Hyundai’s Design Chief Says New 2022 Tucson Will “Pop” Amongst Rivals In A Competitive Segment

Hyundai’s new fourth-gen Tucson will compete internationally in the hyper-competitive compact crossover segment. Hyundai Hyundai’s

2022 Hyundai Tucson debut
Hyundai’s new fourth-gen Tucson will compete internationally in the hyper-competitive compact crossover segment. Hyundai

Hyundai’s all-new 2022 Tucson proves there’s still a lot of life in the compact crossover segment, and that design matters as much as multiple powertrain options.

The fourth-generation Hyundai Tucson is an important global launch for the brand that will roll out gradually. It goes on sale this month in Korea as a 2021 model and will come to the U.S. and other markets sometime in the first half of 2021 for the 2022 model year.  

Hyundai has sold over 7 million Tucsons internationally since it launched the first generation in 2004. Though the new version will come in both short- and long-wheelbase variants, the U.S. will only see the stretched model, a strategy on par with the American consumers’ taste for larger vehicles.

The 2022 Hyundai Tucson will offer four main powertrain configurations: gasoline, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid. Between them, there will be a total of 12 variants. U.S. models will use either a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gas engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers an estimated 190 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque, or, for the hybrid versions, a 1.6-liter turbo with a continuously variable automatic transmission making 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid’s combined output with the electric motor is 230 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A more performance-minded N Line Tucson also is on the way, but Hyundai has not released full details.

2022 Hyundai Tucson debut
The new 2022 Hyundai Tucson features hidden headlights that blend into the grille when off, a styling cue that will be used throughout the brand’s lineup in the coming years. Hyundai

Regardless of powertrain or wheelbase (for international models), all new Tucsons share a bold new design. While the sides and rear received thoughtfully refreshed sculpting, the Tucson’s most prominent features are the LED headlights, which Hyundai calls “parametric hidden lights.” They are shaped to blend in with the grille, disappearing into the geometric design when they’re off.

“We
did not want to create just another SUV,” said SangYup Lee, Hyundai’s head
of global design center. “We wanted to create something iconic.”

The redesign of the Tucson’s front end was inspired by the styling freedom allowed by an electrified powertrain, Lee said. For example, EVs don’t require large grilles, and as such designers were encouraged to push the boundaries of conventional design, he said. Hyundai’s will incorporate its new hidden headlights on future models in its lineup.

Hyundai’s new design language, which it describes as “sensuous sportiness,” will undoubtedly help the new Tucson stand out amongst rivals in the crowded compact crossover segment, a goal that Lee and his team set from the beginning.

2022 Hyundai Tucson debut
The wiper blades fold into the top of the rear windshield when not in use, another element of the brand’s new “hidden” design theme. Hyundai

“In the U.S. market, you’ve got to have a strong statement to begin with when it comes to design,” Lee said. “This segment is almost overcrowded.”

Hyundai’s main Japanese competitors have compact crossover entries (such as Toyota’s top-selling RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V) as do the European competition, he said. The segment also is crowded overseas in populous nations like China, so Hyundai wanted to create a strong statement to make the Tucson “pop,” Lee said.

That’s why Hyundai’s “hidden” theme is sprinkled throughout the entire vehicle. In the rear windshield, the wiper blade tucks away at the top, and inside the vehicle’s two 10.25-inch infotainment screens blend across the dash (an 8-inch touchscreen is standard on all but the top trim).

The 2022 Tucson will come with a full suite of Hyundai SmartSense safety features, including highway driving assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane keeping assist. It also will feature a surround-view monitor, active reverse parking assist and remote parking. The Tucson’s advanced all-wheel-drive system will offer seven different driving modes: Eco, Comfort, Smart, Sport, Mud, Sand and Snow (the latter three are reserved for specific markets only). The hybrid and PHEV models will also have improved steering response and stability when cornering or navigating difficult terrain thanks to a technology the brand calls E-Handling.

2022 Hyundai Tucson debut
The interior of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson’s top trim features dual 10.25-inch touchscreens with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hyundai

The new Tucson also will be more connected: Digital Key will allow drivers to use their smartphones as keys, and a new “car to home” feature will let users control their connected home through the in-vehicle interface.

The previous-generation Tucson debuted for the 2016 model year, marking an average lifespan for modern vehicles. Though the new Tucson design will follow the same timeline, “a well-designed product has to last longer,” Lee said, adding that the first impact is important, but the true value of the design is how well it stands up three years after launch.

“How the car looks when it’s parked in the corner of some street is the core value that the design has to deliver,” Lee said.

The company will release more specifics on the U.S. versions later this year.

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