2022 Hyundai Tucson Review – For Want of a Knob
2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD
Compact crossover land is a funny place. It’s a place where every vehicle is broadly similar, and where the most subtle of differences can distinguish one vehicle from the next. It’s not a world where standing out with something radically different either in styling or engineering will typically yield wins.
Subtle differences certainly show with the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. The styling is a touch different than the rest, with an unusual front lighting setup and interesting character lines throughout. One difference, however, can cause some consternation among some drivers.
Be warned. There are a few lines below that might make one think that I don’t like the Hyundai Tucson. That’s not accurate. If calculating the amount of like based on mass or volume, I like well over 99 percent of this well-rounded compact family crossover.
But volume is both a positive and a negative here.
On the plus side, the Tucson is one heck of a package for a family of four. Surprising rear-seat comfort for everyone, even those on the tall side, makes this a good choice should road trips be in your future. Further, the cargo hold is roomy and well-shaped for whatever you might need to haul on that trip. An unexpected warehouse club run (we were literally going in for one thing and ended up spending nearly three hundred damned dollars) fit with room to spare – my wife, half-jokingly I hope, said “ooh there’s more room, I’ll go back inside!” only to be met with glares from both myself and two surly teens who wanted nothing more than to get home.
Front seat comfort is likewise quite good. Storage in the armrest is ample, as is the cubby below the nav/HVAC panel. My tester was equipped with the Qi wireless charging pad which held my phone against the contacts securely – I’ve seen many others where the phone will slide around, not allowing for continuous charging, but here all works well. I’d like to see a dedicated cubby for sunglasses – a minor peeve, to be certain – but the location above the center mirror so often used for such a compartment is dedicated to the controls for the panoramic sunroof. I didn’t open the roof during my test – it is, after all, January in Ohio, where temps ranged from a rainy 45° F down to 9° F with a touch of snow.
Fun fact – an automatic carwash might not rinse all of the soap in freezing temperatures. I found this when I went to photograph the exterior of the Tucson on a 14° F morning and found that the soap had flash-frozen to most of the lower body panels. Mercifully, the next day was warmer with just a hint of rain, allowing for the gloomy photos you see here.
To be honest, it’s a challenge to talk about the styling of any crossover. Nearly everything out there is just yet another variation on a blob, all wearing a different corporate grille. Here, Hyundai has added cascading lights and interesting textures to that grille, giving a cool lighting signature, especially at night. The profile view shows the subtle creasing of the slightly concave panel surfaces giving a bit of corporate funk to an otherwise blah style.
Ride quality is good, with reasonable road noise and solid control of sharp suspension inputs. I did note a fair bit of wind noise over the A-pillar – enough that had me checking that windows were fully sealed on occasion, and enough to have me crank the stereo volume on the interstate. Otherwise, I was quite satisfied with how the Tucson handled the daily commute. The 187 horsepower, 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four never seems stressed, with plenty of power to get up to highway speeds and beyond.
I’d like better fuel economy, however. I couldn’t quite manage the 26 mpg combined EPA rating in my testing – the Tucson indicated 23.0 mpg for my week of driving. Here’s where I’d happily trade down a trim level or so to select the hybrid version, which promises in the range of 38 mpg combined. I’m not here to argue about gas prices (that’s what the comment section is for) but no matter where the pump prices are it stands to reason that buying fuel less frequently is a good thing.
I really dig the infotainment screen here – wide, with room to display both audio and navigation simultaneously and legibly, whether using the embedded nav, Android Auto, or Apple CarPlay. I thought the digital rendition of nixie tubes for the channel display would wear out the novelty over the numerous Hyundai/Genesis/Kia products that use it, but it’s still both cool and non-distracting. Speaking of distraction, Hyundai does an interesting thing with the car audio – it automatically lowers the audio volume when reversing, ostensibly to minimize distractions in an instance where distractions can be particularly dangerous. However, due to another design choice by Hyundai, I’m just a tad infuriated.
It’s been mentioned before with other automakers (nods in the direction of Marysville, Ohio) but I still can’t believe automakers are dumping the volume knob for buttons.
Let me set the scene. You’re driving on the freeway, enjoying Pearl Jam on the satellite radio at an appropriate volume for highway speeds and, well, for Pearl Jam. You park for a brief grocery run. Upon returning, you thumb the ignition and then the reverse button as you put one eye on the mirror, one eye on the center display for the rear-view camera, and another eye on the rear quarter window looking for pedestrians. Suddenly, as you button-press the transmission into drive, the volume returns to your ears only to reveal Nickelback.
Instinct dictates a flailing swipe toward a knob to at least dull the aching noises coming from the witless speakers but no. Some engineer decided that knobs were ugly and that you should suffer by listening to The Band That Keeps Bieber From Being The Worst Canadian Music Export Ever until you press press press press press on a flat, featureless panel praying you got the volume instead of a seat heater or maybe the engine start button again. Another option considered is simply smashing a clenched fist into the 10.25-inch central display in the hopes of silencing both the frosted tips bleating of some Canuck telling you to look at a photograph and the demons buried deep within your own soul.
At last, your left thumb finds the mute button on the steering wheel and you vow to not renew the SiriusXM subscription the next time they call and plead with you, and you replace every possible music preset station with only the AM station that plays the farm report.
With familiarity, of course, one can manage to work around this – Hyundai’s steering wheel controls are quite good, so leaving control of volume to the lever beneath the left thumb could over time take much of the place of the knob. I can say that I’ve learned to use other automotive control types over the years – the shift (sorry) away from the traditional automatic PRNDL shift lever to knobs and pushbuttons is one that hasn’t really bothered me much. But a shifter in a modern two-pedal car generally is used twice per drive, hopefully only at low speeds – whereas audio volumes can be toggled throughout the drive experience to account for conversations with rear-seat passengers, the approach of an emergency vehicle, or the approach of a craprock band. Here, an intuitive, familiar control needs to be present.
I’m not going so far as to not recommend the 2022 Hyundai Tucson simply due to the Great Knob Kerfluffle. It’s a solid family vehicle with good driving manners, great comfort front and rear, and good performance from a sure-footed AWD drivetrain. But if you’re in the market for a crossover, find your favorite radio station on your Tucson test drive and see how you manage when you need to drown out the salesperson’s voice.
[Images: © 2022 Chris Tonn]
Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.
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