For a long time, Hyundai has stood for quality cars with handsome styling and value pricing. But, they weren’t especially engaging. That’s been changing recently and is especially apparent with the completely redesigned 2022 Tucson compact crossover and 2021 Veloster N hot hatch.
2022 Hyundai Tucson delivers affordable panache
Given all of the creases, bulges, and intricate lighting, the Tucson’s exterior styling could have gotten out of control. But, it didn’t. It’s expertly rendered from how the driving lamps are integrated into outboard grille slats, bulges and creases accentuate 19” wheels, and fang taillamps hint at sportier models like the Mustang. LED headlights reside where foglamps normally would. Though at first they look like a jumble of random stampings, every line has a purpose. The satin silver accent on the rear windowline is especially elegant.
As much as I like the exterior, stylists did their best work inside where understatement and smart integration of technology provide a modern traveling environment. Drivers are confronted with flatscreen instruments that change to red in Sport mode and grip a perfectly sized heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. Another flatscreen controls audio and navigation. Connect devices to the Bose audio system through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless charging keeps them humming. Heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone auto climate control, and a panoramic sunroof add unexpected luxuries. Details like push button gear selection, cloth strips across the dash/doors, and seat memory buttons hidden in door trim add delights.
As with most modern Hyundais, there’s an incredible amount of safety technology. Forward collision alert with auto brake, lane keep assist, and blind spot warning are a start. There’s also rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, and surround vision cameras. A rear occupant alert keeps kids from being left behind while safe exit assist uses the blind spot system to prevent you from stepping into traffic.
Moving this art project is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 187 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque. It gets to the road through an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system and works smooth with the transmission doing a good job of keeping the engine in the right rev range while optimizing fuel economy. Though, nobody would complain with a couple of ticks higher than the 24/29-MPG for which it is rated.
There’s no denying the Tucson is based on a compact car architecture, but it does an admirable job of handling rough pavement through its four-wheel independent suspension system. Put it into a corner and it is surprisingly spry with quick steering response. Flip through drive modes to configure the throttle, steering, and traction control for Snow, Smart, Sport, and Normal. It feels more powerful than the horsepower would indicate.
Like the latest Elantra, Hyundai delivered a compact vehicle with distinguished styling and engaging performance at a value-packed price. It’s even made domestically in Montgomery, Alabama. Tucson starts at just $24,950 and came to $37,454 with every option imaginable on our Limited AWD. Competitors include the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and VW Tiguan.
2021 Hyundai Veloster N is seriously special
The Hyundai Veloster is the weirdest car that makes so much sense. It’s a sporty little thing, thoroughly entertaining to drive. Then, there’s that weird third door that allows kids and friends to enter curbside. Pop the hatch and flip down the rear seats for copious storage space. It event topples some of the world’s most iconic cars in N trim.
It has the same Asian Beetle profile as other Velosters with an angry grille, wide stance, and trunked rear, but the N shines brighter with LED lamps front/rear, 19” wheels to fill the sculpted fenders, gloss black mirrors, aggressive ground affects, and a carbon texture rear spoiler hovering over the hatch. It’s memorable from any angle.
There’s a lot of hard plastic inside, but also some pretty premium stuff – like the N exclusive thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather shift knob, sporty gauge cluster, and one-piece leather-and-cloth performance seats that grip your sides as if hugged by A.J. Foyt himself. I dig the signature light indigo blue used for seatbelts, steering wheel stitching, and drive mode buttons. Illuminated N logos in the seats and alloy paddle shifters add further style.
It’s well equipped, too, with crisp Infinity audio, automatic climate control, and super simple infotainment screen with proper volume and tuning knobs. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connect devices easily. Navigation gets you there. Safety tech is impressive for this class: Forward collision avoidance, blind spot warning, rear cross path detection, lane keep assist, and lane following steering.
Rolling into the turbo as I kick it up a freeway on-ramp lights my face with smiles. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine sends waves of thrust to the front wheels through an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s no untoward drama as 275 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque lay waste to 0-60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. Fuel economy is terrible at 20/27-MPG city/highway, but nobody who’s driven the Veloster N cares.
Hyundai’s press materials claim the Veloster N was thoroughly developed at Germany’s famed Nurburgring track to sort its sandals. I believe. Pirelli P-Zero tires are for summer only, but grip like a cat on a chipmunk. Engineers sharpened steering inputs with torque vectoring and recalibrated the suspension to tighten one’s bond with the road. Click through Normal, Eco, and Sport modes to calibrate steering weight, suspension firmness, and throttle response to your liking. Or, use the N button on the steering wheel to customize the attributes.
Hyundai took the cute little Veloster and turned it into a phenom that can treat your kid to ice cream and carry all your luggage while showing taillights to class icons like the VW GTI and Honda Civic Si. A base price of $32,250 came to just $34,745 with the automatic transmission. One drive and you’ll decide it’s worth every penny.

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