2023 Hyundai Tucson PHEV Limited AWD

The latest Tucson introduces a noticeable shift from its previous iterations by showcasing a unique departure from its previously inconspicuous form. The new model embraces a design defined by multiple intricate folds and creases, presenting itself as a bold and unconventional interpretation reminiscent of an origami masterpiece within the realm of SUVs.

Challenging the norms associated with SUVs, the distinctive textured pattern of the front grille captures attention, concealing LED lights that reveal themselves when lit. The carefully crafted sleek sides of the vehicle create a powerful and nimble appearance, exuding a dynamic and robust aura. Further enhancing its allure, a metallic ridge traces the roofline, evoking a reminiscent style that echoes the reversed sunglasses of active enthusiasts.

Outside, the Tucson captures our undivided attention with its captivating design, but once inside, it reveals a more understated approach. At the heart of the interior lies a flat and unembellished monolithic center console, adorned with glossy trim that seems to attract fingerprints effortlessly.

However, the focal point of the cockpit is undoubtedly the prominent large touchscreen. Despite the console’s simplicity, it effectively showcases digital displays that enhance the overall experience. Notably, these displays feature clean and intuitive interfaces, ensuring ease of use and comprehension.

Offering a diverse range of powertrain options, the Tucson presents an array of choices for prospective buyers. These options include a 2.5-liter inline-4 engine delivering 187 horsepower, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations. Alternatively, there is a hybrid variant featuring a 1.6-liter turbo-4 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, producing an output of 226 horsepower.

No matter which powertrain is selected, the Tucson demonstrates a capable suspension system that effectively reduces body movements. Moreover, its steering provides prompt feedback, although its full potential is realized when shifted to Sport mode.

Nevertheless, the Plug-In Hybrid stands out as the most remarkable model among the Tucson lineup and also serves as our test vehicle. Boasting a higher price tag, this variant comes equipped with a larger 13.8-kwh battery pack. It has the ability to cover a distance of up to 32 miles using only electric power, accompanied by a robust and confident net power output of 261 horsepower.

Automatic emergency braking and automatic high beams are included as standard features in the Tucson. The SEL trim level further enhances the safety package with active lane control and blind-spot monitors. On the higher-end models, additional advanced driver-assistance features are offered, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot steering support, and a surround-view camera system.

In terms of technology, the base Tucsons are equipped with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that supports wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. For those seeking an upgraded audio experience and enhanced comfort, options such as Bose premium audio and automatic climate control are available. Additionally, there is an option to upgrade to a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen, although smartphone support in this case is limited to wired connections.


With its pronounced angles on the exterior, the Tucson showcases daring design elements. Our test vehicle, the Tucson PHEV Limited AWD model, features an Amazon Gray exterior hue that perfectly complements its black interior.

Employing clever visual techniques, the vehicle enhances its already sleek silhouette. In the case of the Tucson, LED daytime running lights are seamlessly integrated into the grille, becoming visible when illuminated. The exhaust tips are discreetly hidden by the rear bumper, which also features vibrant diamond-shaped accents and taillights that face downward.

Inside the Tucson, a restrained atmosphere permeates the cabin. Hosting the 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, a glossy black panel emerges between the front seats. Surrounding this monolithic design, materials of moderate quality create an environment of modest refinement.

Enhancing the overall aesthetic, a strip of air vents and metallic trim impart a touch of sophistication. However, it should be noted that the Limited Tucsons feature capacitive-touch controls, which, despite their inclusion, do not consistently deliver superior performance.

In its recent redesign, the Tucson underwent notable changes, including an extended wheelbase that increased by 3.4 inches compared to the previous model, resulting in a total length of 108.5 inches. Moreover, the overall length expanded by half a foot, measuring 182.3 inches.

With an impressive 41.3 inches of legroom, the second-row seating in the Tucson exceeds that of Hyundai’s sedans, almost accommodating three large individuals. Enhancing comfort during long trips, the rear seatbacks can be reclined, while certain models provide a panoramic glass sunroof to flood the cabin with abundant natural light.

Behind the rear seatbacks, Hyundai has carved out 38.7 cubic feet of storage space, which expands to 74.8 cubic feet when the seatbacks are folded down.

While the Tucson excels in terms of space, we find its fit and finishes to be underwhelming. The plastic trims, reminiscent of those found in the related Elantra, exude a budget-conscious feel that persists even with the inclusion of larger digital displays.


The Tucson’s hybrid variant exhibits an impressive power output of 226 horsepower, while our test car, the plug-in version, offers even more impressive performance with 261 horsepower. This enhanced power is achieved through the utilization of a larger electric motor, specifically 90 hp in the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) compared to 59 hp in the hybrid electric vehicle (HEV). Both hybrid models produce a combined system torque of 258 pound-feet.

