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Hyundai designed the Santa Cruz for a unique subsection of the car market. The new model, which the South Korean automaker calls a “sport adventure vehicle” (SAV), blends the body of a small SUV with the bed of a pickup truck. Regardless of the Santa Cruz’s novelty, consumers still look at car safety when considering a purchase.

According to the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a safe vehicle. It even earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick award. However, IIHS testing shows two of the Santa Cruz’s four trim levels are safer than the others.

IIHS car safety criteria

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz trims
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai Motor America

The IIHS conducts independent safety tests for vehicle models, and the best performers appear on the organization’s annual Top Safety Pick (TSP) or Top Safety Pick+ (TSP+) lists.

Notably, vehicles on the TSP+ list are safer than those on the TSP list. Here’s the distinction.

The IIHS grades car safety performance as “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal,” or “poor” in crashworthiness tests. However, in areas such as frontal crash prevention, the system uses “superior,” “advanced,” and “basic” ratings.

According to IIHS criteria, vehicles on the TSP+ and TSP lists should earn good ratings in all crashworthiness tests. That’s in addition to superior or advanced scores in front crash prevention. However, the primary difference between the two awards concerns headlights — a crucial aspect of accident prevention.

Only vehicles with acceptable or better headlights on all trim levels can earn Top Safety Pick+ awards. Conversely, those with acceptable or better headlights on only some trim levels can earn the Top Safety Pick honor.

Also notable is that despite the IIHS system being one of the most comprehensive determinants of car safety, the organization plans to conduct even more rigorous testing in 2023. That means some car manufacturers will need to step their game up for their vehicles to win IIHS awards.

How the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz performed in IIHS safety testing

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the only small pickup that earned a Top Safety Pick award for 2022. This is due to good ratings in all six tests used by the IIHS to determine a vehicle’s crashworthiness. Furthermore, in frontal crash prevention tests involving pedestrians or other vehicles, the Santa Cruz received superior ratings.

As for headlights, the two top trim levels — Limited and SEL Premium — got good ratings because they have LED lights. They provide significantly better visibility than the halogen projector lights on the Santa Cruz’s SE and SEL trims.

Last, the SE and SEL headlights received poor IIHS ratings, with visibility especially insufficient on curves. Ultimately, that means the two more expensive Santa Cruz trims are safer on the road.

Overview of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz offers plenty of benefits beyond a safe driving experience. One is the four-foot cargo bed. Sure, it can’t replace a regular-size pickup truck bed, but it provides an excellent space for loading and carrying supplies. Another plus is the curvy and streamlined body, making this model unique from the average pickup or SUV.

Under the hood of the lower trim levels is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. These trims have a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

Additionally, the 2.5-liter turbocharged option in the higher trim levels harnesses 277 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, increasing the Santa Cruz’s towing capacity to 5,000 pounds.

In the cabin, you’ll find a comfortable and spacious cockpit with heated and ventilated seating and driver lumbar support. However, the second row is much less roomy and might be uncomfortable for some riders.

Nevertheless, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz still makes for a great daily driver for city dwellers looking to enjoy occasional adventures.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Cons to Consider Before Buying One