Hyundai has unveiled their newest vehicle and its first pickup to be built and sold in the United States, the 2022 Santa Cruz. This compact pickup was first previewed at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, and received a massive and positive public response at that time. Now it’s here in production form and it looks even better than the concept with updated styling that matches Hyundai’s latest style book and a tidy interior.
With a unibody construction, the Montogmery, AL-built Santa Cruz is based on the latest Hyundai compact crossover, the Tucson. However, it features a stretched wheelbase that is over 118” and a pickup bed with an integrated lockable tonneau cover that slides smoothly over the bed.
The pickup, which Hyundai is careful to not call a truck, comes with standard front wheel drive, but all models are also available with HTRAC all-wheel-drive that includes snow modes, downhill assis, and AWD lock. Note that the Santa Cruz is substantially smaller than other compact pickups on the market, such as the Toyota Tacoma, Honda Ridgeline, and Nissan Frontier. However, it is slightly larger than the long-dead Subaru Baja, which was the last similar contender in this space.
The Santa Cruz has two engine options, a base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 190hp and 180 lb-ft torque, and a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 275hp and 310 lb-ft torque. The base engine has a traditional 8-speed automatic, while the 2.5T features an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. Due to the compact nature of the Santa Cruz, the upgraded engine should provide plenty of power. Additionally, that motor provides the Santa Cruz with the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds, while the less powerful engine can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
While the exterior of the Hyundai Santa Cruz evokes the Tucson, all the sheetmetal on the outside is new. Up front, grille details are more rugged, including larger jewel-like built-in daytime running lights throughout the grille, and lower headlight units that are squared off with surrounding angular creases to give them a more aggressive look. The Santa Cruz’s side creases have also been accentuated and moved higher to look more rugged and muscular compared to the Tucson. The roofline slopes down at the back prior to the bed emphasizing the Santa Cruz as a more specialized lifestyle pickup with sportier styling.
At the rear, the Santa Cruz features prominent taillights that extend onto the tailgate and feature red turn signals. That tailgate features large embossed “Santa Cruz” lettering and a small Hyundai badge which is written out rather than the “H” logo, echoing other brands that spell out their names on their pickups. The bed also contains hidden storage under its floor and extension accessories will be available to allow you to lower the tailgate while maintaining secure storage in the bed. The rear bumper also includes side steps to increase flexibility of the storage area.
The entire exterior includes lower black cladding trim on the front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper. The Santa Cruz offers two notable wheel and tire packages: one with 18” wheels and tall sidewalls that provide additional off-road prowess and another with large 20” wheels featuring slightly lower-profile, all-season, all-terrain tires.
The interior of the Santa Cruz is very familiar, because it’s lifted straight from the Tucson. This means that it receives a handsome dashboard with an 8” touchscreen that features wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay, a digital gauge cluster that has a modern and clean look. The Santa Cruz is available with the full suite of safety and convenience driving features including Highway Driving Assist and smart cruise control.
Rear seat room appears to be a little cramped, with what looks like a very upright rear seat squab and limited rear legroom. That being said, the rear seat bottoms do fold up to reveal additional hidden storage in the cabin.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz will go on sale in the US in Summer 2021, and pricing is yet to be announced.