2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the automaker’s first pickup, but don’t go looking for a heavy hauler here. Instead, this crossover-like model draws heavily from the automaker’s Tucson and Santa Fe models, with plenty of available turbocharged power and lots of driver-assistance tech.
The Santa Cruz is a new model for 2022, and it comes in various trim levels starting around $26,000 and topping out north of $41,000. A 191-hp inline-4 is standard, while a 281-hp turbo-4 is included on the two highest trim levels. An automatic transmission is standard across the line. The base engine comes with front-wheel drive and can be upgraded to all-wheel drive, which is mandatory with the turbo.
Fuel economy comes in at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined with the base engine and all-wheel drive; front-drive versions notch up to 28 mpg on the highway. The turbocharged engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so its ratings are a similar 19/27/22 mpg.
When equipped with optional projector LED headlights, the Santa Cruz scores a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS; other models do well in crash testing but have less impressive lighting. The NHTSA has not yet completed its barrage of tests. All models come with automatic emergency braking and active lane control, while adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and a surround-view camera system are available.
The Santa Cruz comes in three trim levels, but there’s some additional complexity that may require careful reading of features if you’re deciding on a Santa Cruz.
The base SE starts at $25,175 with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, cloth seats, LED lighting, and active safety tech. All-wheel drive costs $1,500 more.
SEL versions run $28,375 and add blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and the option to add a $3,270 Activity Package that bundles roof rails, a bed-mounted power outlet, a tonneau cover, a sunroof, a digital instrument cluster, and wireless charging pad.
The SEL Premium is a different beast with its turbo-4 engine and standard all-wheel drive. It costs about $37,000. Closer to $41,000, you’ll find the range-topping Limited – also with all-wheel drive – that adds navigation, a 10.3-inch touchscreen, a surround-view camera system, adaptive cruise control, and cooled front seats.
Forget conventional pickup boxiness. The Santa Cruz is a sleek, relatively low-slung SUV with a pickup bed grafted on the rear. Up front, its complex grille flows into the headlights, which feature LED running lamps. Unpainted cladding hints at ruggedness, though the aggressive rake to the windshield suggests sportier intentions.
At the rear, the bed is small, measuring just over four feet in overall length. It makes up for its petiteness with hidden storage pockets and optional equipment including various tie-downs, lights, power equipment, and a rollback desk-style tonneau cover. Four mountain bikes with en-vogue 29-inch wheels can be squeezed into the bed as long as their frames straddle the tailgate, which incidentally flops down at the tap of a button on the remote.
Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, a dressy touch that reminds us that the Santa Cruz is as much a fashion statement as it is a utilitarian choice.
The interior draws heavily from Hyundai’s Tucson with its 8.0-inch touchscreen (or optional 10.3-inch unit headlining a touch-capacitive climate control panel. Standard cloth seats can be upgraded to leather, with heating and cooling optional. Only a power driver-side seat is optional.
Rear-seat riders will find big doors that reveal 36.5 inches of leg room, plus an optional sliding rear window that begs for a dog’s snout. Small-item space inside impresses, with good space utilization in the center console and door panels.
The Santa Cruz offers a smorgasbord of tech gleaned from other Hyundai models, ranging from its 191-hp inline-4 base engine and optional 281-hp turbo-4 to underpinnings mostly plucked from the Tucson crossover.
The optional turbo-4 delivers good acceleration with a little rumble inside the cabin, and it works well with the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. With standard all-wheel-drive, turbocharged versions are rated to lug a relatively hefty 5,000 pounds of trailer with an optional hitch. A load-leveling rear suspension that automatically adjusts the tail end to accommodate bigger loads is included.
The Santa Cruz boasts a relatively soft ride, even with the largest wheel option. Sharp steering lends a sense of car-like poise typically not seen in a pickup. With optional adaptive cruise control, the Santa Cruz can be a comfortable highway cruiser, too.
If you’ve outgrown your SUV – or have muddy hobbies – the Santa Cruz is a worthy choice thanks to its optional turbocharged punch, car-like driving dynamics, and impressive tech story.
–By Andrew Ganz, with driving impressions from The Car Connection