2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Review highlights:
- 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz ($23,990 – $39,720)
- Best New Product – 2021 Sobre Ruedas Awards
- 2021 Best Pickup Truck Award – Northwest Automotive Press Association
- Best of What’s New Award – Popular Science
- Pro: Hyundai’s first pickup truck offers comfortable crossover ride qualities with the utility of a genuine truck.
- Con: The Santa Cruz’s bed is much smaller than other trucks and it’s fuel economy leaves much to be desired.
According to Hyundai, the 2022 Santa Cruz is a “Sport Activity Vehicle” that’s built for outdoorsy types that don’t really need the capability of a body-on-frame truck like a Toyota Tacoma. Let’s get real, most buyers interested in a truck want the added utility and cargo space that it can provide, but don’t want the harsh ride qualities that come with it. For that crowd, the Santa Cruz is the perfect vehicle.
Think of the Santa Cruz as a smaller and less-expensive version of the Honda Ridgeline. It has the same type of storage solutions, unibody construction, and towing and hauling capabilities, but in a much more compact form. That means the Santa Cruz is easier to park and maneuver in tight situations, which could also mean that it fills a segment that the public never knew it needed.
Which 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz trim level is right for you?
There are four Hyundai Santa Cruz trim levels:
- SE: $23,990
- SEL: $27,190
- SEL Premium: $35,680
- Limited: $39,720
If you’re looking for the best value, then the SEL Premium could be the best choice. This elevated trim level comes equipped with the more powerful turbocharged engine, standard all-wheel drive, and it’s better equipped than the lower trim levels. My tester for the week was a top-trim Santa Cruz Limited in Phantom Black with a black interior.
The 2022 Santa Cruz looks uniquely functional
During my week with the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited, I received a multitude of comments about its looks. Most of them were favorable, as many of my friends said that “it looks good” or “that weird truck thing is probably the only vehicle that you really need.” After spending time with the Santa Cruz, I have to say that they’re not wrong.
Yes, the Santa Cruz looks a little weird, but its unique form is clearly made to be functional. There’s a four-foot truck bed in the rear that blends nicely with the rest of the body. Up front, the Santa Cruz looks similar to the Hyundai Tucson on which it is based, but it’s a little longer and wider. It also features the same hidden LED headlights as its stablemate but has the addition of a skid plate below the front fascia.
From the side angle, the Santa Cruz carries a classic truck, but with a modern twist. Hyundai incorporated the same type of Origami shapes as it did in the Sonata and Elantra into the doors, and while some may not like it, I think it works well.
How comfortable is the Hyundai Santa Cruz?
The 2022 Santa Cruz is very comfortable. Of course, having the Limited trim with the leather seats helps, but overall, the truck’s cabin is a very nice place to spend time. There are some soft-touch materials – which is rare for a truck – and its interior design is simple but functional. A 10.25-inch touchscreen sits front and center on the dashboard and there are panel buttons below it for the radio and HVAC controls.
My only gripe is that I wish Hyundai went with knobs instead of buttons, but anyone that buys this truck will surely get used to it. Otherwise, the truck’s steering wheel feels nice in your hands and its configurable digital display is easy to read and navigate. As far as rear-seat room, there’s enough room for someone 5-feet, 8-inches tall like me, but anyone over six feet could have some issues. As expected, the rear seatbacks are flat, but they sit at a slight angle which makes them feel a little more comfortable.
The Hyundai Santa Cruz has all of the features a truck lover could want
Once you get past the Hyundai Santa Cruz’s aesthetics, you’ll be treated to the bounty of features that it comes with. According to Kelley Blue Book, every Santa Cruz comes standard with a molded composite truck bed, a cloth interior, wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and cargo lighting, a six-way power driver’s seat, and a 60/40 flip-up rear seat.
Underneath that rear seat are a couple of storage bins that work well for storing small items like groceries. But if you would rather store stuff outside of the cabin, then there’s also an in-bed trunk area that can even double as a cooler since it has a drain plug. There are also two small storage compartments on either side of the truck bed in addition to heavy-duty cargo tie-downs. Rear bumper side steps make accessing the truck bed easy and there’s also a utility rail and cleat system.
