And a stunning new look and feel.
Some of us are emerging from the pandemic looking a little more haggard than we went into it; it was a stressful time, after all.
But not the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. This happy little SUV spent the pandemic—and likely the few years before— getting a stunning makeover that sets the stage for the future look of Hyundais everywhere.
The makeover starts, where else, but with the face of this 5 passenger SUV, which is priced from $25,000 to about $37,000. But its designer, Chris Chapman, dislikes the term “face.” It’s really the front, the beginning, he explained. Cars typically are designed with headlights that look like eyes and a grille and lower bumper that mimics a nose and mouth. Why should that be? Do we have to humanize our cars in order to feel connected to them? By releasing that idea, Chapman and his team focused on the sculpture of the Tucson and re-crafted it for the modern age.
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This Makeover Starts at the Front…and No Detail is Overlooked
Probably the most stunning detail is the front grille and headlights, which no longer have a “face” but rather, are a sculpted grid that remind me of an open link watch band; they connect and cascade across the front of the car. Headlights are integrated into the ‘links,’ alighting when needed and muted when not. The look of the Tucson is distinct and modern, lights on or off.
From there, it seems, Tucson has been spending time at the gym. Its side panels are tight and muscular, popping out a bit over the wheels and concave at the center point where the doors meet.
The look continues at the back of the SUV; the rear tail lights mimic the front grille, two stand-alone vertical ‘links’ that are connected by a light bar that spans the lift gate. The rear is otherwise subtle; it’s difficult to see in my photos because the car was dirty from a day of desert driving, but one detail I particularly loved is the lower bumper, a layering of composite material cut in a diamond pattern. It’s a fun bit of flair and looks really sharp when it’s clean.
But This Interior…
Don’t let the details on the outside keep your attention for too long. Because inside the Tucson Chapman and his team created the car you’ve always wanted and never knew you needed. The feel is refreshing and elegant, calm and engaged at the same time. That’s because none of the technology is in your face, it’s recessed into the dashboard. This allows the materials that surround you to set the tone rather than the screens. The top of the dashboard is flat and elegant, framed by a chrome line that circles the cabin, spanning the dashboard and continuing onto the door panels. The chrome lines encompass the air vents and a few other things and serves to create a delineated space between the cabin and the view.
Most notable are the screens. In a departure from recent trends of bigger and more prominent screens, these are recessed into the dashboard rather than standing out from it. The driver information screen is a fully digital screen that is designed to be glare-free and easy to see; the space between the two gauges —speedometer and tachometer or energy monitor, depending on the model—can be customized to display a selection of information that can be chosen with a button on the steering wheel.
The infotainment screen adds all the best that Hyundai has to offer, from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to wifi, Bluelink, even the Sounds of Nature, so you can drive through a snowy landscape and hear it without putting the windows down.
Gray Leather Seating that Begs to Be Yours
I’m not a fan of black interiors, the most popular color in all of auto-dom. I don’t really get it. Drop a popsicle or spill your coffee? No one will know until they touch that surface because it hides dirt so well. Looking for a bit of relief on a hot summer day? Slide into that black interior and it’s like hopping into the belly of the beast. But a light gray or cream colored interior? Well, that’s sublime. You can see what needs to be cleaned and easily and instantly keep it neat. It’s cooler in summer and welcoming in winter. Its reflective quality keeps your mood bright. The look of light interiors juxtaposed against a dark dash and floor carpeting is classic: black and white photography, a tuxedo, perfectly balanced zen. The combination is nature’s way of keeping you calm.
Which is to say that the light gray leather interior in the Hyundai Tucson is a huge win, and with the panoramic sunroof, the cabin is a haven. This isn’t new from Hyundai; the brand has long been on the cutting edge of great interiors and always had these lovely combinations. But it’s refreshing to see nonetheless.
Four Engines to Choose From … But Which is Best?
Buyers of the Hyundai Tucson can choose from a 4 cylinder, 4 cylinder turbo, hybrid or plug in hybrid. I won’t make you wait to know which is best. The hybrid is superior: faster, quieter, more in command. Not that the 4 cylinder is bad, but the hybrid is just so much better. For only about $1,200 more. Here are the options and starting prices:
- SE edition with a 2.5 L 4 cylinder, 187 HP, 29 MPG $24,950
- SEL with a 2.5 L 4 cylinder, 187 HP, 29 MPG $24,950
- N Line with a 2.5 L 4 cylinder, 187 HP, 29 MPG $30,600
- Limited edition with a with a 2.5 L 4 cylinder, 187 HP, 29 MPG, $34,700
- Tucson Blue hybrid with a 1.6 L 4 cylinder turbo, 226 HP and 36 MPG, $29,050
- SEL Convenience edition hybrid with a 1.6 L 4 cylinder turbo, 226 HP and 36 MPG, $31,650
- Limited hybrid edition, with a 1.6 L 4 cylinder turbo, 226 HP and 36 MPG, $37,350
It’s worth noting that the hybrid and plug in hybrid are both all wheel drive; front wheel drive is only available on the conventional gas models, though all wheel drive in those models can be had for a $1,400 addition and about 3 less MPG. The plug in hybrid is expected to have an all electric range of about 32 miles on a charge, produce the most horsepower at 261, and get fuel economy equal to or better than the hybrid (and no, pricing hasn’t been announced yet).
All the Tech You Expect, and Then Some
Wouldn’t it be great if your car were as smart as you phone, your Nest and your Ring doorbell? Well, with Alexa and smart watch integration, with Smart Park and a digital key function available in many models, it is. Smart Park allows you to pull the Tucson into or out of a parking spot with a phone app. With the digital key app, you can lock or unlock, hand the digital key to another driver or locate your parking. You can even drive the Tucson only using your phone and leave the key at home in the kitchen drawer.
All this is in addition to a newly redesigned infotainment system that allows you to edit the home screen to suit your needs, a blind spot monitor camera that pops up when you hit the turn signal and wireless phone charging. And, wireless Apple CarPlay is available in all but the Limited edition; the upgraded navigation system conflicted with this, so in that model CarPlay is available via the USB port.
And the technical capability doesn’t stop with the in-car connectivity. It continues with driver assist and safety technology, including lane keep assist and lane centering, the blind spot camera, adaptive cruise control and more. All standard. And, for all wheel drive models, off road capability that rivals many SUVs known for crawling rocks and climbing dunes.
Hyundai didn’t just decide to add all these features. Over the last few years the company surveyed customers and non-customers to find out what people wanted in a mid-size SUV. The answers were really clear: More space (so, the Tucson is slightly larger and more spacious inside) more tech that integrates with the rest of our lives, a more modern look and feel and more safety systems as standard equipment. As a result, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson is smarter, more capable and more game for whatever you have in mind.
Disclosure: I was Hyundai’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.