Tucson PHEV an Efficient SUV

CHATHAM, MA – The number on the 2023 Hyundai Tucson PHEV (plug-in hybrid) dash was other worldy – 308 miles per gallon! The number reflected my diligence in plugging the sport utility vehicle (SUV) into the charger every chance I got, which meant I spent a lot of my driving on electricity without the need of the gasoline engine.

A more realistic picture might have been about 40-45 mpg (the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 35 mpg on gasoline alone, 80 in combination, a number I can see as possible), all dependent on the type of driving one does and distances traveled from the plug.

All new in 2022, the Tucson represents Hyundai’s compact-SUV star, a five-seater on the larger side of the compact segment. It is offered in many trims and configurations including gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid as well as front and all-wheel drive.

My ride was a 2023 Tucson Limited PHEV AWD, the peak of the Tucson range which in Hyundai terms means comprehensively equipped with virtually no options beyond special paint and floor mats ($195 on the tester). The total price, including $1,245 inland freight & handling, $44,640 – quite reasonable for all the features included.

The PHEV powertrain and platform

The Tucson’s primary powerplant is a 1.6-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder GDI double-overhead-camshaft 16-valve engine producing 180 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque. The PHEV’s electric motor puts out 66.9Kw (90 hp) of power and 224 lb.-ft. of torque which in combination with the gas engine results in a total output of 261 hp and 258 lb.-ft.

Providing the energy for the electric motor is a 13.8kWh battery which translates into about 28miles of all-electric driving (enough for many, if not most, daily activities). Recharging the system with a level-2 charger like the Autel MaxiCharger AC Wallbox Home in my garage takes about two hours.

The remainder of the powerplant includes a six-speed automatic transmission with console-mounted push-button control (no transmission selector intruding into the interior) and Hyundai’s HTRAC® All-Wheel Drive system.  This is a multi-mode system, providing an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between the front and rear axles.

The driver-selectable HTRAC Normal, Sport and Smart modes help provide confident control in all weather conditions. The Sport setting gives a more agile feel by sending more torque to the rear wheels, for a sporty, dynamic experience. This system has a wider range of torque distribution variability than many competitive systems and is tuned to conditions such as straight-line acceleration, medium- and high-speed cornering, and hill starts. 

Tucson hybrid models feature Hyundai’s e-handling technology, which applies electric motor torque control according to dynamic inputs and road conditions to improve cornering performance for a new level of fun-to-drive dynamics.

As the Tucson hybrid turns-in to a corner, the electric motor system applies precise incremental braking force to the front wheels, increasing their tire contact patch on the road surface for enhanced traction and steering response while initiating turn-in. Then, as the vehicle moves to exit the corner, the electric motor applies precise torque to the rear axle, increasing the rear tire contact patches for enhanced traction and control accelerating out of the corner.

The hardware suspension components include MacPherson-type struts with coil springs up front, multi-link at the rear.

The power-assisted four-wheel disc brake system has anti-lock (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) with 12.8-inch ventilated rotors up front and 12-inch solid ones in the rear.

Rounding out the suspension/chassis pieces are 19-inch alloy wheels shod with P235/55R19 all-season tires.

Full suite of ADAS

Continuing with the theme of comprehensively equipped vehicle, the Tucson PHEV Limited features a long list of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) including: forward collision-avoidance assist; lane-keeping assist; blind-spot collision-avoidance assist; rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist; safe-exit warning advanced cruise-control with stop & go, and electronic-stability control.

All these components and features add up to a vehicle which rides and handles quite well. Not a sports car, but a vehicle which does not force the driver to shy away from any type of road. I enjoyed maneuvering around the twists and turns of the roads on the western side of Wellfleet and Truro, Mass. without ever feeling the Tucson was overmatched.

Interior loaded with technology, amenities and features

The Tucson PHEV Limited might be a member of the compact-SUV segment without a premium price tag or label but despite lacking the high price, it is filled with the latest technology and features. The automatic dual-zone climate-control system is supplemented by leather-covered. front seats with both heat and ventilation (both power adjusted; the driver’s with two-person memory).

The driver peruses a 10.25-inch digital cluster behind the multi-adjustable steering wheel with controls for the audio system, cruise-control system and voice acvtivation.

At the center of the top of the dash is the signature Hyundai 10.25-inch color touch screen, the heart of the infotainment system with navigation. The screen also provides the monitor for the surround-view camera system.

The sound from the infotainment system is pumped out by a Bose Premium Audio system.

Again, premium features and amenities at a reasonable price.

An SUV which delivers the goods

The 2023 Tucson Limited PHEV AWD represents the top of the Tucson range, the epitome of Hyundai’s compact SUV offerings, which means it represents major piece of the automaker’s lineup. And it definitely delivers the goods!

At $44,640, great fuel economy, a very comprehensive roster of amenities, technology and features, this represents typical, solid Hyundai value.

Next week TBR Drives the 2023 Toyota Tundra full-size pickup truck.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.