Hyundai is a bit tardy to the pickup segment but, at least, it has arrived. The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz made its grand entrance and calibrated our perspective on trucks. This truck is carving a separate path for Itself, differentiating from Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado. The Santa Cruz is out to resonate among the upwardly mobile, move-at-seat-of-pants crowd. The recipe of mixing a small pickup with the ride of a crossover is definitely game.
There is a smoothness and polish in the Hyundai Santa Cruz front fender that projects a design that is as silky as a Silk Sonic song. Hear us out, here … While pickups are generally known for menacing grills, this one’s more finessed. There is a flair reminiscent of competitors such as Ridgeline, sure, but the body language reminds of Subaru Baja, Chevy Avalanche and the El Camino.
In other words, it’s about the road to Santa Cruz, not the destination itself. And with that in mind, the front side is essentially a tailored redux of the Tucson, with lighting setup within the grille. On the back side, the pickup has nicely situated horizontal lighting that is as compact as a crossover SUV’s. The door panel design is slick and relaxed and fewer hard lines means the Tucson-inspired doors may sway consumers.
Speaking of the Tucson, the interior of the Santa Cruz would make any driver feel like a beach bum. In their infinite wisdom, this pickup is a crossover into pickups done right. With the SUV-sized cargo area and push button gear selector, including the T-shaped gear selector, common to pickup trucks, Hyundai is making a push for those seeking to explore and enjoy the beach as well as work hard in multiple industries. A lifestyle to envy.
The price point of $41,500 includes a 10.3-inch touchscreen and a same-sized gauge cluster. The center console is demarcated with polished black plastic that is surely dust-prone as it is posh. It’s going to be a dispiriting aesthetic, but even if fingerprints will be seen all over it, it’s okay. The more sticking point is that the larger touchscreen doesn’t have Apple CarPlay integration while the 8-inch screen does, which has us questioning the logic, like trying to find a USB port in a late-model Honda Civic (it’s difficult).
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has an EPA-tested fuel efficiency of 19 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 combined. We tested the pickup truck within a suburban setting over about a week, and it rang up around 22.1 mpg, according to the onboard trip computer. This isn’t shabby considering the front-wheel-drive powertrain without the turbo is rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, and 23 combined, and of course the Santa Cruz could use the Tucson’s hybrid powertrain to get better mileage.
Hyundai’s quite audacious to sculpt a pickup truck out of a SUV, but here we are, and the truck surely handles like a crossover. While the body-on-frame experience found in larger trucks is absent, the Santa Cruz is composed and sturdy. It’s upsides are limited body roll, lightweight yet responsive steering, plus a smooth suspension that are fun to push around the suburbs.
The power is derived from a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine available in this Limited spec, while the SE and SEL models get a non-turbocharged version of that same engine. The Santa Cruz generates 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet and the lone transmission is a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch. The all-wheel drive is offered standard on both the SEL Premium and the Limited model tested here.
The kick one gets in a Santa Cruz is as it is quick, and there’s sufficient passing power at highway speeds. It’s horsepower actually leaves the Ford Maverick’s turbocharged 2.0-liter behind.
Despite lacking optional hybrid technology like Ford, Hyundai’s still quite spicy, eas to look at and fun behind the wheel.
The Santa Cruz starts at a base price of $39,720 and, without any add-ons to upsell, save the Sage Gray model paint ($400) and floor mats ($195), the price before taxes is $41,500.
Edited by Slav Kandyba
Photo Credit: Copyright 2022 Angel Mosqueda / Car Fanatics Blog