Hyundai recently introduced the completely redesigned Tucson compact SUV. Already available in five other trim levels: SE, SEL, N Line XRT and Limited, a hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) are now part of the expanded model range. Pricing starts at $25,800 (SE FWD) and ranges up to $36,800 (Limited AWD) for the non-hybrid models. All hybrid Tucsons are AWD only. The Tucson Hybrid is priced at a relatively affordable $29,750 (Blue), but the Plug-in Hybrid is significantly higher at $35,400 (SEL), and availability is limited to mostly northeast and western states.
Our tested Tucson Limited Hybrid AWD ($38,050) had carpeted floor mats ($169) as the only option. Adding the $1,245 freight charge totaled up to $39,464. Significant standard equipment includes 8-way power driver and passenger leather seats, heated/ventilated front and heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, 10.25-in. touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, LED headlights, surround view monitor, 19-in. alloy wheels, and Bose audio system. Active safety technologies include blind spot monitor, parking collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, smart cruise control and forward collision avoidance assist.
All Tucsons are powered by inline fours: a 2.5L (non-hybrid) or 1.6L turbo (HEV/PHEV). Both engines are all-aluminum and direct-injected with dual overhead cams. The 2.5L develops 187-hp @ 6,100 RPM and 178 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 RPM, coupled to an 8-speed automatic. Compared to the 2.5L, the 1.6L turbo is rated for less power: 180-hp @ 5,500 RPM, but higher torque at 195 lb.-ft. from 1,500-4,500 RPM. Instead of variable valve-timing, the 1.6L uses continuously variable valve duration (CVVD) to improve fuel efficiency. A 6-speed automatic sends power to Hyundai's H-TRAC AWD system. The Tucson Hybrid's permanent magnet electric motor develops 44.2 kW from 1,600-2,000 RPM and 195 lb.-ft. from 0-1,600 RPM. A 270V/1.49 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack supplies up to 64kW. Combined powertrain output is 226-hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. EPA fuel consumption ratings are 37/36 MPG (city/hwy.). We only averaged 25-26 MPG in mixed urban and highway driving, likely due to 20-30 deg. F temperatures during our test.
The Tucson's front suspension consists of MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar; at the rear is a multilink setup with coil springs, dampers, and stabilizer bar. An all-disc brake system has 12.8 in. dia. front rotors and 12.0 in. dia. rear rotors. Tires are 235/55R19 Michelin Primacy A/S mounted on 19-in. alloy wheels. Steering is via a rack-and-pinion system, motor-assisted and geared for 2.41 turns lock-to-lock. Tucson Hybrid curb weights range from 3,644 lbs. (Blue) to 3,752 lbs. (Limited). Maximum towing capacity with trailer brakes is rated at 2,000 lbs. for all Tucsons.
Hyundai's interior design is mostly uncluttered and visually pleasing. Superb build quality and a general absence of hard plastics reinforce the premium appearance. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is an unusual 4-spoke design that has integrated audio, phone and vehicle safety system controls. A tablet-style electronic cluster displays different gauges depending on the vehicle drive mode. Normal and Smart powertrain modes show the speedometer and a hybrid mode monitor. We preferred the Sport mode which replaces the hybrid mode monitor with a tachometer. For winter driving, a Snow mode is available. Paddle shifters behind the steering enable manual control of the 6-speed automatic.
The Tucson's infotainment touchscreen is integrated into the center stack instead of protruding above the dash. Audio, navigation and climate controls are accessible via touch-sensitive buttons below the display. Dual USB ports, a 12V power outlet, and a wireless Qi pad can charge mobile devices. Hyundai eliminated the transmission shift lever and replaced it with pushbuttons for Park, Reverse, etc. Although the center console is less cluttered without a shift lever, the driver has to now look down at the buttons on the console. We preferred the functionality and familiarity of a shift lever, but we expect that owners will soon acclimate to the new transmission controls.
The Tucson's front seats provide excellent lateral support and comfort. Despite the panoramic sunroof, front headroom is acceptable for occupants up to 6 ft. tall. Rear seat passengers benefit from supportive seats, ample legroom and similar headroom as in the front seats.
During our test period in February, we drove in subfreezing temperatures and light snow conditions, which proved no challenge for the Tucson's AWD system. The hybrid powertrain switches seamlessly from electric to gasoline power around 25 MPH; the engine starting up is the only indication of the transition to internal combustion power. The torque from the electric motor contributes to excellent low speed throttle response. Cruising at 80 MPH, the hybrid powertrain delivers decent midrange acceleration when needed. Hyundai's efforts to reduce wind and tire noise are immediately apparent on the highway. The Tucson's precise and communicative steering contributes to excellent tracking, even in crosswinds. Suspension tuning strikes a near ideal balance of body control and ride comfort. Around curves, the Tucson exhibits moderate understeer as expected. The all-disc brakes deliver decent stopping power, along with firm pedal feel and progressive actuation.
Hyundai has steadily improved the Tucson over the years to take its place among the top compact SUVs. The addition of two hybrid models enables Hyundai to effectively compete with the market leading Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Add in its attractive pricing and the Tucson becomes a compelling choice for an affordable hybrid SUV.