2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Review | A new breed of pickup

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The Hyundai Santa Cruz 2022 is a completely different type of vehicle. Not only is it a compact pickup that's much smaller than the world's Toyota Tacomas, it's also a completely different construction. Instead of the usual body-on-frame setup of a truck, it has a car-like unibody body. In other words, it's a crossover pickup. This means that it is lighter, more agile and more efficient, both in terms of consumption and in the interior. It also makes it less sturdy for off-road and towing services (though its ground clearance and maximum weight of 5,000 pounds are better than the average crossover), while its tiny size is best seen in its small 4.3-foot bed length .
Really, it's best to think of the Santa Cruz as an alternative to compact crossover SUVs rather than midsize pickups. Its open bed, while small for a pickup truck, is still much longer than the bed of an SUV and obviously offers infinite height. That might make it more useful to certain buyers. At the same time, the cleverly available load compartment cover, which rolls back like a garage door, offers the security and all-weather protection of an SUV. This body style definitely has potential.
So far, demand for the Santa Cruz has been strong, so you may struggle to find one on a dealer lot (or at least one without a hefty dealer premium). Part of this is due to global supply bottlenecks, but the Santa Cruz is at least good enough to warrant interest. Of course, it hasn't had an apple-to-apple competition yet. Its segment will expand to two with the arrival of the Ford Maverick - it has an inferior interior and we doubt it's as sporty and fun to drive as the Hyundai, but it also comes as standard as a hybrid and is significantly cheaper.
Interior & technology | Passenger and cargo space | Performance & fuel consumption
This is what driving a car is like | Prices & Features | Crash ratings and safety features
What's new for 2022?
The Santa Cruz is a completely new model.
What is the interior and automotive engineering of Santa Cruz like?
The Santa Cruz interior has a higher quality look and feel than average for a compact crossover, as everything in front of the B-pillar is shared with the stunning new Hyundai Tucson. This gives the Santa Cruz an edge over the Ford Maverick and at least partially justifies its higher price tag. In the Limited trim level, leather upholstery, extra-mile luxury features like ventilated seats and heated steering wheel, widescreen infotainment system, and chic-looking capacitive touch controls take things even further.
In terms of tech, Hyundai's infotainment systems, whether the standard 8-inch device or the 10.25 widescreen device shown below, are some of the easiest to use on the market while looking feature-rich and modern. We're less enthusiastic about these capacitive controls. Although they are reasonably responsive, it takes too much concentration to find them with your finger in the middle of the glossy black area. Such controls have always had this problem, have always received backlash from the owners and have always been replaced by conventional buttons and buttons with the next generation or earlier. We can't imagine Santa Cruz any other way.
How big is Santa Cruz?
The answer to that really depends on what you're comparing it to and what dimensions you're looking at. For a pickup truck, the Santa Cruz is very small at 195.7 inches. Even the smallest midsize truck, the Nissan Frontier, is 210.2 inches long in its smallest version and goes up to 224.1. Even the other unibody pickup, the Honda Ridgeline, is 210 inches long. The overall height differences are similarly out of whack, though the Santa Cruz's width actually resembles medium-sized trucks and its 8.6-inch ground clearance is generous. The Santa Cruz is hardly small. That length is more than a foot longer than the mechanically similar Hyundai Tucson, which is a pretty average compact crossover.
This size difference in crossovers is the result of the Santa Cruz's loading area, which, regardless of segment, is significantly longer than the loading areas of most SUVs. On the flip side, however, it's the shortest pickup bed currently on the market, measuring 4.3 feet. What it may lack in overall capacity, however, it counters with plenty of clever features that aim to add versatility and safety beyond the usual pickup experience. You can read our comprehensive Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Bed review here or watch our video below.
When we look inside, we turn things around again. The cab can actually be more voluminous than the crew cabs of medium-sized pickups (especially the Toyota Tacoma), with a rear seat that is at least more spacious and comfortable. Often times it's better on both fronts. On the other hand, the back seat has significantly less legroom than compact crossovers and the backrest angle is a bit more upright. The difference in space with the Tucson does not seem as big as the data sheet suggests (36.5 to 56.0 inches), but it is still considerable.
