Small trucks are becoming the new big thing once again. Ford has made waves with the Maverick, but Hyundai kicked off the trend with the 2022 Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz builds atop the company’s recent string of success with edgy looks, abundant power, and tons of features. The top-end Limited model tested here is also arguably the best option of the bunch.
Even though this version of the Santa Cruz costs over $41,000 as tested, you won’t have to spend extra on things you need – unless you really insist on a fancier paint job. Advanced active safety equipment such as Highway Driving Assist comes standard, as does a larger central touchscreen with Hyundai’s user interface. And most importantly, the Santa Cruz offers just enough to fulfill most of your truck needs.
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|Quick Stats||2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.5-Liter I4|
|Output:||281 Horsepower / 311 Pound-Feet|
|Towing/Payload:||5,000 / 1,600 Pounds|
|Base Price:||$23,990 + $1,185 Destination|
Gallery: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz: Review
- Exterior Color: Blue Stone
- Interior Color: Black
- Wheel Size: 20 Inches
Not everyone will love the styling of the Santa Cruz. Just like the Tucson, Hyundai went for bold, edgy, and polarizing. The cascading matrix-mesh grille is the focal point, with silver inserts that overlap to create a woven texture and hidden LEDs that trickle down to the base of the bumper. The actual headlights sit lower on the fascia.
The SUV-like cabin and tiny four-foot bed do make the Santa Cruz look frumpy from the side. But the smoothly angled roofline transition from the cab to the bed gives it a cohesive look, while the taillight and bumper design create a clean rear end. The Blue Stone paint job is a handsome hue, too, and doesn't cost extra. And the lone 20-inch wheel option looks properly sharp with its triangular edges and two-tone finish.
Less polarizing is the cabin, which is basically a copy-and-paste job of the Tucson's interior – not that that's a bad thing. The Santa Cruz's wraparound dash design makes for a cockpit feel, the four-spoke steering wheel looks good and feels good in the hand, and there are high-quality aluminum and leather features abound. My only issue is the overuse of piano black plastic around the infotainment system; it looks cheap and gets dirty quickly.
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- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 16.0 Cubic Feet
The Santa Cruz stands tall with 40.7 inches of front headroom and 40.1 inches of rear headroom. The Maverick offers a bit less by comparison, 40.3 inches up front and 39.6 inches in the rear. But Ford's truck is better when it comes to legroom. The Santa Cruz only has 41.1 inches of front legroom and 36.5 inches in the rear, compared to the Maverick's 42.8 inches up front and 36.9 inches in the rear.
But the Santa Cruz is still plenty roomy, with enough room to comfortably toil away hours in the driver's seat. Average-sized adults would have no issue sitting on the rear bench either, although the seat is well upright. The standard leather-trimmed seats on this Limited model further up the comfort factor with ample bolstering and support, while the suspension soaked up bumps and undulations well.
Inside, the Santa Cruz has a unique second-row storage system under the bench that allows for smaller items, like tools and backpacks. The Santa Cruz's 4.3-foot bed, meanwhile, is 0.2 inches down on the Maverick's, but it was still useful. I stuck my 6-foot-tall Christmas tree back there with only a bit of shoving.
The locking, retractable metal tonneau cover – standard on this Limited model – provides a safe and dry storage area as well, while there’s also a second lockable storage compartment within the bed itself, and the steps on the corner of the bumper make the bed easy to access. There are even LED lights within the cargo boxthat allow you to see what you're hauling at night.
- Center Display: 10.3-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 10.3-Inch
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: No
Bundled with the 8.0-inch touchscreen, the base Santa Cruz comes stocked with tech. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on the SE and SEL trims, with the SEL adding standard remote start and an optional wireless charger and satellite radio. The Limited model I tested adds a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen, a 10.3-inch digital cluster (instead of a tiny productivity screen), a Bose premium audio system, and a bit more.
The Santa Cruz has a great touchscreen display with crisp graphics, a clean layout, and immediate responsiveness. But as with other Hyundai/Kia products as of late, the company limits wireless CarPlay and Android to the base models, for some reason. And there are no volume or tuning knobs; if you want to blast a song or change a station quickly, you have to fiddle with the steering wheel controls or the touch-capacitive functions beneath the display. Both options are clumsy and complicated.
