- Refined, surprisingly agile ride and handling
- Spacious, car-like interior with comfortable seats
- Just enough "truck stuff" for most people
- Lockable bed tonneau cover not weatherproof
- Can be noisy at highway speeds
- Quirky styling may not be for all buyers
Vehicle Type: The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a hybrid crossover/pickup truck with seating for up to five passengers.
Price Range: From $25,175 MSRP to $40,455, including destination fees.
Powertrain: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and either front or all-wheel-drive.
A turbocharged 2.5-liter four with 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, eight-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, and all-wheel-drive.
Is it a car? Is it a pickup truck? Is it an SUV? The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is none of the above but takes the jack-of-all-trades label to new heights.
The automaker calls it a "Sport Adventure Vehicle," adamant that the Santa Cruz is not a pickup for people who usually shop for trucks. Its dimensions are more compact than any midsize truck currently on sale but still with plenty of capability. With the right engine and configuration, the Santa Cruz's towing numbers climb to 5,000 pounds.
Because of its segment-splitting design, the Santa Cruz competes against a wide variety of vehicles that include the Ford Maverick, Toyota Tacoma, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Honda Ridgeline, Subaru Forester, and Hyundai Tucson. As a result, nearly any compact crossover or midsize pickup truck could be cross-shopped here.
The Santa Cruz is built at Hyundai's Montgomery, Alabama factory and starts arriving in dealerships in August 2021.
Overall Score: 7.9/10
Safety Features: 7/10
The Hyundai Santa Cruz comes standard with forward collision avoidance assist, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, a rear occupant alert system, and driver attention monitoring.
Available features include blind-spot collision avoidance assist, Safe Exit assist, blind-spot cameras, Highway Drive assist, a surround-view monitor, and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist.
In motion, the Santa Cruz's advanced tech works seamlessly. In trims equipped with optional safety features, such as the useful blind-spot view monitor system, there's a sense of security and peace of mind that makes the driving experience much more pleasurable. That is especially true on crowded highways, such as those in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, where traffic moves quickly with constant merging traffic.
The Santa Cruz SE starts at $25,175 after the mandatory $1,185 destination charge. That's good value for a vehicle with generous standard safety features and tech, a practical open truck bed, and clever storage spaces inside and out. Even in its most expensive guise, the Santa Cruz Limited starts at $40,905, making it a steal in the midsize pickup world when factoring in its equipment and capability.
The base SE trim is well equipped, but stepping up through trim levels makes meaningful upgrades to features and gives buyers a reason to opt for higher configurations.
There aren't many options, but the $3,270 Activity Package is worth the money. It adds a larger, 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster, a sunroof, sliding rear window, LED bed lighting, roof rails, and a bed utility track system.
We would opt for the range-topping Limited model. Not only does it bring the turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and a 5,000-pound towing capacity to the table, it also carries several luxury features that make the vehicle feel premium.
Tech Features: 8/10
Standard features here include a 4.2-inch TFT instrument panel information display, an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a six-speaker audio system with HD radio, Bluetooth with wireless audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and two USB charging ports up front.
Available features include Hyundai Blue Link connected services, satellite radio, power seat adjustments, a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster, a digital key system, dual-zone climate controls, a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, a surround-view monitor, a Bose sound system, dual rear USB charging ports, and ambient interior lighting.
Hyundai's infotainment system is not the flashiest or the most colorful, but that's one of its best features. Using the system while driving the vehicle is simple and less distracting. Menus are responsive, and few commands or controls require more than a touch or two to accomplish. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are nice, but they're strangely only available with the smaller touchscreen.
We said the Santa Cruz isn't a pickup truck, but it has a reasonably sized open bed that might make you think otherwise. The bed length at the floor is 52.1 inches, and the width measures 42.7 inches between the wheel wells. A lift-in height of just 31.6 inches makes it easy to load gear, and the vehicle has a built-in step in the rear bumper for even easier access.
The Santa Cruz's bed features underfloor storage space. The outer part of the bed can be configured with racks and other cargo tie-down features that make it supremely useful. In addition, Hyundai says it will offer several accessories that include a sliding bed divider, bed rails, a tailgate cover, lighting kits, and more.
