A rugged return for Hyundai’s sleek midsize SUV
The fourth-generation Hyundai Tucson is a mid-size plug-in hybrid SUV that’s a tough package for suburbs and cities.
The Hyundai Tucson SUV can be credited with bringing the South Korean brand into the big time. This is the company’s mid-size SUV offering, assembled in factories around the world and designed to suit virtually any market.
Since the first Tucson arrived in 2004, the company has moved more than seven million of them, shrewdly harnessing the growing demand for off-road styling in a more family-friendly package.
This is the fourth generation of the Tucson, and it was designed to make a much stronger visual statement than its ancestors. Consistency is currently unfashionable, and Hyundai – along with sister brand Kia – has become increasingly emboldened over the past decade.
The very first Tucson had a Tonka toy-like solidity, but after that the model became more and more innocuous as the century progressed. Electrification gave the South Korean automaker the boost it needed to radically overhaul its design approach, and hugely increased interest in small SUVs like its own Kona means new models need to stand out. they want to move forward.
The company is now a recognized leader in design. Products like the Kona and the excellent Ioniq 5 demonstrate a new aesthetic for electric cars that marks a complete break with the immediate past.
The Tucson doesn’t quite go that far. It’s still a relatively bold design, particularly up front where the light patterns and headlights form a dramatic and quite unique grille shape. Inside, there’s a successful mix of displays and dials, plus ample amounts of space for passengers and cargo. Daytime running lights accentuate these shapes and make the Tucson stand out.
It’s the plug-in hybrid variant of the Tucson, which will probably never be offered as an autonomous electric vehicle (the company has many other new models waiting in the pipeline). The powertrain gives it the now-expected blend of fun and frugality, harnessing the batteries to boost acceleration and capable of shutting down the engine completely for around 38 miles of emission-free driving.
It’s smooth to drive and isn’t particularly characterful, looking more like an appliance than an automobile, but that’s exactly what many people expect from the cars they buy, rent or borrow. Although the lights and grille break from the norm, front and rear, the way the sculpted and muscular flanks meet in the middle of the car feels a bit unresolved – it’s more Miami Beach than the macho image of the American Midwest evoked by its name.
Hyundai’s well-deserved reputation for dependability and dependability is encapsulated in the Tucson’s rugged package. It’s a machine that needs to win favor around the world, from American suburbs to high-rise Asian megacities. It’s hard to criticize such a wide set of abilities. §