Hyundai's Gamble on the 2022 Santa Cruz Appears to Have Paid Off
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When you think of Hyundai, you might picture one of its SUVs or sedans rather than a brawny pickup truck. Compact trucks aren’t always popular among truck enthusiasts for their reduced towing capacity and unconventional looks, like the Honda Ridgeline. That’s one of the reasons why many consider the Hyundai Santa Cruz to be a huge gamble for the automaker.
Hyundai doesn’t refer to the Santa Cruz as a truck, using the moniker “Sport Adventure Vehicle” instead. While this might turn away some buyers, the vehicle still has its good points. According to CNET, the Santa Cruz combines balanced crossover performance with extra utility. The Hyundai Santa Cruz has great cargo space and a smooth ride.
What did CNET love about the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?
CNET was pleased with the Santa Cruz’s optional turbocharged engine, standard on the SEL Premium and Limited trims. It makes 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, paired with standard AWD and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s also surprisingly efficient for an AWD truck, rated for 22 mpg combined.
Most trucks are known for having jittery rides with an empty cargo box, but the Santa Cruz crushes those expectations. CNET says the ride is pleasantly serene without any heavy loads and the cabin is noticeably quiet. This isn’t surprising given that the Santa Cruz is built on the same platform as the Hyundai Tucson SUV.
Unlike many other pickup trucks, the Santa Cruz is also relatively easy to park in a small space. This is thanks to its 4-foot-long truck bed, which features some innovative design elements. It comes with a locking tonneau cover and a weatherproof compartment under the loading floor.
The cargo box can hold up to 1,300 pounds and a fully-loaded Santa Cruz can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Every model comes with standard trailer sway control.
The truck also benefits from having the same cushy interior as its Tucson cousin. Each Santa Cruz has a nice collection of safety tech installed, plus a useful surround-view camera system on the Limited model. A 10.3-inch touchscreen is available with higher trims and wireless smartphone integration is standard on almost every model.
Does the Hyundai Santa Cruz have any weak points?
CNET was slightly underwhelmed with the Santa Cruz’s base engine, which produces 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a regular eight-speed automatic transmission and either FWD or AWD. While it still has the same polite driving manners as the turbocharged truck, it can only tow 3,500 pounds. However, it has a slightly higher payload of 1,906 pounds.
Getting the turbocharged engine also isn’t cheap, with the SEL Premium AWD starting at $35,680. The base Santa Cruz SE starts at $23,990. CNET argues that the premium trim might be a better value with its infotainment upgrades and power boosts.
Who should buy the Santa Cruz?
The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a capable truck, but there are a few cheaper and stronger rivals available. Some of them even come standard with hybrid powertrains, which Hyundai has yet to implement. However, the Santa Cruz is a perfect purchase for a crossover shopper who wants more cargo space.
CNET said that creating a vehicle with elements of multiple segments is always a big risk for automakers. However, it’s clear that the Santa Cruz pulls it off with grace and distinctive style.
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