All New Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

New Hyundai Tucson review: the hybrid flagship, driven

All New Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
Hyundai Tucson

NEW CARS

Hyundai’s Tucson compact SUV is reborn as this all-new, fourth-generation model, with a widely electrified engine range, properly out-there design, more space inside and lashings of technology.

We’ve driven the flagship hybrid model, which will cost north of prices will be confirmed in December, a few weeks before right-hand drive cars start arriving in the US. Read on for our detailed review.

Hybrid you say. Have they got the date wrong for the combustion engine ban?

It’s not just hybrid. There are four powertrain options at launch, all using the same 1.6-litre turbocharged gasoline engine at their heart. Base cars run this four-cylinder powerplant with 148bhp, and will cost at least 3000 more than the outgoing 23,150 Tucson because the Mk4 gets more standard equipment. 

The same 1.6 engine also comes with 48-volt mild-hybrid assistance, with a starter/generator adding torque to the driveline and maximising engine start/stop to save fuel. This frugality is enhanced by an ‘intelligent’ six-speed manual with clutch-by-wire, which automatically decouples the engine and transmission during deceleration allowing the car to coast. 

The next tier up is a more powerful, 180PS (177bhp) mild-hybrid version of the 1.6 TGDi, which comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox (optional on 150PS mild-hybrid models) and on-demand all-wheel drive. 

Finally the flagship Tucson deploys a full hybrid, which gets a bigger 1.49kWh battery and a 44.2kW electric motor, which sits between the engine and the six-speed automated transmission to boost torque and reduce the need for combustion. There will also be a plug-in hybrid arriving later, in 2021.

What’s the full hybrid like to drive?

The Tucson hybrid’s total system power is 227bhp, with 195lb ft of torque from usefully low revs. It’s a mellow companion around town, where the incessant orchestration of electric drive and gasoline combustion is harmonious and fluid, like Toyota’s highly evolved hybrids. You’ll see plenty of the EV-only mode light from the commanding driving position. Steering is light but accurate, the rolling refinement good on 19-inch wheels beneath a body that bobs and rolls to keep occupants comfy. 

The default driving mode is Eco, which includes a cease-and-desist order against heavy throttle: cross the line and you’ll get a groan of revs for minimal return. On twistier roads, select the alternative Sport mode (using an awkwardly positioned switch ahead of the cupholder), which frees up the accelerator for more linear, effusive power delivery, and some Mega Mass to weight up the rack. 

The front end has plenty of grip, plenty enough to question the need for four-wheel drive (which this car has): that only makes sense for the snow-bound or the outward bound, further supported by mud, sand and snow drivetrain settings. Hyundai UK is yet to decide whether to import the hybrid 4WD – if so, it will be an expensive model.

How does the Tucson ride?

This highly specced, left-hand drive test car is equivalent to Ultimate trim with the optional tech pack, which includes Electronic Control Suspension (ECS). This adds adaptive damping to the front strut/multi-link rear suspension. The stiffer Sport setting irons out the relaxed gait in favour of a pretty uncompromising set-up – you’ll soon be switching back to Eco. Motorway refinement is fairly typical for an SUV: there’s a bit of wind noise, and a grumble from the borderline low profile Michelin Primacy 4s. 

Not wishing to sound like Goldilocks, but this ECS Tucson is either too loose or too firm for my tastes. However this is the wrong suspension on which to judge the Tucson – the vast majority of UK cars will have passive suspension and front-wheel drive. We’ll update this review as soon as we’ve tried one.  

You can flay the hybrid from dormant to 62mph in 8secs flat, but it rather misses the point. Hybrids are about conserving – not burning – fuel, with a real benefit in urban driving. Hyundai is yet to homologate the official consumption figures, but our 90-mile route with lots of B-roads, some fast motorway and a few towns returned an indicated 35.1mpg. Take it easy and the Tucson hybrid is at its best – and you’ll get the chance to take in all that tech.

Big brother is driving you

Truth be told, I was expecting a two-tonne kerbweight given the amount of Tucson tech (hybrid models actually weigh between 1564 to 1685 depending on spec). Driving forwards or backwards, braking, the view down the side, the front and back seats: everything is monitored and automated where possible. Hyundai lists 18 safety or driving assistance features for the Tucson, such as one-click automated motorway cruise control and emergency braking assist.

Again it’s too early to say how much of this will be optional: the Tech Pack is set to include the ability to remote park the full hybrid using the key fob, surround parking cameras and Blind View Monitor. You might have read about this on other Hyundai and Kia models: click the indicator and the rearward sideview is usefully relayed in the digital binnacle, on the appropriate right or left side of the display. Unlike Audi’s similar system, the side mirrors remain.

Novel stuff includes a central airbag to prevent driver and passenger knocking heads together (thankfully untested), an alarm clock to wake traffic light dozers who fail to spot the car in front has gone, and a warning about opening the doors into oncoming traffic. Preposterously, there’s even an alarm to warn if you’ve left the kids in the back seats.

That’s not the only alarm to cause alarm. A couple of times upon setting off, the Tucson assailed me with an inexplicable siren for an entire minute, as if my seat belt was unbuckled or a door was open. Neither was, and nor did the display screens give me the courtesy of explaining what was amiss. All this feels like Hyundai is veering dangerously into tech overkill.

What’s it like inside?

The five-seat Tucson is longer, wider and fractionally higher than before, with a longer wheelbase. The upshot is generous interior space offering lots of legroom and space for big boots under the seats in front, though short kids might struggle to see out due to that kicked up window line.  

There’s a lot of attention lavished on the rear seats, and some of it’s welcome: the back rests recline (and naturally fold flat), and there’s a little switch on electric-powered front passenger seats, which the driver can easily use to slide it forward to enable easy access. Getaway drivers and chauffeurs will be delighted. Drivers can also instantly silence the rear speakers if the little ones have hung out the ‘do not disturb’ sign.

The hybrid’s wide, deep boot stows 616 litres (1795 seats folded). That’s fractionally down on the petrol car’s capacity, though with the 48-volt hybrid taking a bigger hit at 577/1756 litres. 

We’ll get onto the exterior design, but let’s first say the interior doesn’t have anything like the same eye-popping details. If anything the hybrid’s cockpit is a bit bland, with a thin strip of teal-coloured carpet tile glued to the dash and some chrome strips seemingly lifted from my parents’ 1970s radio.  

Hyundai has also swept the buttons you might find useful – to control air-con and infotainment functions – into a panel beneath the touchscreen, and added a dash of miniaturisation too. The result is a row of tiny hieroglyphics that are hard to operate on the move.

The characterful exterior design is the polar opposite. The front end looks sensational, with the fragmented grille resembling the feathers in an eagle’s unfurled wings, with the outer segments shape-shifting into daytime running lights when the car is switched on. 

The rear is equally eye-catching, with the shark fin motifs peppering the rear lights and D-pillar brightwork delivering real stand-out, and a hidden wiper under the chunky spoiler. Shame the side section is so unfathomably overstyled – here, Hyundai’s cranked out more lines than Bart Simpson.

Hyundai has sold more than 7m Tucsons over the past 16 years, and it feels like it’s thrown everything at its new, global best-seller. It doesn’t all gel in this complex full hybrid, four-wheel drive model which isn’t yet confirmed for the UK, largely due to the adaptive suspension’s unsatisfying ride and dynamic mix. We look forward to driving a simpler car to find out more. 

But this generation Tucson has impact like never before. It covers off the emotional with its design, the rational with its practicality, the advanced with its technology, and the zeitgeist with its focus on electrification. Hyundai, we salute your ambition.

Hyundai Tucson Review