Inside, the Santa Cruz has the storage spaces expected in a crossover. The front cabin features a large, deep cubby under the center stack, and the center console is large enough for small bags, smartphones, and other items needed close at-hand. There is also more storage under the rear seats.
The standard, non-turbo engine has an estimated maximum towing capability of up to 3,500 pounds, while the optional turbocharged engine is rated at up to 5,000 pounds. Payload capacity can reach up to 1,753 pounds, depending on the configuration.
Styling & Design: 8/10
At first glance, the Santa Cruz could be mistaken for a crossover like Hyundai's own Santa Fe, especially if from the grille or from a three-quarter front angle. However, it's a futuristic-looking vehicle from almost every other angle that sidesteps what could have easily been awkward proportions. The high sides of the bed and beltline help give it a somewhat aggressive look, and the black plastic body cladding gives it a rugged stance.
The cabin is tech-forward and handsome. From behind the wheel, it's hard to tell it's anything other than a compact crossover, and there's a reasonable amount of visibility in nearly any direction. All controls and displays are well within reach.
Color is a subjective choice, to be sure, but Hyundai's offerings for the Santa Cruz are top-notch. Blue Stone, Sage Grey, and Mojave Sand all sound neat but are also visually stunning and perfectly match the adventure-ready attitude Hyundai was going for with the vehicle.
Driving Experience: 8/10
Though it's shorter in length than its competition, the Santa Cruz is still 75 inches wide, making it nearly as wide as a Tacoma and wider than a Nissan Frontier. That gives the vehicle a solid, planted feel on the road and helps it handle with agility.
With the upgraded turbocharged engine, acceleration is effortless, and the driving experience feels surprisingly sporty. Hyundai's eight-speed dual-clutch transmission here gives the engine a responsive feel. The turbo engine comes only with all-wheel-drive, too.
Even with larger wheels, such as the Limited trim's 20-inches, the Santa Cruz maintains a cushy ride, likely thanks to its crossover-like unibody chassis. That's in contrast to the ride quality of nearly every other pickup truck, where body-on-frame construction gives them a jittery, rough ride over broken pavement. That said, more road noise makes its way into the Santa Cruz's cabin than preferable.
Fuel Efficiency: 6/10
The 2022 Santa Cruz is rated at 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 mpg combined with the base engine and front-wheel-drive. With all-wheel drive, those numbers shift to 21/27/23 mpg.
With the upgraded turbocharged engine, fuel economy numbers land at 19 mpg city, 27 highway, and 22 mpg combined.
The Santa Cruz's fuel efficiency numbers are better than much of its truck competition but somewhat unimpressive compared with other crossovers, such as the Toyota RAV4. A hybrid or plug-in hybrid option would help here.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has a starting MSRP of $25,175, rising to $40,455. It is available in four trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Premium, and Limited.
The base Hyundai Santa Cruz SE starts from $25,175 and comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel-drive. Standard features include forward collision avoidance-assist with pedestrian detection, a driver attention warning system, lane-keep assist, lane-follow assist, 18-inch wheels, LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, and under-bed storage. It also includes a rear occupant alert system, automatic headlights, air conditioning, cloth upholstery, a six-way manual driver's seat, HD radio, six speakers, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera, and two USB ports. All-wheel-drive is an option.
The Santa Cruz SEL starts at $28,375 and adds blind-spot collision avoidance-assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance-assist, heated side mirrors, keyless entry with push-button start, BlueLink connected services, satellite radio, remote engine start, heated front seats, and auto up/down front windows.
The SEL Premium model starts at $36,865 and adds a 281-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automated transmission, paddle shifters, LED headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a digital key system, and dual-zone climate controls.
The Santa Cruz Limited starts at $40,455. It adds rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, rear air conditioning vents, smart cruise control, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation and voice controls, highway driving assist, a speed limit assist function, a surround-view monitor, a Bose audio system, dual rear USB charging ports, ambient interior lighting, and 20-inch wheels.