Weekend Drives: Hyundai Tucson Hybrid – An SUV Gem

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To note: This article was first published on January 21, 2022.

Anyone who still rejects cars from Hyundai just because they’re Korean should be prescribed a ride in the new Tucson Hybrid. Much like the rapid rise of Korean entertainment (think BTS and Squid Game), Hyundai is now a top player in the automotive industry, and its new Tucson hybrid proves it deserves that status.

Okay, the design might not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no denying that it looks distinctive, which I think is a desirable trait given the current deluge of mid-size SUVs on the market.

Hyundai is really proud of headlights. They are nicknamed Parametric Hidden Lights. How “parametric” are they? I have no idea. But the hidden lights part I get because when the car isn’t running and the lights are off, it’s hard to tell the headlights are there. The grille design itself is very aggressive, just like the rest of the car. The hood has creases, the fenders flare out prominently, and the wheels look like shurikens. You love or hate the look of this car. I like it.

When the car is parked, it's hard to see where the grille ends and the headlights begin.

The interior, however, I’m sure most people will love. It feels expensive and looks modern. There is no traditional hood for an instrument cluster. In its place is a 10.25 inch digital display. Fears of not being able to see the screen because there is no cover are unfounded as the screen is bright and the anti-reflective coating is effective.

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To be fair, it looks like Hyundai has stuck a tablet to the dash, but its effectiveness is irrefutable because coupled with the high ride height and lack of a hood obstructing your view, it means you get a view waterproof face. And like most digital displays, it’s customizable – although I’ve found that by default it already contains all the crucial information I need.

The interior looks and feels expensive.  (Image source: Komoco Motors)

The next thing most people will probably notice is the large stripe that runs across the entire dash. The windrow actually contains vents for the “Multi Air Mode” which infuses the cabin with cold air. Skeptics would probably think it’s a gimmick and I admit I thought so too at first. However, I have found that one of the benefits of this mode is that it reduces wind noise and provides a more even distribution of cold air around the front of the cabin. Luckily, this isn’t something that’s just there to inflate the feature list.

Some people complain about using buttons to select ride modes, but I found them to work just fine. They’re big and distinctive enough that I could run them from muscle memory after just a day.

Boot space is decent although the wheel arches encroach on the space a bit.

The front driver and passenger seats are also ventilated, a real godsend in our twisty climate. The rear seat offers good legroom and headroom. This too splits and folds 40/20/40 giving greater flexibility for lugging bulky items. As for large items, the rear trunk measures 620 liters and will easily swallow common large items like strollers, baby seats and golf bags. It’s also worth mentioning that the rear seats also recline, allowing rear passengers to get comfortable. There are also two USB ports under the rear passenger air conditioning vents.

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The bezel surrounding the screen is quite large.

The infotainment system is good. There’s wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, of course, and there’s a wireless charger at the base of the center console for your phone. The system’s screen is 8-inches, which might be a little on the small side, and the sizable bezels around it are my only complaint about its interior. It’s the only reminder that there may still be cost-cutting at work here.

The hybrid powertrain puts up respectable numbers. Combined, the 1.6-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine and electric motor developing 230hp and 265Nm of torque. And even though the six-speed automatic isn’t the fastest, and the car itself isn’t exactly a featherweight (about 1600kg), the Tucson Hybrid still feels snappy when you put your foot down. Hyundai’s claim of 8 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h strikes me as quite reasonable and believable.

The powertrain is a highlight.  It's quiet, switches modes seamlessly, and packs a punch.

What’s more impressive, however, is how seamlessly it switches between modes. The motor usually only turns on when you need more power than the electric motor can provide (or when the battery has run out of juice) and it always does so smoothly and quietly. Unless you pin the throttle and bring it closer to its redline, it’s hard to tell the engine is running. On highways, if you put the throttle on, it can run using just the electric motor, which helps with fuel economy.

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I managed 6.8l/100km which is equivalent to 14.7km/l over 4 days and a distance of 265km with the car. Considering the size of the car and the fact that most of the commuting was around town with a heavy right foot, I’d say those numbers are good. If you spend most of your time on the highways, it’s totally reasonable to hit higher numbers.

Fuel economy is good considering the size and performance.

I have no complaints about the way the Tucson Hybrid rides. The balance between firmness and comfort is well judged. And like most other Hyundais, its steering is light, giving drivers a feeling of increased responsiveness and precision. Body control for an SUV is also decent. Body roll is unavoidable for a car of this size and height, but the way the car pitches under hard acceleration and braking gave me a little nausea at first.

This is a very successful and complete SUV.  (Image source: Komoco Motors)

Viewed as a whole, the Tucson hybrid doesn’t have many flaws. If you don’t mind its looks, then what you have is a handsome mid-size SUV that combines peppy performance with a great interior, good ride comfort and exceptional functionality. And to $180,999, its price is also quite competitive compared to its rivals. All things considered, this is a very accomplished SUV and an impressive effort from Hyundai.

Kenny Yeo

Kenny Yeo /
Associate Editor

Specs aren’t everything. It’s what you do with what you have that matters.