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The pickup truck market is one of the most competitive in the automotive industry. With the small size of the Hyundai Santa Cruz, it’s difficult to tell whether or not it’s a truck. A pickup truck bed isn’t the only qualification, we think. Hyundai’s newest model is surprisingly impressive for its size but is it enough to compete against other vehicles in the segment? Is the Hyundai Santa Cruz really a pickup truck?

Hyundai says the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz isn’t a pickup truck

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz by the beach
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz by the beach | Hyundai

There are no baseline requirements for what makes a vehicle a pickup truck. However, the Hyundai Santa Cruz would probably check every box if there were. Hyundai’s offering will change your idea of what a traditional truck actually is. For a vehicle that looks like a crossover with a bed, its excellent capability makes it a suitable alternative to conventional models.

Competing with some of the most popular small pickups in the market, the addition of the Santa Cruz to Hyundai’s lineup required confidence. We think faith is warranted after hearing and seeing more about the new model. However, Hyundai avoids using the word “truck” to describe its new model altogether. Instead, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is described as a “Sport Adventure Vehicle,” or SAV. According to Car and Driver, the automaker explicitly stated that it wasn’t designed to compete with midsize trucks, but that’s exactly what it’s doing.

Hyundai Santa Cruz: Sport Adventure Vehicle

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz front three quarter | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The Santa Cruz rides on the Hyundai Tucson platform to back up the automaker’s claim. Although the wheelbase is nearly 10-inches longer, and it has a multilink suspension with self-leveling dampers in the rear. CAD emphasizes that the Santa Cruz drives like a car. Everything down to driving into parking spots is as easy as you’d expect from a small crossover.

What is a Sport-Adventure Vehicle? It’s the Hyundai Santa Cruz, a crossover SUV with a pickup truck bed. Another thing it borrows from the Tucson is its engine. Consequently, the top trim Santa Cruz comes with a 2.5-liter inline-four making 281 horsepower. Additionally, it’s able to move from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.0 seconds flat. As far as acceleration goes, that gives the Hyundai Santa Cruz the upper hand against midsize truck opponents.

An SAV with pickup truck capability

Although its size and title relieve it of its pickup truck duties, the Santa Cruz is just as capable. Turbo all-wheel drive models are rated to tow a maximum of 5,000 pounds. Even dipping down as far as the base model front-wheel-drive setup still provides an impressive 3,500-pound towing capacity. Additionally, trailer sway control is standard across all models. If off-road driving is your style, the Hyundai Santa Cruz can do that too.

Each Santa Cruz SAV comes with 8.6-inches of ground clearance and a 23.2-degree departure angle. CAD noted that it is difficult to maintain a smooth crawling speed when driving off-road. While the Santa Cruz can traverse some odd terrain, it isn’t the best off-road option available.

Hyundai Santa Cruz truck bed

The bed of a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup truck sport adventure vehicle.

One of the most essential features for any truck, or Sport-Adventure Vehicle, is the bed. Firstly, it’s a dent-resistant molded composite bed that allows for the utilization of every inch of space in the back. Secondly, the bed is packed with hidden compartments and small cubbies for extra storage. It even has an underfloor storage box near the tailgate to provide even more space. Best of all, thanks to its location, it isn’t challenging to reach from behind the Santa Cruz. The same storage box also features drain plugs, making it the perfect place for cold drinks.

Finally, there’s even more storage behind the wheel-wells on either side. There’s also an AC power outlet, tie-downs, and an adjustable cleat system. According to CAD, the space above the wheel wells is enough to fit a four-foot-wide sheet of plywood.

The Santa Cruz is too expensive to compete with the Ford Maverick

The Ford Maverick is one of the new pickup trucks from this year
The Ford Maverick is one of the new pickup trucks from this year | Ford

The Ford Maverick hybrid pickup truck is the closest in size and capability to Hyundai’s SAV. Although the two have a lot in common regarding size and ability, the Maverick wins. Just like when it’s put up against most other trucks, the Maverick wins thanks to its excellent price point. Even Ford Maverick models’ most expensive trim level is affordable and barely more expensive than a base model Santa Cruz.

Additionally, the top trim Santa Cruz costs $40,945, while the Ford Maverick Lariat is just $26,985.

In conclusion, is the Hyundai Santa Cruz really a pickup truck? If you were to ask the automaker, it would say no, it’s a Sport-Adventure Vehicle. However, it stacks up against midsize truck competition surprisingly well. The biggest detriment to its competitiveness in the segment is its price point, which doesn’t hold a candle to the new Ford Maverick.


A Bigger Truck Than the Hyundai Santa Cruz is Coming