The Santa Cruz is loaded with tech features as well
On the technology front, the base Santa Cruz comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen display with a six-speaker audio system. However, stepping up to the higher trim levels will unlock more features including a wireless smartphone charger, a Bose audio system, a digital gauge cluster, heated and ventilated seats, and a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen.
On the SEL trim, a power moonroof, roof side rails, a sliding-glass rear window, and a 115-volt in-bed outlet are all options via the Activity Package for an extra $3,270. However, all of those options are standard on the higher two trims.
One interesting point to note is that the top-trim Limited does not come with wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto and it is the only trim that has leather seats.
How safe is the Hyundai Santa Cruz?
The 2022 Santa Cruz is very safe as it comes standard with key safety features like a driver-attention warning, lane-keep assist, and a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The SEL trim level and above receive more safety features in the form of a blind-spot monitor, a rear cross-traffic alert, and a safe exit warning. But if you want more advanced features like a surround-view monitor, a blind-spot camera (which shows up in the instrument panel), and adaptive cruise control, then you’ll need to opt for the Limited trim.
In addition to the array of standard and optional safety features, the Santa Cruz also took home a “Top Safety Pick” award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). So you know it’s as safe as can be.
The 2022 Santa Cruz handles well despite its hefty weight
Although the Hyundai Santa Cruz is a compact truck that’s smaller than mid-size competitors like the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier, it still weighs a lot. My fully loaded Limited tester tips the scales at over 4,100 pounds, but judging by the way it flings around corners at a decent speed, I really couldn’t tell. I put the Santa Cruz Limited through its paces on my usual canyon road route and was able to somewhat keep pace with a Volkswagen Golf R. No, this truck isn’t a race car, but it can handle sharp corners and emergency lane change maneuvers pretty well.
As far as hauling cargo, the Santa Cruz does as well as you would think given its short bed. I was able to barely move a three-drawer dresser with the aid of a cargo strap, but it was a success nonetheless. Ultimately, the Santa Cruz can haul stuff, but you may need to make multiple trips if you’re moving a house or even a small apartment.
The Hyundai Santa Cruz is available with two different powertrains
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is available with two different engine choices. The first one is a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque and is available on the SE and SEL trims. This engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds.
The second option is a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine that pushes out 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. This more powerful mill is connected to a quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and is able to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
If you want power, then this is the engine to get. Its smooth power delivery comes on quickly and it’s more than enough for the daily drive, not to mention towing and hauling. I did detect a little turbo lag, but it doesn’t completely hinder the driving experience.
As far as fuel economy, I achieved an average of 15.5 mpg during my week with the truck, however, the EPA estimate for the turbocharged engine is 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Opting for the non-turbocharged engine yields a slightly better average of 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway in FWD form.
Is the Santa Cruz expensive to maintain?
Just like any other Hyundai vehicle, the Santa Cruz should be affordable when it comes to repairs and maintenance. According to Your Mechanic, the projected average annual maintenance costs for the 2022 Santa Cruz is $125.
However, since this new truck carries Hyundai’s renowned warranties, new Santa Cruz owners won’t need to worry too much about repair or maintenance costs right away. That coverage includes a 5-year/60,000-mile basic and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty in addition to 5 years of unlimited roadside assistance.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a compact truck that you never knew you needed
Ultimately, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a small truck with the composure of an SUV. Its smooth driving characteristics, quiet cabin, and loaded list of safety and convenience features make it a worthy competitor to even larger trucks like the Toyota Tacoma or Nissan Frontier. But if all you need is a compact SUV with a greater capability to move stuff around, then the Santa Cruz is definitely worth a look.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz an expert rating of 8.4 out of 10
The editors at MotorBiscuit gave the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz an overall rating of 8.4 out of 10. The Santa Cruz may be small in size, but it’s big on features. Its handy storage features and ability to handle hauling and towing almost as well as larger trucks are impressive.