What is the Santa Cruz fuel consumption and performance data?
The Santa Cruz SE and SEL come standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, which is a typical amount for the base engine of a compact crossover. It's mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive as standard, but all-wheel drive is available as an option. EPA estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined with FWD and 19/27/22 with AWD. The maximum trailer load with this engine is 3,500 pounds with trailer brakes and 1,650 pounds without.
The SEL Premium and Limited come standard with a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder with 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. Especially in terms of torque, this is more robust than with mid-size pickups. It blows away most compact crossovers. All-wheel drive is standard and the transmission is an automated eight-speed dual clutch transmission. Fuel economy is almost the same as the naturally aspirated version at 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. Its maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds with trailer brakes (the same 1,650 without), which is 1,000 pounds more than the Ford Maverick and much more powerful than the typical compact crossover SUV.
How does the Santa Cruz drive?
The Santa Cruz is one of the most responsive and agile compact crossovers ... no matter what is going on behind the C-pillar. It has absolutely nothing truck-like about it, which might be a bad thing if you want a bouncy ride, flawless handling, and slow steering. Otherwise, it proves to be shockingly sharp and capable of whizzing down a winding mountain road. Slide the drive mode toggle to Sport and the steering loses its initial off-center numbness in favor of just the right amount of extra effort. The chassis with its independent multi-link setup at the rear remains consistently planted and composed. At the same time, driving is at the firm end of the spectrum, but not trucker-like. More like a Mazda CX-5 firmly-but-well damped.
Then there is the powertrain. We haven't tested the 191-horsepower 2.5-liter base engine, but our time doing something similar in the Tucson would suggest it will be uncultivated and uninspired, even if it delivers competitive power and torque. We tested the 2.5 liter turbo engine, which feels just as fast as its luscious 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. We just wish you could get it in all the trims, especially considering its fuel economy compared to the base engine.
What other Santa Cruz reviews can I read?
Test report for the Hyundai Santa Cruz 2022
You can find more detailed information about the unique design of the Santa Cruz and the technology behind it, as well as our first driving impressions, in this review.
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Bed Review
We dig deeper into the Santa Cruz's many innovative bed features, including its lockable rolling tarpaulin and under-bed storage.
What is the 2022 Santa Cruz price and what features are available?
Prices start at $ 25,215 for the front-wheel drive SE, including the $ 1,225 target fee. All-wheel drive is a $ 1,500 option for the SE and SEL. It's also important to note that given demand and industry-wide supply issues, dealers are likely to put a premium on the Santa Cruz. This even applies to customers who reserved one on the Hyundai website, as dealerships are independent franchises and state laws usually require you to buy a car from a dealer.
The standard equipment is considerable, including 18-inch light-alloy wheels, a rear view shield, a composite bed paneling, three bed storage compartments, a compact spare wheel, stain and odor-resistant fabric upholstery, a manually height-adjustable driver's seat, a six-speaker sound system, two USB ports and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Key upgrades to the SEL ($ 28,415) include proximity input and push-button start, heated front seats, and an eight-way electrically adjustable driver's seat. The Activity Package offers a number of desirable extras, including the various bed upgrades (integrated tarpaulin, 115-volt socket, LED lighting, utility rails) as well as a sunroof, a sliding rear window, wireless charging of devices and a 10.25 -Inch digital instrument panel.
The SEL Premium ($ 36,905) includes the Activity Package along with the turbo engine and standard all-wheel drive, hence its significant price jump over the SEL. The Limited ($ 40,945) is firmly entering the luxury market with leather seats, ventilated front seats, Bose audio, interior capacity controls, and the 10.25-inch widescreen infotainment system you see in pictures here.
What are the Santa Cruz Safety Ratings and Driver Assistance Features?
The Santa Cruz has not yet been crash tested by a third party, but it is also unlikely to deviate from Hyundai's usual exemplary crash rating norm.
Each equipment variant is equipped as standard with a front collision warning with automatic brake and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning and driver inattention warning. From the SEL, blind spot and cross traffic warnings are displayed at the rear. The adaptive cruise control "Highway Driving Assist" from Hyundai with stop-and-go function and lane-centering steering assistance is standard on the Limited.
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