Here we are testing the all-new 2002 Hyundai Tucson, the vehicle that is the maker’s best-selling model globally, so it must be the standard bearer for the direction the company is going. And in the US, the compact SUV segment is huge as well. So, no pressure then, for the new model!
But we have been consistently impressed with all the new Hyundais we’ve driven, from the full-size Pallisade SUV to the Elantra and Sonata sedans. Is the new Tucson ready to take on world? Let’s find out.
Well, if you’re going to make a good first impression, bowl ‘em over with style. Hyundai calls their new design identity “Sensuous Sportiness” which is actually pretty straightforward for designer-speak.
The front end is a show-stopper with half-mirror type daytime running lamps that seamlessly merged with the “parametric” grille, and are only visible when illuminated. They also have a jewel like finish when on, it captures the eye, and turns heads.
The Tucson has more folds and bends than an Origami convention, and it starts with the surrounds for the front fogs and bends around to the sides. The profile is very muscular with pronounced shapes creating bold fender flares, while sharp cutlines across the top of the fender lines and below the doors serve up a crisp tailored look. And we love the aggressive cuts to the optional 19-inch alloy wheels.
The rear is no-less noteworthy with wrap around rear LED taillights and a full-width taillamp that features half-concealed triangular shapes that are visible when illuminated, similar to the front. An interesting detail, the Hyundai logo is elevated and integrated into the glass – creating a unique look. Finished off in a tasteful Shimmering Silver, we’d have to say this is easily the best-looking vehicle in its class.
First Class Cabin
As sharp as the exterior is, the interior is just as delightful. Hyundai calls the design “Interspace” with a sleek multi-layered effect. The entire cabin wraps around you for an intimate feeling, while the center stack creates a driver-focused area that is quite upscale. Ambient lighting offers 64 colors in 10-levels of brightness. Call us spoiled!
On our Limited tester, that included a handsome two-tone effect with the upper dash in black and the lower in a light ivory color. Soft touch materials make you feel like you’re getting the luxury treatment.
Rich leather covers the seats, and the fronts are extra comfortable, while the rear seats are impressive for massive legroom – especially nice in this class of vehicle. Cargo has increased nearly 8 cubic feet over the previous model, so you can bring more. The rear hatch even senses the key in your pocket as you walk up, and automatically opens for easy access.
Speaking of class, we love the digital gauge display, with two round screens for speedo and tach that turn into displays from outside cameras when you signal for a turn or lane change. This kind of stuff started out on Hyundai’s Genesis luxury line, and has migrated down to the Tucson, and we love it. The unique horizontally styled steering wheel is becoming another signature item or Hyundai, and it is handsome.
There’s also a massive 10.25-inch touchscreen that blends with climate controls to create the appearance of a giant tablet, a la Tesla. Multiple swipes pull up information, and Hyundai’s info-tainment system is excellent, with a quick handshake and response.
We do have a couple gripes. We’d like at least a volume control knob (Honda learned this lesson a couple years ago) and a tuning knob would be nice too. Yeah, knobs are old-school, but it’s still the way to go, even if it doesn’t look super-futuristic.
On that same note, we are not fans of the pushbutton transmission controls. (We had the same issue with the latest Acura products). A standard lever suits us fine. At least the Tucson features paddle shifters on the steering wheel so when you want to hand shift, you can.
Relaxed and Comfortable Ride
The drive fits perfectly with the interior and exterior design. Before you even get in, the Tucson shows one of its party tricks – Remote Smart Parking Assist – that can pull out (or pull in) of a parking space – driverless. Hit the remote start, then a tap on the key fob, and it slowly makes it way to you. It will even stop if it senses something in its way. There are probably just a few times it’s really useful – if you have an old, tiny, garage, for example. But it is a showstopper. Impress your friends.
While the Tucson offers both a hybrid and plug-in hybrid powerplant, our tester had the base motor, a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder that produces a reasonable 187 horsepower, and 178 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s a bit better than last year’s model. Acceleration is smooth and quiet, and around town it feels good but not quick, and never really inspires. You will get close to 30 mpg combined though, and with gas prices going up, we can appreciate that!
You do get an excellent 8-speed automatic, and in Sport mode it wakes up the Tucson a bit, but if you’re looking for sportiness, you’ll want a turbo competitor like the Mazda CX-5. If you want a performer, it’s most likely in one of the Tucson hybrid/plug-in hybrid models, that feature a 1.6-liter turbo that kicks out 227 horsepower / 261 horsepower respectively. This powertrain was in the larger sibling Kia Sorento Hybrid we recently tested, and it was strong, responsive, and wonderfully efficient, too.
Our Tucson continued its no-sweat vibe with a supple, quiet ride and composed handling. One big plus – while it feels spacious on the inside, the outside dimensions are nicely-sized, making it easy to fit in narrow roads and crowded malls. We also loved our tester’s 360-degree overhead parking view, which made it easy to snag just about any parking space. The steering has good feel, and with the HTRAC all-wheel-drive you feel confident and in control.
Adding to the confidence, Hyundai gives you a sweet suite called Smart Sense, that includes standard Forward Collison Avoidance with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Keep Assist and Rear Occupant Alert on all models. Our well-equipped Limited also had Blind Spot Collision Avoidance, Rear Cross Traffic Collision Avoidance, Smart Cruise Control and Safe Exit Warning.
Absolutely – just pick a trim that appeals to you. The line starts with the Tucson SE at $25,350 with stylish looks, 29 mpg combined, and features like Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, we think it’s a bargain. The SEL adds Blind Spot avoidance Proximity Key pushbutton start and more. Adding the Convenience Package creates hits the sweet spot, tossing in hands-free power liftgate, 19-inch alloy wheels, 10.25-inch infotainment display, digital key, wireless charging, Ambient lighting and more. All this at around $29,250 is excellent value, too.
Our top of the line Limited came in at $34,850 with all the luxo goodness you’d expect, including leather, panoramic sunroof and more. Add in $1,225 for delivery, and we rang the bell at $36,075.
Competition are the usual prime-time suspects, with the trustworthy and friendly Honda CR-V coming in at $36,325. The Mazda CX-5 offers that powerful turbo engine, but it will put you back $39,000. The Toyota RAV4 is always a contender, but it is even more dear at $40,460. They are all great vehicles, it comes down to personal taste, and how much you want to stretch the budget. Drive and decide.
The all-new 2022 Hyundai is a standout in a crowded, excellent class, with stunning looks, a beautiful interior, class-leading tech, and a best-in-class warranty, too.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.