tunes: The Bose Premium Audio System provides decent sound, but it’s not going to knock your socks off. Maybe a B+.

Control in the Limited model comes through touch buttons on the handsome ebony frame surrounding the screen, including for volume and up-down. These can be hard to hit directly, and there’s no good place to rest your palm while making changes.

The 10.25-inch touchscreen operates easily, so there’s that.

Keeping warm and cool: The HVAC controls also operate through touch buttons on the ebony dashboard frame. Not my favorite setup, but they work better than I expected.

Night shift: The lights shine clearly onto the road and light the way well, which is a nice change of pace from most squint-inducing vehicles. The dashboard is as pretty by the moon as it is during the light of day, thanks to what the window sticker called the expanded ambient interior lighting.

Fuel economy: I averaged 29 mpg in several long trips over highways and country roads.

Where it’s built: Ulsan, South Korea.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the Tucson reliability to be a 5 out of 5, and it’s been tops or second-tier since 2019. (The Tucson reliability was consistently in the toilet in the years before 2019.)

In the end: Essentially, the Tucson Hybrid is a very nice vehicle and definitely much improved over previous generations of Hyundais. It does a lot of things quite well, and the reliability rating is top notch.

But a deeper dive into some features — fuel economy, shiftability, controls, sound system — may make buyers think twice.