The 10.3-inch fully digital cluster allows you to adjust for things like fuel economy, audio settings, and more, with unique graphics for each drive mode. Toggle to Sport, for example, and cool red graphics wash over the gauges for a more aggressive look. You can also lock in a specific style independent of drive mode if it strikes your fancy.
- Engine: Turbocharged 2.5-Liter Four-Cylinder
- Output: 281 Horsepower / 311 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Eight-Speed Dual-Clutch
The unibody construction of the Santa Cruz means it drives less like a truck and more like a crossover. Some truck faithful might prefer the body-on-frame sensation that larger pickups provide, but I quite like the Santa Cruz's composure. Limited body roll, lightweight yet responsive steering, and a smooth suspension make the Hyundai a joy to drive around town.
Motivated by a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in this Limited spec – SE and SEL models get a non-turbocharged version of that same engine – this Santa Cruz produces 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet. The lone transmission is a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch, and all-wheel drive comes standard on both the SEL Premium and the Limited model tested here.
The Santa Cruz is perfectly punchy, with good pep off the line and enough passing power at highway speeds. And it has 31 more hp than the Maverick's turbocharged 2.0-liter. While Ford's optional hybrid powertrain is more efficientand offers improvements elsewhere, there's nothing wrong with Hyundai's relatively old-school approach; the four-cylinder is solid, reliable, and strong where it matters.
The Santa Cruz outmuscles the Maverick outright in towing. The turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive allow it to tug 5,000 pounds compared to the Maverick's 4,000 pounds. But Ford does have Hyundai beat in payload by a few hundred pounds; 1,600 in the Santa Cruz compared to 2,000 in the Maverick. For a fuller breakdown of Santa Cruz versus Maverick, we've got you covered.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands-On)
- NHTSA Rating: 5 Stars
- IIHS Rating: Top Safety Pick
Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, lane centering, and a rear occupant alert come standard on all trims. The Limited model adds a 360-degree parking camera, blind-spot monitoring, and navigation-based Highway Driving Assist, among a few carryovers from the SEL Premium, like rear cross-traffic alert.
Highway Driving Assist is still one of the most advanced adaptive cruise control systems on sale today. It keeps the Santa Cruz perfectly centered in the lane and manages throttle and braking inputs with clarity and precision.
The addition of a 360-degree parking camera is extremely helpful as well, even for such a small truck. The overhead view makes turning into tight spots a breeze. And blind-spot monitoring is always a plus to have, easily able to recognize oncoming traffic.
- City: 19 MPG
- Highway: 27 MPG
- Combined: 22 MPG
With the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder and all-wheel drive equipped, the Santa Cruz returns 19 miles per gallon city, 27 highway, and 22 combined. The base model, with its non-turbocharged engine and front-wheel drive, achieves a slightly better 23 combined. During my test, which included a healthy mix of city and highway driving, the Santa Cruz barely averaged over 18 mpg according to the readout on the digital cluster.
Even at its rated numbers, the Santa Cruz is no match for Ford and its more efficient powertrains. The 2.0-liter Maverick returns 25 mpg combined with all-wheel-drive and 26 with front-wheel drive. The hybrid Maverick, meanwhile, offers up to 37 mpg combined – 14 better than the best Santa Cruz.
- Base Price: $25,175 + $1,185 Destination
- Trim Base Price: $40,905
- As-Tested Price: $41,100
The base Santa Cruz SE starts at $25,175 with the $1,185 destination fee included, while the base Maverick costs $21,490 with its $1,495 destination fee included. The Limited model tested here starts at $40,905, and with one dealer-installed option included (carpeted floor mats), my tester comes out to $41,100.
Compared to the Maverick, the Santa Cruz is definitely the pricier of the two. But Hyundai packages the Limited model exceptionally well, with the interior, exterior, and active safety features mentioned all standard. And there's only one paint option that costs extra: $400 Sage Grey. The handsome Blue Steel pictured here is a no-cost choice.
Unless you really need the towing and hauling abilities of something like a mid- or full-size pickup, $41,000 for a fully loaded Santa Cruz is super reasonable. This tiny pickup has tons of standard features, great driving characteristics, and just enough genuine truck qualities. So even if you're not a truck person, per se, the Santa Cruz is so good otherwise that it might be able to sway you.
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Gallery: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz: Review
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited