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The 2022 Hyundai Tucson offers a 2.5-liter, direct-injected and multi-port-injected gasoline engine, as well as 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains. (Drew Phillips/Hyundai/TNS)TNS

Hyundai typically responds boldly when faced with a challenge. They’re the guys, after all, who brought us the 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty to assure those who were still unsure about the Korean carmaker.

But this year’s challenge in the compact-crossover market is Mount Everest-like: Build a new Tucson capable of taking on the giants: Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, who currently lead Tucson by a couple-hundred thousand car lengths. That amounts to nearly triple Tucson’s sales midway through last year, according to one report.

Challenge accepted, apparently. The 2022 Tucson has turned heads of buyers and analysts alike with its truly bold, distinctive look, more space for passengers and stuff, and better tech and interior materials quality. And Hyundai threw in some clever design features with a wink and a nod.

Designers say they’ve taken the fourth-generation Tucson to a new level with “parametric dynamics.” Daytime running lights and turn signals are integrated into the bold, jewel-like grille and can only be seen when turned on. Headlights are situated in two lower pods in the bumper, where fog lights often reside. It’s a sharp and aggressive look at night.

Angular panels and squared-off wheel arches sharpen the profile, and slash-shaped LEDs on each side of the rear are connected by a full-width light bar. The Hyundai logo is incorporated into the rear glass. Another clever feature: the placement of the rear wiper, hidden underneath the spoiler. Kudos, Hyundai.

Folks will love Tucson’s expanded dimensions: It’s longer by 6.1 inches, has a 3.4-inch longer wheelbase, and is taller and wider by just over a half-inch. That means more room (six cubic feet more, says Hyundai) to stretch out, especially in the rear seat, and enough room in back for bags or even bikes. It has 38.7 cubic feet of space in the rear, 74.8 cubes with rear seats folded, and a two-level load floor that allows more efficient use of the space.

Around town or on the highway, Tucson delivers a smooth, quiet ride. The suspension is tuned for comfort and soaks up most bumps and divots in the road. Corners are handled well enough but there is some body roll.

It could use more pep. It’s powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that puts out 187 horsepower. Mated to an 8-speed automatic, the Tucson strolls to 60 mph in a leisurely 9.3 seconds, the quarter-mile in 17 seconds. That’s lazy acceleration, although for many that’s not really a priority in this segment.

The top-line Limited offers paddle shifters for some added kick. Or go hybrid: a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine in the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Tucson perform better with 227 hp and 261 hp, respectively.

All-wheel-drive is standard in both, optional in the nonhybrids ($1,400) except for the top-line Limited. Variable torque distribution allows you to lock in a 50-50 grip for improved balance in slippery conditions.

Meanwhile, four drive modes — Snow, Sport, Smart and Normal — adjust throttle, shift points and steering sensitivity. Cool feature alert: The digital instrument panel flashes a different color for each mode.

In the best of circumstances, the EPA estimates 24 mpg city and 29 highway for a combined figure of 26 mpg. The hybrids, not surprisingly, do better at around 38 mpg.

Tucson’s five-seat cabin has risen to new levels, too. Where else can you find a panoramic sunroof at this level? The interior has an upscale look this year, with higher quality materials and a handsome dashboard with narrow air vents streaming across the top.

One elegant feature, although not universally loved, is a push-button gear selector. Another is the wireless phone charger.

While lower trims get buttons and knobs, the Limited gets a 10.25-inch touchscreen for infotainment, climate and audio, and it’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Behind the wheel is a 10.25-inch fully digital instrument display with configurable data center.

Front seats in the Limited are trimmed in leather, heated/ventilated and bolstered for extra support. There is ample room for heads and legs, and seats offer 8-way power adjustments. Rear-seat leg room increased by 3 inches and can accommodate two adults or three kids comfortably. The seats recline for extra comfort and fold flat for cargo.

Available on lower trims and standard on the Limited are a hands-free power lift gate, heated steering wheel, eight-speaker Bose audio system and ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colors or combinations thereof.

Standard safety on lower trims include adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and lane departure warning, and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection. The Limited also includes Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist, a highly regarded semi-autonomous driving system.

Additional safety features include blind-spot cameras with images in the gauge cluster, a surround-view camera, remote parking assist, and front and rear parking sensors.

Hyundai continues to surprise with bold ideas, and the redesigned Tucson, with its distinct exterior design and refined and roomier cabin, surely will gain some car lengths on those big fellas.

2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD

MSRP: $36,100

Includes: Includes semi-autonomous drive system, 10.25-inch touchscreen, digital instrument display, navigation, panoramic sunroof, remote park assist, surround-view and blind-spot cameras.

What’s all the excitement about? Fourth-generation Tucson gets complete redesign with bold new look, lots more space for people and their stuff

Powertrain: 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine good for 187 horsepower; mated to 8-speed automatic transmission

How’s the performance? Smooth and comfortable highway ride, lackadaisical 0-60 mph at 9.3 seconds. Peppier turbocharged engines available with hybrid and plug-in versions.

Fuel economy: 24 mpg city, 29 highway, for 26 combined

(Barry Spyker was the automotive columnist for The Miami Herald and editor of its Wheels & Waves section. Readers may send him email at spy2351@yahoo.com.)

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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