2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV Review: A Half-Step in the Right Direction

A hybrid vehicle, one with both a gasoline-powered engine and an electric motor, is an efficient half step between internal combustion engine cars and electric vehicles (EVs). But in between hybrid and EVs is another step called plug-in hybrid. These vehicles, like the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), offer a small amount of all-electric range along with its traditional engine.

The Tucson PHEV is new to the model range for 2022. It joins the Tucson, Tucson Hybrid and new sporty Tucson N Line. But the PHEV is the only one that gets 33 miles of all-electric range, which can be regained in just two hours on a level 2 charger.

This latest generation of Hyundai Tucson was introduced in 2020 and received a major redesign of all surfaces using the company's new Parametric Dynamics design language. The new front end features headlights that hide when not illuminated and new angular LED taillights. Short overhangs and crisp lines complete the polygonal shape.

The Tucson is offered in eight colors, five of which are variations of gray, and with several wheel choices ranging from 17- to 19-inches. The Hyundai logo has moved to the rear window and the rear wiper is now hidden underneath the spoiler.

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The 2022 Tucson gets a new look inside too with an open feel and vertical set of controls underneath a 10.25-inch screen. Almost all of the buttons are integrated into the infotainment system including climate controls. The cabin features both USB and wireless connections for smartphones, along with a wireless charging tray.

Redundant controls sit on the leather-wrapped steering wheel for volume, tuning and assisted driving, while others adjust the view and information of the digital instrument cluster, which also changes with the drive modes.

The screen is bright and colorful and reacts quickly to inputs. Wireless Apple CarPlay was seamless, helped by the fact that some of the infotainment controls are off the screen, meaning drivers can switch from CarPlay to the native system easily. However, the climate controls are harder to poke at when driving with no physical buttons, and there is some reflection from the piano black trim.

The front seats are soft, comfortable, heated and cooled, and there is plenty of space for coffee cups and other storage, in addition to the wireless phone charging tray. The power adjustable seats make it easy to find a good driving position and the view out of the front is wide and unrestricted. The rear features seatbelts for three, and it looks wide enough for adults. Rear knee room was also impressive when the front seat was set to a 5-foot, 10-inch frame.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV comes with a 10.25-inch touchscreen. Hyundai Motor America

The most important part of this Tucson PHEV is the powertrain, which features a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission. That's complemented by a 13.8-kWh battery for a total of 261 horsepower and 258 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque.

All-wheel drive is standard on the plug-in hybrid, which delivers 30 miles per gallon combined and can tow 2,000 pounds. It offers Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow modes while a new system called e-handling improves its response when going around corners.

The e-handling system applies incremental braking force when going into a turn. That moves the weight balance forward, adding to the contact patch of the front tires. That makes for a better turning response. As the Tucson exits a corner, more power is added to the rear axles as the weight goes backward, improving acceleration.

In practice drivers won't feel it, they'll just feel a more confident turn. But they will feel that quick acceleration from a standstill because of the electric motor. Like some other hybrids, drivers might get a little wheel slip when it's wet or slippery, but the HTRAC all-wheel drive system instantaneously adjusts for a linear takeoff. The six-speed automatic transmission worked well with the powertrain.

2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV comes with LED lights at all four corners. Hyundai Motor America

Acceleration is one of the big advantages of EVs, and even when the battery shows zero miles the system still stores and releases energy when braking and taking off. The regenerative brakes in the Tucson are better than most with a progressive feel as the pedal transitions from recuperating energy to the mechanical brakes.

The steering is quicker than expected and when combined with the acceleration the Tucson almost feels lightweight, though it comes in at a medium 4,235 pounds. It's comfortable over normal midwestern potholes and it's acceptable in light off roading as well.

The biggest disadvantage of the Tucson PHEV is the cargo space, which is down about eight cubic feet from the gas version due to the battery.

Automatic braking and lane keeping come standard on the 2022 Tucson, along with high beam assist, driver attention warning and rear occupant alert. Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, rear cross traffic alert, safe exit warning, Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go and Smart Park are optional on most trims but included on the Limited PHEV.

The Hyundai Tucson Limited PHEV AWD is the most expensive of all the trims starting at $43,200. However, the SEL trim PHEV is only $35,400. Its main competition comes from the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

The Ford Escape PHEV has a 37-mile range and a base price of $35,455. The Honda CR-V Hybrid is a little less expensive at $32,010 but doesn't plug in and doesn't have any electric range. The plug-in Toyota RAV4 Prime is more expensive at $40,300. It has a combined 302 horsepower and 42 miles of electric driving and is by far the sportiest of the bunch.

But if sport is not a concern, then the Hyundai Tucson PHEV is highly recommended because of its combination of styling and technology, eager attitude, and comfort in all situations. It buyers aren't quite ready for full EVs yet, it's a great time to test the water with a plug-in.