Is it a truck? Or is it a crossover SUV with a truck bed? The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz blurs the lines of what is considered a traditional pickup truck design and blends it with a modern crossover SUV. So does it work?
Engine – Here in Canada, there’s only one engine option available for the 2022 Santa Cruz. A turbocharged 2.5L 4-cylinder with 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque (209 kW & 421 Nm) . In the United States, there is also a non-turbocharged version of this engine which produces 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque (142 kW & 245 Nm).
Back to the 2.5L Turbo, it is a strong engine. The low-end torque of the turbocharger means that it doesn’t have to strain too much to get the 1,870 kg (4,122 lbs) body moving. It feels punchy off the line and only running out of puff when the rpm needle gets perilously close to the redline. But that’s a normal characteristic of turbocharged engines and be honest, how often are you going to be taking your Santa Cruz to the redline? By comparison, the Honda Ridgeline’s V6 has the same horsepower but less torque and it weighs over 150 kg more. The 2022 Ford Maverick has quite a bit less power but it weighs almost 200 kg less than the Santa Cruz.
As for fuel economy, it is a bit better than the Ridgeline’s V6, as expected. The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is rated for 12.1 L/100km (19.4 MPG) in a city and 8.6 L/100km (27.3 MPG) on a highway. Premium fuel is not mandatory with this turbocharged engine.
Transmission – Paired with the turbo 2.5L engine is an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. I’m pretty sure that it’s the same one that’s found in the Hyundai Sonata N-Line but the programming of it is a bit different (as well as the gear ratios). In the Santa Cruz, the shifts between the gears don’t feel as quick or as crisp as they do in the Sonata N-Line but they are seamlessly smooth. To be honest, that matters more in a vehicle such as this. You can also feel a tiny bit of jittering from the clutch as it engages when slowly creeping forward in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But I only noticed this when the transmission was cold.
Braking – The brakes provide ample stopping force with a smooth and easy to modulate brake pedal. It has a firm feel but without feeling overly sensitive or assisted. Automatic emergency braking is a standard feature on the Santa Cruz.
Handling – First and foremost, the 2022 Santa Cruz feels like a crossover SUV from behind the steering wheel. It doesn’t feel cumbersome around corners, it’s not as wide as Texas, and the steering is responsive. Best of all, the turning circle is actually tighter than both the Ridgeline and Maverick. This is a very easy truck / SUV / crossover to maneuver even in the tightest of parking lots.
If you decide to take the Hyundai Santa Cruz off the beaten path, it comes standard with HTRAC AWD… here in Canada. In the United States, it has standard FWD with AWD being an option for both engines. There are three off-road drive modes to choose from; Mud, Sand, & Snow. Each slightly alter the throttle, transmission shifts, traction & stability programs, and the AWD system to keep the Santa Cruz going when you’re driving through sand, snow, mud, gravel, etc. Of course for more extreme off-road activities, this cannot compete against a purpose built truck like the Jeep Gladiator Mojave.
Capability – The overall dimensions of the 2022 Santa Cruz are smaller than those of the Honda Ridgeline. As a result, the bed portion is about one foot shorter and half a foot narrower than the Honda at just 4.3-feet in length and 4.5-feet in width. But Hyundai’s engineers utilized the space as much as possible. The Santa Cruz has a waterproof storage compartment underneath the bed – though again, not as big as the one in the Ridgeline -, it has a tiny compartment on the right side of the bed where you also access a 115V plug, and it has a factory installed tonneau cover that can actually support up to 220 lbs on top of it.
As for payload, the Santa Cruz can claim the most of these SUV / Truck vehicles at 1,609 lbs with the 2.5T engine and AWD. That number increases to 1,753 lbs with the naturally aspirated engine. Towing is the same, however, as the Honda at 5,000 lbs with the 2.5T engine and 3,500 lbs with the N/A 2.5L engine.
Ride Comfort – Just like how it drives, the ride feels nearly identical to that of a crossover SUV. It’s smooth and forgiving over bumps and rough roads. Of course if you take the Santa Cruz off-roading then there’s only so much that the suspension can do. But for everyday use, it’s more comfortable than a mid-size truck.
