Bejewelled Bliss : 2021 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid [review]

By jaytee, 05 January 2022

Singapore - Say what you will about the Koreans, they do seem to know their way around a pen and a sketchbook.

The original 2004 Hyundai Tucson might’ve been a little lacking in the pizzazz and panache department, but it was an incredible product offering that was very easy on the wallet and rather easy on the eyes.

Fast forward to 2021 and Hyundai’s whole product lineup has taken an interstellar leap forward, rapidly encroaching on territory held by the Germans.

The looks of the new Tucson may divide opinions, but for the most part, there’ll definitely be something in this car for everyone.

The keen-eyed sort would notice Hyundai’s now-iconic design cues on the 2021 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid. But to the casual observer, the new crossover sure is a striking looking thing. Maybe even outlandish, but in a good way.

Hyundai’s “Parametric Dynamics” design ethos is clear and present on the new Tucson. The front fascia sports a “Parametric” grille that extends to the flanks of the car, with geometric cutouts across the entire grille opening to feed the hybrid four-pot with fresh ambient air.

The grille sections themselves are slightly faceted, akin to a cut gemstone, and coated in a dark chrome sheen that conceals the DRLs situated on either side of the grille.

Hyundai calls it “Parametric Hidden Lights”, we’d like to think of them as pretty DRLs that resemble the wings of an angel when illuminated. It’s a bold aesthetic that gives the car a somewhat futuristic look that is simply dazzling at night.

The car’s headlights, high beams and adaptive beams are nestled in a single cluster lower on the bumper, where one would typically find fog lamps.

The end result of all that front end trickery is a car that looks unlike any other that you’d see on the road.

Down the sides, the geometric design influences continue; Angular faceted door panels and side skirts, trapezoidal wheel arches clad in rugged black plastic, stylish 19-inch rims (exclusive to the Tucson Hybrid model) and a strip of satin chrome trim along the window frame that culminates in a textured sill on the C-pillar.

The tail end sports a continuous light bar with rear lights housed in angular ‘fangs’ beneath the strip of lights. The indicator and reverse lamps are set lower in the bumper. A geometric textured panel in the rear bumper and a satin silver diffuser topped with square exhaust tips ties everything up rather nicely.

In contrast to the flamboyant exterior, the interior is significantly pared back. An interior which we’re told is inspired by the crashing waterfalls of Niagara Falls.

The cabin encapsulates the driver and front passenger with a wraparound dash and a continuous vent that spans the entirety of the dashboard. It's worth noting that the vents are functional, dissipating diffused air across the front of the cab. Ahead of the driver sits a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that’s recessed into the dash panel. A unique anti-reflective coating negates the need for a hood above the instruments.

In the centre, a flowing gloss black panel houses the 8-inch infotainment screen along with a multitude of touch buttons that may be tricky to operate while behind the wheel. Thankfully there are physical dials and rocker switches for temperature and volume controls. Beneath the HVAC controls lie a row of buttons for the front ventilated seats (a godsend in Singapore), parking safety systems and hill descent control.

Instead of a conventional stick, Hyundai has opted to outfit the Tucson with gear selector buttons, similar to the setup you’d find in Hyundai’s electric offerings; the Kona EV and Ioniq EV. While unconventional, it does free up space in the centre console and makes for a cleaner, minimalist appearance.

The cabin also features several niceties that further enhance the refinement and luxury of this crossover. Electronically adjustable front seats, a retractable panoramic sunroof that extends all the way to the aft of the cabin, three-zone climate control with temperature adjustment buttons for rear passengers and sunshades in the rear doors.

Not to mention, the back seats are the most comfortable in a Hyundai this side of a Palisade, and they recline surprisingly far so even the fussiest of rear occupants would be hard-pressed to complain.

(Click HERE to read more about the 2021 Hyundai Palisade 3.5)

That is, until you give it the beans.

It might be a hybrid crossover designed for economy figures rather than outright numbers. But don’t be fooled by the 1.6-litre Smartstream T-GDI engine under the hood. It may seem diminutive but when paired with the 44.2kW electric motor, the total system output of the hybrid powertrain accounts for 230 horsepower and 265Nm of torque. Depress the throttle too quickly and the front wheels do spin up from time to time.

The Tucson Hybrid’s 8-second 0-100km/h sprint time feels a tad modest given the amount of low-end torque. Impressive numbers, especially once you consider the car’s VES A2 rating. In fact, I suspect the car may just get off the line to complete the century sprint a few milliseconds under its on-paper figure. 

While speed and handling prowess aren’t determinant factors in sussing out a crossover’s day-to-day usability, it's still nice to know that a car can hold its own against Singapore’s meandering streets.

The Tucson Hybrid’s chassis offers a well-sorted ride that soaks up minor road imperfections and rougher surfaces, even with the 19-inch rims.

Over the course of a weekend, the Tucson soldiered through a combination of relentless rain and slippery roads, taking it all in stride. I’d even go as far to say it was fun chucking it about turns a little more quickly than necessary in the dry, all while staying relatively flat and level despite the increased ride height.

Best way to put it? The Hyundai Tucson Hybrid handles like a much smaller car, and that’s saying something for a crossover that measures 1865mm wide and 4500mm long.

But of course, like all things, the car isn’t perfect.

The gear selector, whilst being a sleeker alternative to a conventional stick, has a slight delay that was a minor hindrance whilst parking. The electronic parking brake lever is too insensitive, only engaging if I held on to the lever a split second more than I’d like. The bezel of the infotainment screen doesn’t quite sit flush in the dash and may be a little bit of an eyesore. The safety systems can only be accessed through the gauge cluster and multifunction steering wheel.

All that aside, there isn’t much else to fault in the Tucson Hybrid. Maybe you’d disagree with the exterior styling, or the infotainment, or anything for that matter.

At the end of the day, the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid still embodies the best that Hyundai has to offer. And just like its earliest predecessor, it is a great product offering that doesn’t exactly break the bank for the number of amenities it has on offer.

PHOTOS Jay Tee

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid
Engine 1598cc, inline4 turbocharged petrol-hybrid
Power/rpm 230hp/5500rpm
Torque/rpm 400Nm/1500-4500rpm
Transmission 6spd auto
0-100km/h 8.0secs
Top Speed 193km/h
Fuel Consumption 4.8l/100km (combined)
VES A2 (-$15,000)

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