2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Review: Daily Driver Practicality Meets Pickup

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Up front, the Santa Cruz closely resembles a more rugged Tucson. Hyundai Motor America

Hyundai calls the 2022 Santa Cruz a sport adventure vehicle. Marketing speak aside, the new compact truck fits into the vehiclescape where the Subaru Baja left off, delivering a right-sized bed for adventure seekers who prefer the comforts of the Hyundai Tucson SUV over the typical utilitarian aesthetics of a low-priced truck.

The front of the vehicle is more cute little ute than strong truck. It has headlight and grille design straight out of the Tucson playbook. There's a skid plate to make the mild off-roading the Santa Cruz is capable of safer on the truck's equipment. Unlike the Baja, the Santa Cruz's front end adapts well to truck-like looks.

The extends to the rear where a high bed wall, hefty tailgate, and stamped "Santa Cruz" same pair with horizontal "T"-like taillights to give it that real pickup truck look that the Baja could never achieve.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
The rear of the Santa Cruz is unique but has some telltale truck qualities. Hyundai Motor America

The bed has typical equipment like D-rings, and is deeper than most photos let on. Think of it has being as long as floor from the second-row of a Honda Pilot to the liftgate and you'll get a good idea of the space. Side steps integrated into the bumper make getting in and out easy, and are big enough to fit two feet side by side.

The lockable tonneau cover is easily pushed back toward the cab or pulled into place near the tailgate where it meets to form a reasonably watertight seal. Brilliant. The cover easily holds the weight of one average-sized adult though it's not a steady hold nor recommended by the manufacturer.

Under the bed floor is a water-tight truck-like space that can be secured in a way similar to the Honda Ridgeline's. It opens near the edge of the bed at the tailgate and is easily propped up. When pushed up, a set of lights, one on either side of the bed, illuminate the area. It's also lockable, keeping valuables secure and out of sight.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
The bed of the Santa Fe is a useful size for weekend warriors. Hyundai Motor America

The Santa Cruz borrows its powertrain from the Hyundai Santa Fe lineup. The truck's standard mill is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that gets 191 horsepower and makes 181 pound-feet of torque available for use. The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Upgraded versions of the Santa Cruz use a turbocharged-four cylinder engine to make 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. Those are the same numbers as what the SUV gets and both weigh about the same. Hyundai mates the engine to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is available. There is no four-wheel drive option nor off-roading drive modes.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
The truck sports an untraditional silhouette. Hyundai Motor America

Power, as tested with the turbo-four, is more than adequate. The accelerator is responsive and braking is strong. These attributes pair well with crossover-like steering that makes the Santa Cruz easy to parallel and perpendicular park, even in the tightest of spots.

Trailering pre-wiring comes standard and the truck can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with all-wheel drive. A 1,906-pound maximum payload capacity is reached on the base model. It shrinks to as little as 1,642 pounds on the top-tier Santa Cruz Limited.

The Santa Cruz leans on much of the interior design that you'll find in the Tucson and Santa Fe. There's the right blend of materials, technology, and comfort to make it a practical living space that punches above its price tag.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Small idem storage below the second-row seat is standard. Hyundai Motor America

The seats are comfortable, even for extended trips. There's not enough room to realistically fit three adults across the back seat for any length of time, but a family of four has ample room. Under the second-row seats is a storage bin that fits small- to medium-sized items. Cloth seats are standard and leather-trimmed seats are available.

An 8.0-inch infotainment screen is standard and a 10.25-inch one is available. They're the same screens with the same operating system that can be found throughout the Hyundai lineup. Like in the Tucson, the center stack relies on embedded touch zones for volume, navigation and settings functions, among others, rather than buttons. Everything is plenty responsive but does take some getting used to.

A traditional instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch driver information screen is standard. Upgraded versions of the Santa Cruz are available with an all-digital instrument cluster.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
A 10.25-inch infotainment screen is available. Hyundai Motor America

Nearly all the features a buyer could want in a truck at this price point are included in the base model and the few remaining ones are available. USB ports in the front row, wireless Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are standard. Models equipped with the larger infotainment screen have tethered Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A 115-volt power outlet, Bose Premium Audio System, second-row USB ports, and ventilated front seats are available.

Hyundai prices the truck to start at $23,990. All-wheel drive is a $1,500 premium on Santa Cruz SE and SEL models equipped with the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Santa Cruz SEL Premium and Limited only come equipped with the turbo-four and all-wheel drive. The MSRP of the Santa Cruz tops out at $39,720 before destination and delivery fees.