A rugged return for Hyundai’s stylish mid-sized SUV
The fourth-generation Hyundai Tucson is a plug-in hybrid, mid-sized SUV that makes a robust package for suburbs and cities alike
The Hyundai Tucson SUV can be credited with bringing the South Korean brand into the big time. It’s the company’s mid-sized SUV offering, assembled in plants around the world and tailored to be suitable for practically all markets.
Since the first Tucson arrived in 2004, the company has shifted over seven million of them, cannily tapping into the soaring demand for off-roading styling in a more family-friendly package.
This is the fourth generation of the Tucson, and it has been designed to make a much stronger visual statement than its forebears. Homogeneity is currently unfashionable, and Hyundai – along with sister brand Kia – has been increasingly emboldened over the course of the last decade or so.
The very first Tucson had a Tonka-toy like solidity to it, but after that, the model became more and more anodyne as the century wore on. Electrification has given the South Korean manufacturer the fillip it needed to radically overhaul its design approach, and the hugely expanded interest in small SUVs like its very own Kona means that new models have to stand out if they want to get ahead.
The Tucson doesn’t quite go as far as that. It is still a comparatively bold design, particularly at the front where the light patterns and headlights form a spectacular and quite unique grille shape. Inside, there’s an accomplished blend of screens and dials, as well as copious amounts of passenger and cargo space. Daylight running lights accentuate these forms, and make the Tucson stand out.
This is the plug-in hybrid variant of the Tucson, which probably won’t ever be offered as a standalone EV (the company has plenty of other new designs waiting in the wings). The powertrain gives it the now expected blend of fun and frugality, tapping on the batteries to boost acceleration and capable of shutting off the engine altogether for around 38 miles of zero-emission motoring.
It is smooth to drive and not especially characterful, being more like an appliance than an automobile, but this is exactly what many people want from the cars they buy, rent, or borrow. Although the lights and grille make a break from the norm, front and rear, the way the sculpted, muscular flanks meet in the middle of the car feels a bit unresolved – it’s more Miami beach than the macho American Midwest image conjured up by its name.
Hyundai’s well-earned reputation for reliability and dependability is encapsulated in the Tucson’s robust package. This is a machine that must win favour all over the world, from suburban USA to high-rise Asian megacities. It’s hard to fault such a broad set of capabilities. §