October 16, 2021

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2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz preview

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What kind of vehicle is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz? What does it compare to?

New for 2022, the Hyundai Santa Cruz exists in the center of a Venn diagram of sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks. It’s more like a Subaru Baja from 20 years ago than anything on sale now, though its open bed and seating for five pit it against mid-size pickup trucks ranging from the Honda Ridgeline to the Rivian R1T electric truck. 

Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz a good car/SUV/pickup?

Review continues below

It’s all of these things, more or less. It looks promising, but we won’t know until we drive it sometime before its summer on-sale date. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is all new and unlike anything currently on sale, though it shares a platform with the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover. Hyundai markets the Santa Cruz as a sport adventure vehicle, but its proportions appear like the ideal urban weekend getaway vehicle for sport, adventure, utility, and parallel parking.

At 195.7 inches long, it trails the Toyota Tacoma and Honda Ridgeline by more than a foot, and it’s about three inches shorter in height than the competition. From the front it looks like an off-roadable crossover; from the rear, a square-box pickup. Either way, it draws attention as a modern take on the Baja.

The front end wears the stepped grille with integrated daytime running lights of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. The DRLs only become distinguishable from the grille at night, otherwise the grille spreads its wings to the corners above the headlights. A skid plate girds the front bumper. 

The squat profile features tasteful and textured black cladding running over the rockers and around wheel arches that house 18-inch wheels standard or available 20-inch wheels with a star design. 

Things get even more interesting at that rear. Bulging taillights in the shape of hatchets frame a tailgate that is stamped with large “Santa Cruz” lettering above the bumper. The bold stamping conjures sandboxes dominated by a Tonka truck. The rear bumper features integrated corner bed steps, like the Chevy Colorado, with a non-slip ledge on the top. Hyundai promises several Easter eggs throughout the design to express its American-made spirit.

The bed doesn’t have the depth or length of other mid-size trucks, but it has some neat tricks. It’s not a box, and at 52.1 inches the bottom stretches out longer than the top at 48.4 inches. Either way, it’s at least a half foot shorter than the competition, but it features an available built-in lockable tonneau cover, hidden bed storage about six inches deep with a drain plug, a 110-volt outlet, and available bed extending accessories. A sliding rear window is promised.    

Clever storage areas continue inside, with 60/40-split rear seats that flip up to reveal a seat-length storage cubby. Mesh pockets line the front seat backs, but the utilitarian becomes a technocrat in the cockpit, headlined by an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A larger 10.3-inch touchscreen is available but smartphones will need to be tethered. Optional tech upgrades include wireless charging and a 10.0-inch digital instrument cluster.  

Interior space appears roomy and the wheelbase is 10 inches longer than the Tucson, but Hyundai didn’t disclose leg room. The Santa Cruz has a Subaru-like 8.6 inches of ground clearance, a breakover angle of 18.6 degrees and approach and departure angles of 17.5 and 23.2 degrees, respectively. For comparison, the longer Subaru Outback has a 19.4-degree breakover angle and 18.6 and 21.7 approach and departure angles. The short overhangs of the Santa Cruz should help when the pavement ends and the adventure begins. 

Hyundai offers two powertrains to get to that point. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 190 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. It uses an 8-speed automatic with front-wheel drive and can tow up to 3,500 pounds. 

The uprated engine is a 2.5-liter turbo-4 making an estimated 275 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. It pairs to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic used in Hyundai’s performance N variants but with different tuning. With available all-wheel drive, it can tow 5,000 pounds. 

The HTrac all-wheel-drive system comes with a center locking differential that splits the torque between the front and rear axles. If the driver doesn’t press the locker for low speed off-roading, the system automatically adjusts torque between the axles based on conditions and driver inputs. Sport, Normal, and Smart drive mode settings shuttle power appropriately, with Sport mode sending up to 50% of the torque to the rear wheels. When cruising, most of the torque powers the front wheels where it is most efficient. The Santa Cruz comes with 18-inch wheels, but larger off-road tires or 20-inch wheels are available upgrades. 

While the off-road components may be optional, Hyundai assures Santa Cruz owners safety on the road. Standard driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and active lane control, while options such as blind-spot monitors, blind-spot cameras, and surround-view cameras help get your bearings on trail or also when slipping into that parallel parking spot. 

Connected car tech includes a 3-year Blue Link subscription that lets users remote start and condition the car, as well as lock and unlock doors and track its whereabouts if stolen or if you’ve confused it for that Baja in the beach parking lot. 

The Santa Cruz comes with an excellent warranty, including a 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and 3 years/36,000 miles of complimentary oil changes and tire rotations. 

How much does the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz cost?

Pricing, trims, and specs will be announced nearer to the summer delivery date.

Where is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz made?

In Montgomery, Alabama.

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