Review: 2022 Hyundai Tucson is style over substance
An eye-catching design and a beautiful interior go far, but does it go far enough?
Hyundai's new Tucson is made to wow. From the pupil-grabbing exterior (though admittedly, it has received a polarizing reception from some keyboard ninjas) and the luxuriously stupendous interior, the Tucson places all its cards on display from the get-go. But, somehow, there's still an underlying bluff its concealing.
As far as casual crossovers go, however, the Tucson dazzles with its edgy, futuristic design that makes the alluring LED headlights the centerpiece on display. It really does make competitors appear rather dull, pun unintended.
But, the real highlight of the Tucson Limited is the wondrous cabin. The Limited represents the most luxurious offering for this model, and it delivers convincingly. Just wow. The quality of the materials are top-rate, with a soft leather that belongs in a $50,000 vehicle (this Tucson is well under $40,000. I like the stripped-back nature of the interior, too, with soft, simple curves here and there, and the instrument cluster has no binnacle/shroud, which might be odd at first, but then you quickly realize it makes the view ahead look larger and therefore better. Why do any cars have binnacles? A Mazda CX-5 can match the luxury here, but the Tucson leaves a CR-V and RAV4 in the dust when it comes to the luxury available here. Well done, Hyundai.
This hurts. With such a beautiful cabin, the Tucson frankly doesn't drive that well. Like, it's fine. Just fine. But, I wanted and expected more. First, there's the lethargic four-cylinder that drivels its way to misery via a 8.8 second 0-60 MPH walk. In practice, it's even worse. Despite having eight gears, the little blender has zero power below 3,000 RPM, and when pulling away from a stop, it's like a parachute is deployed when it shifts into third gear; You really have to dig into the throttle to get it going in other words, especially on even slight hills. What also can then happen is, such is the lack of power, the Tucson will upshift and then clunkily shift back down once it realizes it was a mistake - that's annoying. The Tucson Hybrid has far better performance thanks to its extra electrical assist, even if its not the smoothest of hybrid experiences.
I hoped that, because it's so slow, that fuel economy would be great, but it isn't. I averaged only 24 MPG during my time with it, or, about a solid 4 less than a regular Toyota RAV4 would manage in the same conditions. This is too small and slow of a vehicle to get only that kind of mileage in 2022. The Hybrid option averaged about 30 MPG when I tested it last year, and for both a performance and efficiency standpoint, it's clearly the way to go. And it's only $1,000 more.
Handling and steering are adequately average making the Tucson far from fun to drive. Sure, it's plenty competent, as most all new cars are, but that's it. For transportation, it works, but if you want something even remotely fun, then this isn't the answer, and it clearly isn't happy when challenging suggested speed signs in the bends of backroads. The Tucson will get you from A to B, but will do so in a mundane and boring manner. The suspension can sometimes give this excessive pogo-stick effect over some bumps where it seems to endlessly oscillate up and down. It's rare, but not rare enough to notice it a few times. You want fun from your crossover? Mazda's CX-5 is a full-on sports car in comparison.
I also didn't particularly like the PRND push-buttons. I've used them plenty of times and was intrigued by them at first in other Hyundai offerings, but the novelty has worn off with their delayed operation. However, it does free up interior space. Also, it's one of the only components of the interior that seems too plasticky.
To make an analogy with what's wrong with this Tucson, let's compare it to different species of early humans and hominids. With each biological change from an Australopithecus and then eventually to when the Homo genus shows up, there were gives and takes in evolution. Some early species adopted a seemingly modern hip suited for bipedalism, but they still had curved arms for tree swinging for example. The Homo genus brought modern traits like flatter foreheads, larger cranial capacities, and the teeth slowly shrank, among countless things a paleoanthropologist like Lee Berger could tell you, but the early Homos still didn't look like modern humans; there were bits and pieces that were of antiquity still. And so it is that, with this Tucson, Hyundai has taken big steps into developing their crossover into a fully evolved and modern specimen, but they've also taken steps backwards in key places. Well, not backwards, because it's better than the old Tucson in every way, but the fact no steps were taken in such key places is a regression. Think more like Homo Naledi, a South African-discovered human species that existed at the same time as early Homo Sapiens and that shared many characteristics, but failed in other key areas which led to its inevitable extinction. The Tucson needs to be the evolved, full package, and these weak links are holding it back tremendously.
Verdict - It's no good then?
I like the way it looks and the interior is a sumptuous masterpiece. But, that's all surface attention. The engine is a disaster and it's not interesting to drive at all. This, then, is a vehicle that is too focused on style. The price is right, though, undercutting a RAV4 Limited by a couple grand and while boasting a better interior, but a RAV4 drives and performs better and uses less fuel while doing so. And a CX-5 has an optional turbocharged engine that's a rocket ship in relation. That one is also superb to drive. This particular Tucson should never be considered then, not while the Hybrid version exists. With its extra (much needed) power and averaging 30 MPG, the Tucson Hybrid is the one you want, making a much more valid case for why anyone should even choose a Tucson in the first place.
2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD
As-tested Price: $37,620