Hyundai isn't falling into the industry-typical habit of making all its new cars look like Russian dolls. From the Sonata to the Palisade to the Elantra, every new Hyundai debut is more interesting than the last. But they're more than just great pieces of design -- these products are well-rounded, too. The 2022 Tucson crossover isn't just Hyundai's latest model, it's the company's best one yet.
Like the new Sonata and Elantra, the Tucson will surely be divisive, but I absolutely love it. Easily the most striking part of the design is the Tucson's face. The wing-shaped "parametric design" front grille has angular inserts and a dark chrome-ish finish, and the LED running lights and turn signals are integrated into the grille, appearing hidden when off. Meanwhile, the main headlights and high beams are in the larger pods in the lower bumper. It's a distinctive solution and looks awesome, especially at night.
The rest of the Tucson is cool, too. It's got squared-off wheel arches reminiscent of the Lamborghini Countach -- yes, really -- and lots of intense character lines and surfacing details. My Tucson's Amazon Gray paint has tons of metal flake and looks green under direct sunlight, showing off the lines perfectly. The greenhouse is accented by a spearlike chrome strip that gets thicker at the D-pillar, but otherwise there's not a lot of jewelry. The slash-shaped taillights have a unique signature and are connected by a full-width light bar, and the placement of the Hyundai badge in the rear glass is interesting.
Globally the 2022 Tucson is offered with two different wheelbase lengths, but we only get the longer one in the US. The 2022 model is 6.1 inches longer, 0.6 inch wider and 0.6 inch taller than the outgoing Tucson, and it's on a 3.4-inch-longer wheelbase. Passenger volume and cargo space are up, too, besting the Toyota RAV4 in both metrics but falling a little short of the Honda CR-V. The rear is especially roomy, with reclining seat backs that easily fold flat and a fold-down armrest with cup holders and storage. The cargo area also has an adjustable load floor with two height levels.
While more restrained than the exterior, the Tucson's interior still stands out. It has a waterfall dashboard design with thin air vents that wrap all the way around the rectangular dash and onto the door cards, and a large center panel that houses the infotainment system and climate controls. Most trims get analog gauges with a 4.2-inch display in the center, but optional on the SEL and standard on the Limited is a nice 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The Limited also gets a push-button gear selector instead of the physical shifter found on the other trims.
Cloth upholstery is standard, and the base Tucson has plastic door panels, but supportive leather seats and soft-touch door cards are standard on the Limited and available on the SEL. I definitely prefer the two-tone light gray and black color scheme you see here, as the interior looks more sterile in all black. One of my favorite details is the Limited's cool fabric inserts on the door panels and on the dash in front of the passenger; I wish that material had been used more throughout the interior.
The base Tucson uses an 8-inch touchscreen, but Limited models like my car get a 10.3-inch display running the same fantastic infotainment system that's found in a number of other Hyundai Motor Group products like the Santa Fe and the Kia K5. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across the board, but only cars with the 8-inch screen get wireless CarPlay. The large display looks really good and is super snappy, and I like that you can swipe over to a simple display that just shows the clock and exterior temperature info. It's also got fun features like nature soundscapes, and there's a quiet mode for the audio that focuses the noise on the driver.
While the lower-end Tucsons have a bunch of physical buttons and knobs, the Limited replaces them with an entirely touch-sensitive panel for the climate, audio and infotainment controls, and a digital display for the temperature and fan speed. I'd like a home button for the infotainment and want the buttons to have some sort of force feedback, but they're easy to get used to. You can hold your finger on a button to quickly adjust fan speed or volume, and I love that Hyundai has multiple intensities for the automatic climate control.
The Tucson's standard powertrain is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-4 paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It makes 187 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, nearly identical to the Honda CR-V's turbo motor and 16 hp and 6 lb-ft less than the RAV4's four-cylinder engine. Front-wheel drive is standard, but my test car has the optional $1,400 all-wheel-drive system that has variable torque distribution. This engine is perfectly fine around town and on the highway, but it certainly doesn't make the Tucson quick or sporty-feeling. The transmission can be sluggish to downshift, but at least the Limited comes with paddle shifters.
The Tucson's steering is both lightly weighted and light on feedback, and there's a good amount of body roll in the corners. But what this crossover lacks in sportiness it makes up for in comfort. Even on the Limited's 19-inch wheels the Tucson soaks up bumps and rough surfaces, delivering a superb ride that's smoother than any of its competitors -- even the refined Mazda CX-5. It's luxury-car quiet on the inside, too, though the noisy engine sometimes cuts through that serenity under hard acceleration.
The EPA rates the Tucson at 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined for the front-drive model, while the AWD Tucson is rated at 24/29/26. In mostly stop-and-go city driving I average about 22 mpg, but on a long drive from Los Angeles to Bakersfield I match the Tucson's 29-mpg highway figure -- and that's at 85 mph with elevation changes and the air conditioning on.
Every Tucson trim level is available with a new hybrid setup that pairs a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor for a total of 261 hp, and it's rated at nearly 40 mpg. While I haven't had a chance to drive the Tucson hybrid yet, with turbo response, more power and better efficiency, it might be the powertrain to get. But there's also a plug-in hybrid on the way with 261 hp and 32 miles of electric range, and the recently revealed Santa Cruz pickup, which is based on the Tucson, has an available turbo-four engine with 281 hp and 311 lb-ft that's paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Tucson N, anyone?
The base Tucson SE starts at $26,135 including $1,185 for destination, making it cheaper than rivals from Honda and Toyota. It comes with full-LED front lighting, automatic headlights and high beams, 17-inch wheels, keyless entry, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist with lane centering, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a pair of front-passenger USB outlets and HD radio.
Jumping up to the $27,685 SEL nets you LED taillights, push-button start, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, two USB outlets in the rear, heated side mirrors, a powered driver's seat, heated front seats, auto up/down front windows, satellite radio, blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic assist and a number of aesthetic improvements. A $2,600 Convenience package adds things like a hands-free power liftgate, 19-inch wheels, a sunroof, that digital gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel, 10-color ambient lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control and wireless charging. There's also a $1,700 Premium package with leather seats, ventilated front seats, a Bose audio system and the dark chrome grille. Then there's a $31,785 N Line trim that builds off the SEL and its packages with more aggressive exterior styling, unique interior trimmings and sportier tuning for the suspension and steering, though it doesn't add any extra power.
The fully loaded $35,885 Limited model like I have includes features and tech items that would have been unheard of in an affordable compact crossover not even 10 years ago. In addition to everything from those SEL packages, it adds a panoramic sunroof, more exterior brightwork, a 360-degree camera and parking sensors, Hyundai's Digital Key phone app, memory for the driver's seat, a powered passenger seat, rain-sensing wipers, remote smart park, 64-color interior ambient lighting, blind-spot cameras that display in the gauge cluster, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, and Hyundai's Level 2 Highway Driving Assist system. Strangely, one feature that the Tucson doesn't have is auto up/down rear windows, which is a weird omission given how much other fancy stuff you can get.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson's styling won't be for everyone, and that's OK. I think it's better to stand out and be memorable than to be anonymous and fade into the background, especially in such a packed and traditionally boring segment. If you're into the angular looks -- or can at least get past them -- the redesigned Tucson offers the best mix of tech, features, refinement and value of any new compact crossover today.