Interior Space – Overall, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is smaller than the Honda Ridgeline. This is not only evident in the size of the bed but also how much passenger space there is. Front occupants will have enough space while retaining a good driving position. But rear occupant space is tight, especially in terms of legroom. I struggle to sit behind my driving position. Lift up the rear seats and you’ll find a small storage area.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Thanks to the smooth ride of the 2022 Santa Cruz, there’s nothing in the cabin to rattle or shake. But if the roads are rougher, there still isn’t anything to shake or rattle. It has a solid feeling cabin. As for noises, wind and road noise are a bit evident at highway speeds but they are quieter than those of a traditional truck. The engine, though, does make a bit more noise than I was expecting when accelerating from a stop at a bit more of a brisk pace.
Odds and Ends
Price – In the United States with the naturally aspirated 2.5L, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz costs $23,990 USD. Like I mentioned earlier, we don’t get that engine in Canada. Here, it starts at $38,499 CAD ($35,680 USD, SEL Premium) for the Preferred trim and goes up to $44,799 CAD ($39,720 USD, Limited) for this Ultimate trim. Interestingly, the price of this top spec trim is the starting price of the Honda Ridgeline.
Gadgets – The entry-level Santa Cruz comes extremely well equipped. Well, you’d expect it to be at almost $40,000. It has leather and heated seats, heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, 8” touchscreen with wireless CarPlay & Android Auto, the factory installed tonneau cover, and a full suite of advanced driver and safety aids to name a few. Because the United States market has a lower trim than here in Canada, the Santa Cruz doesn’t come as “fully loaded” as it does in the Canadian market.
Upgrade to this Ultimate trim and it adds features such as surround view cameras with blind zone view, highway driving assist, ventilated front seats, a 10.25” touchscreen with navigation, LED headlights, and rain sensing wipers. A couple things to note, the automatic wipers are useless. They turn on at full speed when there’s a light drizzle and only turn one once in a blue moon during heavy rainfall. Also, the 10.25″ touchscreen & infotainment system does not have wireless Apple CarPlay & Android Auto unlike the smaller 8″ screen.
Interior Design – The good stuff first. The driver display is clear and doesn’t reflect too much of the sun’s glare on a cloudless day. The infotainment touchscreen is just as crisp looking as the driver display with the infotainment system being very easy to learn and use. The climate control has a diffused setting just like in the Hyundai Tucson. Press that button and instead of the climate control blasting air from the four main vents, it softly blows it through perforated vents in front of the passenger and to the side of the driver instrument display (as well as the main vents). There’s also a little rear window, just like how you’d get in a pickup truck, and it has a traditional gear selector.
Now the bad. Just look at all the glossy black plastics. I know, it looks great in photos but in reality, it attracts dust, fingertips and scratches like a black hole attracting everything to it. Worse yet is that it is also on the door pulls. That’s a very high traffic area and it will very quickly be scratched by finger rings. Also, I really hate the touch sensitive climate and audio controls. Give me back physical buttons!
Exterior Design – The front fascia is very similar to that of the Hyundai Tucson (which I don’t like very much) however, it has a few subtle styling changes that make the Santa Cruz a little bit better looking. From the side, the Hyundai Santa Cruz looks sleek with the flowing lines from the top of the cabin to the bed. In the back, the Santa Cruz looks pretty much like a pickup truck. It does not have a trick tailgate like GMC’s MultiPro tailgate, but it does incorporate GM’s bumper steps.
Warranty – In Canada, Hyundai provides a 5 year / 100,000 km new vehicle warranty along with a powertrain warranty that is the same time & mileage period. In the United States, it is 5 years / 60,000 miles for new vehicle warranty and 10 years / 100,000 miles for the powertrain but only for the first owner of the vehicle. For more warranty information in Canada, click here. For USA warranty, click here.
So back to the original question, is it a truck or a crossover SUV with a truck bed? To me, it leans more towards the latter. From behind the steering wheel, it drives more like a crossover and is not as intimidating as a traditional pickup truck. But it of course has the added benefit of a truck bed. No, it’s not as big as a mid-size truck but it has enough space for your camping equipment or plants from the garden shop or helping your friend move. Plus it can still carry all of the groceries and it’ll stay secure thanks to the tonneau cover. So I think that the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a very good first attempt from the brand at making a “hybrid pickup truck”. It should appeal to those that want the comfort and ease of driving from an SUV but with some of the versatility of a pickup truck. It’s a win/win.
Thank you to Hyundai Canada for providing the vehicle. www.HyundaiCanada.com