Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) have been growing in popularity, and for good reason.
By coupling a traditional gas-powered engine with an electric motor or two, there’s no need to worry about being caught with a dead battery – but at least some of the benefits of driving a full electric vehicle (EV) are here. And with a revised federal tax rebate program in place, some of the newest and best of the bunch qualify for a full $5,000 off rather than the previous $2,500. The 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV is not only one of those rarified machines, but it’s also a fantastic all-round daily driver.
Fuel Economy: 9.5/10
Last year, AutoTrader Road Test Editor Dan Ilika suggested there was no better choice for tentative buyers to step into the gas-electric world than the conventional Tucson Hybrid. While it’s a fine recommendation, this new plug-in version is an even better choice, offering genuine electric-only driving range, available government rebates, and coveted green licence plates in provinces that offer them, allowing solo travel in high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in Ontario, among other benefits.
For weekday commuting around urban or suburban settings, the Tucson PHEV’s estimated 53 km of all-electric range should be enough to get most folks to work with room for a few extra errands along the way. That means the Tucson PHEV can essentially be an EV, which was my experience throughout most of my test week. In fact, despite some highway driving early on, by my fifth day behind the wheel the overall consumption average was just over 2.0 L/100 km. Even after a weekend trip out of town and back, my final weekly consumption rate was 3.8 L/100 km.
Natural Resources Canada rates the Tucson PHEV at a combined 2.9 Le/100 km, which is shorthand for litres equivalent for every 100 km driven. As impressive as that is, it still trails its two main plug-in competitors: the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 Prime, both of which also offer even more electric range. In hybrid mode, the Tucson PHEV is rated at 6.7 L/100 km, which is excellent for an SUV this size but, again, falls short of those rivals.
Where the Tucson PHEV does better than its peers is with its Level 2 charge time of a little less than two hours – a figure that’s about half that of the Ford, and about a third as long as it takes the Toyota’s battery to recharge.
Like the Tucson Hybrid, this PHEV’s mechanical heart is Hyundai’s 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that dispenses 180 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque; but with a larger 67-kW motor connected to the wheels that’s energized by a 13.8-kWh battery, net output is 261 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The extra 34 hp over the version that can’t be plugged in is welcome since the larger battery pack and motor add more than 200 kg (441 lb) to the Tucson’s curb weight.
It’s enough power and torque to move the Tucson PHEV swiftly away from a standstill, and offer comfortable thrust for passing slower traffic – especially when the sport drive mode is selected. The PHEV is far less energetic in eco mode, but it still has more than enough oomph for daily driving, and it was the mode used most during testing to maximize efficiency.
Driving Feel: 7.5/10
Beyond its capable acceleration, the Tucson PHEV is also genuinely pleasant to drive. When in full electric mode, the smoothness and silence of not using a gas engine is appreciated, but even with the internal-combustion contribution, the power is directed through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission instead of the continuously-variable type that’s typically found in gas-electric machines. This eliminates the rubber-band sensation often associated with hybrid acceleration and gives the Hyundai a much more responsive nature than expected.
Similarly, the regenerative braking is far more agreeable than in many other hybrids, offering ample stopping power but also contributing a lot of energy back into the battery pack without the usual grabbiness. Handling is respectable for a compact SUV, with the relatively wide and sporty 235-mm tires offering good grip, but the Tucson PHEV’s significant weight is always present, giving it some on-road solidity, but also a fair amount of body roll.
The other downside to the big wheels and mass is that this Hyundai’s ride is more stiff than expected, and larger potholes can send nasty reverberations from the wheels to the cabin. Beyond the ride, the Tucson is impressively quiet, even when the engine is running, and the transition from electric to hybrid operation happens with utter seamlessness. Wind and road noises are also well suppressed, all of which helps occupants enjoy the decent either-speaker sound system that comes in this range-topping Ultimate trim.
The perforated leather seats are heated front and outboard rear, with the front ones also getting cooling fans. They’re decently supple, but I did find the front headrests intrusive to the point where no matter how the seat was adjusted it was never perfectly comfortable.
Although not class-leading in any specific dimension, the Tucson PHEV’s passenger space, both front and rear, is highly competitive with the Escape and RAV4. The larger battery pack reduces the cargo space relative to the conventional hybrid version and, at 902 L, it’s also less volume than both the Toyota or Ford.