While 261 horsepower is generally considered adequate for a compact crossover like the Tucson, the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) has certain drawbacks that require attention. Specifically, the inclusion of a larger motor and a significantly larger 13.8 kWh battery pack adds an extra weight of 366 pounds to the PHEV version.

This results in a comparison of 3,715 pounds for the hybrid SEL and 4,081 pounds for the PHEV. If one opts for the Limited model, like the one utilized in our test, the curb weight increases further to 4,235 pounds.

During our road test, the substantial weight of our Limited vehicle was noticeable. Despite having a more than sufficient 261 horsepower for everyday driving, it may not leave a lasting impression on your friends during a ride-along, especially when compared to some more powerful plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). The electric motor’s instant torque provides a helpful boost during acceleration, but it is less effective when it comes to cornering or braking.

Additionally, the Tucson PHEV lacks the sportier SE and XSE trim levels of its counterpart, which come with a more responsive suspension tuning. Although both hybrid versions of the Tucson incorporate a system with electric regen to offer a minor improvement in brake-based torque vectoring, it does not significantly affect the vehicle’s cornering capabilities or braking performance.

Luckily, the PHEV version inherits the enjoyable driving experience from the standard HEV, surpassing models equipped with the base 2.5-liter engine. The available drive modes perform as anticipated, with “Sport” mode emphasizing powerful acceleration and swift passing capability.

With a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, the PHEV stands apart from the usual hybrids equipped with continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), providing a more conventional car-like experience, albeit with added power. It is in EV mode that the Tucson truly showcases its non-traditional SUV qualities.

Ideal for those seeking the exhilarating acceleration of an electric vehicle, “Sport” mode delivers just that, albeit with a trade-off in overall range, particularly during steady-speed driving where torque is primarily needed for passing. In such instances, the battery depletes rapidly. It is crucial to bear in mind that electrified vehicles excel in stop-and-go driving scenarios, as regenerative braking converts momentum into electricity for recharging the battery. Without frequent braking, there is no generation of new electricity.

Switching between the available operating modes of the PHEV is made convenient by Hyundai. Positioned at the forefront of the center console, there is a button that allows toggling between EV and HEV modes. Adjacent to it, there is an up/down drive mode selector toggle, while a separate button is provided to activate the all-wheel-drive system, which offers a fixed front/rear power distribution specifically designed for challenging low-speed situations.

Once the vehicle reaches a speed exceeding 40 mph, regardless of its locking status, the power distribution in the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) system is automatically adjusted. In contrast, a distinct method is employed by the alternative model, where the absence of a physical connection between the front and rear axles distinguishes it. Instead, the rear axle of this vehicle is solely propelled by an electric motor.

In terms of mechanical configuration, there are significant differences between these systems. However, in real-world situations, their behavior exhibits minimal noticeable variation. Both systems operate by supplying power to the rear axle as determined by the vehicle’s computer. In the case of the RAV4 Prime, its electric motors situated in the front and rear enable all-wheel drive even in EV-only mode. On the other hand, the Tucson integrates its electric motor with the transmission, facilitating power distribution to all four wheels.

The Tucson PHEV’s transmission contributes to a traditional driving experience, which extends to the interior. Apart from that, the cabin lacks distinctive eco-themed elements commonly associated with plug-in hybrids, such as plant motifs or prominent eco-accents on the dashboard. Instead, it maintains the recognizable design of the Tucson, including the previously assessed knob-less infotainment system.

Given the limited availability of plug-in hybrids in this particular category, accurately evaluating the position of the Tucson becomes quite difficult. The Tucson shows inferior performance, driving enjoyment, and electric vehicle capabilities in comparison to its Toyota counterpart. Moreover, its towing capacity of 2,000 pounds is slightly less than that of the alternative from Toyota, which can tow up to 2,500 pounds.


We had the chance to put the 2023 Hyundai Tucson PHEV Limited AWD to the test for a week. This vehicle, which was a pre-production model, lacked any pricing information aside from the available options.


The Hyundai Tucson PHEV Limited AWD brings a strong and distinctive presence to the realm of compact crossover SUVs, offering an appealing blend of comfort and style. It directly competes with the Toyota RAV4, which is available in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants. However, the RAV4 Hybrid holds a slight advantage over the Tucson.

For those considering Toyota’s offerings, the Toyota Venza presents a sleeker and more enticing alternative to the RAV4 Hybrid, albeit at a slightly higher price. Conversely, the Ford Escape also offers a plug-in trim, but its exterior design is less striking and its interior lacks inspiration.

In terms of competition, the Acura RDX now faces a formidable opponent in the new Hyundai Tucson, as the Tucson’s design is no longer overshadowed by the RDX’s cutting-edge aesthetics.

Lastly, the Nissan Rogue enters the segment as a new contender, promising improved aesthetics and handling compared to its predecessors.

Taking everything into account, despite the appeal of the Hyundai Tucson PHEV Limited AWD, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comes out as the slightly preferred option among these competing vehicles.

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