Putting the fun in functional, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz combines the utility of a truck with the ride quality of a crossover. New for 2022, the Hyundai Santa Cruz exists in the center of a Venn diagram of sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks. It’s more like a Subaru Baja from 20 years ago, though its open bed and seating for five pit it against small pickup trucks such as the Ford Maverick to adventure-leaning crossovers in the Subaru Outback.
The new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz splits the difference between the Maverick and the Outback, even though it shares a platform with the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover. From the front it looks like an off-roadable crossover; from the rear, a square-box pickup. The front end wears the stepped grille with integrated daytime running lights of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. The squat profile features tasteful and textured black cladding running over the rockers and available 20-inch wheels to bumpers with integrated bed steps.
The bed doesn’t have the depth or length of other trucks, but it features a built-in lockable tonneau cover, hidden bed storage about six inches deep with a drain plug, and available bed extending accessories. Clever storage areas continue inside, with 60/40-split rear seats that flip up to reveal a seat-length storage cubby. Mesh pockets line the front seat backs, but the utilitarian becomes a technophile in the cockpit, headlined by an 8.0-inch touchscreen and touch-capacitive climate control panel housed in a wall of high-gloss black plastic.
The standard engine is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. It uses an 8-speed automatic with front-wheel drive and can tow up to 3,500 lb, but with available all-wheel drive the towing capacity increases to 5,000 lb. The available 2.5-liter turbo-4 with standard all-wheel drive best suits the Santa Cruz. It makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft with minimal turbo lag. It pairs to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic used in Hyundai’s performance N variants but with different tuning.
The all-wheel-drive system splits the torque between the front and rear axles based on input and drive mode, while a center locking differential locks the axles for better uphill grip or when there’s slip. The AWD system is better for on-road handling than off-road prowess, but it should get you to most trailheads and boat slips. On twisting mountain roads, the Santa Cruz AWD handles more nimbly than its roughly 4,100-lb curb weight would suggest, and with greater sportiness than the Tucson. The all-wheel-drive system conspires with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear suspension with parts cribbed from the larger Santa Fe to make for a spirited driving experience. When not pressed hard, the Santa Cruz rides as quiet and comfortably as a compact crossover.
With all-wheel drive and the standard 191-hp 2.5-liter inline-4, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz gets an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined. The highway rating is 1 mpg greater with front-wheel drive. The turbo-4 with all-wheel drive gets the same highway rating as the smaller engine, but city fuel economy suffers with an EPA-rated 19/27/22 mpg.
Hyundai assures Santa Cruz owners safety on the road. Standard driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and active lane control, while options such as blind-spot monitors, blind-spot cameras, and a surround-view camera system help get your bearings on trail or into that parallel parking spot.
The Santa Cruz starts at $25,175 (including destination) for the base SE trim level with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a remote opening power tailgate. Sold in three SEL grades and the top Limited trim, the 2022 Santa Cruz tops out at $40,905 with the turbo-4 and AWD. It includes wireless smartphone charging and a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
While the Santa Cruz is Hyundai’s first attempt at a pickup truck, they have knocked it out of the park. The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz brings edgy styling, responsive driving dynamics, and class-leading technology all brimming with the functionality of a small truck. The Santa Cruz easily vaults towards the top of its class punching way above its price point making it definitely worth a look.