The Tucson PHEV’s tidy exterior dimensions make it easy to navigate in urban settings, and its standard all-wheel drive adds some peace of mind come wintertime. Its 907-kg (2,000-lb) towing capacity is better than the Escape’s, but a little less than the RAV4 Prime’s 1,134-kg (2,500-lb) rating.
The not-for-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) bestows a Top Pick+ rating upon the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), meanwhile, gives the non-electrified version a four-star rating, with the PHEV having not yet been crash-tested by the government agency.
Hyundai provides all Tucsons with a significant suite of passive and active safety features, but in top Ultimate trim like this PHEV tester it’s loaded up with everything the company could throw at it. Included are the features that are quickly becoming industry-standard, like active lane-keeping, automatic high-beam control, adaptive cruise control, and autonomous emergency braking. But thanks to several additional cameras and sensors, the Ultimate trim also gets junction-turn detection, which warns of oncoming traffic when turning left, plus the ability to slow the automated cruise control for curves on the highway, 360-degree camera views for parking, and Hyundai’s blind-spot monitoring that shows what the side camera sees in the instrument display when either turn signal is activated.
The active safety feature count is impressive on its own, but the Tucson PHEV has a pretty luxurious interior, too. Both front seats are power-operated, with the driver’s side getting memory settings in the Ultimate trim. There’s also a panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors, and a hands-free power tailgate, plus Hyundai’s remote parking system that can pull it in or out of tight parking spots by using the key fob outside the vehicle.
Hyundai’s telematics service is included for free for three years, enabling owners to monitor and access some of the Tucson’s features via smartphone, like remote starting and cabin climate pre-conditioning, or service scheduling.
User Friendliness: 7/10
The Tucson PHEV in Ultimate trim gets the slick full 10.25-inch digital instrument display that utilizes flashy graphics to change the visual personality of the Tucson’s instruments depending on whether in normal, sport, or eco modes. It also gets a 10.25-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system with built-in navigation. Of course, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard fare, but Hyundai still hasn’t managed to offer wireless connectivity with the large screen despite providing a wireless charge pad.
The system worked without any hiccups during my test week, offering good responsiveness. Operating it is straightforward, with simple menus and icons.
Unfortunately Hyundai’s interior designers sought style over functionality in two respects. The first is the glossy haptic panel that substitutes for proper buttons and knobs for the audio and climate control systems, which looks fancy but requires more attention to use than traditional controls. The second is the push-button gear selector that frees up interior space, but is especially tedious to operate when quick actions are needed (like backing into a driveway from a busy street).
While more user-friendly ergonomics would be preferred, the look of the Tucson’s interior in its top trim is impressively contemporary. And no one can say the Tucson isn’t distinctive. The front end, especially, is made of myriad sharp lines and cross-hatches, sprinkled with a succession of LED lights. The rear is similarly busy, while the profile is as complex as a Frank Gehry building thanks to the many sharp angles, curves, arcs, and textures competing for attention.
The deep metallic green colour of this test Tucson was beautifully finished and accented by a sweeping line of chrome trim that thickens as it dives toward the rear, while the 19-inch wheels fill the fenders visually.
With a starting price of $45,524 before tax but including freight, the Tucson PHEV undercuts its Toyota and Ford competitors. Better still, $4,600 premium for the PHEV powertrain versus the conventional hybrid one is more than covered by the federal tax rebate that’s available, which makes it a no-brainer – especially considering its fuel savings. This Ultimate version, meanwhile, has a pre-tax price of $48,224.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV is the hero of this compact crossover’s lineup, offering more power and efficiency than the already-impressive hybrid version. Although the Tucson PHEV falls short of its costlier RAV4 Prime rival for efficiency, range, and power, Hyundai’s offering is an excellent machine that’s well worth consideration.
|Engine Cylinders||Turbo I4, 67-kW motor|
|Peak Horsepower||261 net hp|
|Peak Torque||258 net lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||6.8 / 6.6 / 6.7 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb hybrid, 2.9 Le/100 km (25.9 kWh/100 km) EV, 53 km electric-only range|
|Cargo Space||902 / 1,876 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Hyundai Tucson PHEV Ultimate|
|Price as Tested||$48,524|
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