Truly an SUV With a Bed

Pro

  • Fun to drive in turbo form
  • Looks great
  • Neat tonneau cover

Cons

  • Can’t speak to the base engine’s performance or refinement.
  • Less capable than the Ford Maverick
  • More expensive and less efficient than the Maverick

MotorTrend‘s Truck of the Year competition isn’t a comparison test—like all Of The Years, entrants are considered against our criteria—but when it came to the new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, judges found it difficult to avoid comparisons with the new 2022 Ford Maverick, the other new compact pickup truck that dropped this year.

“The Santa Cruz drives pretty well, but it doesn’t have the Maverick’s charm,” Mexico editor Miguel Cortina said.

Ignoring the pesky Ford, it’s worth considering what the new Santa Cruz is. Hyundai’s first pickup in this market (the company has sold a light-duty pickup in South Korea, called the Porter, since the late 1970s), the Santa Cruz is a new compact pickup based on the Tucson crossover. The standard—and expected volume—drivetrain is a 191-hp 2.5-liter I-4 paired with an eight-speed automatic and the buyer’s choice of front- or all-wheel drive. A 281-hp turbocharged version of the four-cylinder is available on upper-tier models. It’s paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive, though front-wheel drive will be available later in 2022.

Base prices start at $25,215, but turbo models begin at $36,905. Our loaded turbocharged Santa Cruz test truck, which included an aftermarket trailer hitch and trailer brake controller because neither is available from the factory on turbocharged models, stickered for about $42,000.

We requested a naturally aspirated Santa Cruz to go along with our turbocharged tester, but Hyundai wouldn’t provide one for our competition. It also confirmed it will not order any such vehicle for its press or marketing fleets. “That’s not a vote of confidence,” features editor Scott Evans said.

Like the Maverick, the Santa Cruz is designed for those who want a pickup’s utility but maybe don’t need all the capability. That’s just as well, because as a pickup the Santa Cruz is fairly middling. Turbocharged all-wheel-drive models are capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds and hauling up to 1,600 pounds, though a Hyundai spokesperson told us the truck can only carry 600 pounds in its 4-foot composite bed. The bed features a nifty roll-up tonneau cover and an underfloor trunk, but judges found the latter too small to handle anything larger than jumper cables, and the tonneau cover impeded access to a cargo area that already has high bedrails.

We didn’t have any major issues towing a 3,500-pound trailer with our Santa Cruz other than some minor trailer sway, but its off-road performance gave us pause. On the semi-steep, sandy hill climb on the off-road test course, we experienced the Santa Cruz’s dual-clutch stalling more than once as it slipped its clutches and attempted to put its power down.

However, when not working hard, the Santa Cruz was pretty fun to drive. “Carlike” is a descriptor written often in judges’ notes. The Hyundai is refined, comfortable, and torquey, and it rides well on all but high-frequency impacts. Judges appreciated its exterior styling, but most were annoyed by the capacitive controls in the interior, which might work well on a crossover but less so on a “lifestyle” vehicle that might get a bit dirty. The stylish cabin is cramped and without much storage, and the back seat is tight, too.

Ultimately, the Santa Cruz is a premium lifestyle vehicle for those who haul little more than bikes or potted plants in the bed. But is there is a better option on the market for doing real truck stuff?

POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz AWD 2.5T (Limited) Specifications
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD
ENGINE TYPE Turbo port- and direct-injected DOHC 16-valve I-4, alum block/head
DISPLACEMENT 2,497cc/152.4 cu in
COMPRESSION RATIO 10.5:1
POWER (SAE NET) 281 hp @ 5,800 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 311 lb-ft @ 1,700 rpm
REDLINE 6,500 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 14.9 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 8-speed twin-clutch auto
AXLE/FINAL DRIVE/LOW RATIO 4.85:1 (gears 1, 2, 5, 6, R), 3.32:1 (gears 3, 4, 7, 8)/2.11:1/-
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REEAR Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO 14.2:1
TURNS LOCK TO LOCK 2.6
BRAKES, F; R 12.8-in vented disc; 12.8-in disc
WHEELS 7.5 x 20-in cast aluminum
TIRES 245/50R20 102V Michelin Primacy LTX (M+S)
DIMENSIONS
WHEELBASE 118.3 in
TRACK, F/R 64.7/64.9 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 195.7 x 75.0 x 66.7 in
GROUND CLEARANCE 8.6 in
APPROACH/DEPART ANGLE 17.5/23.2 deg
TURNING CIRCLE 39.6 ft
CURB WEIGHT (DIST F/R) 4,187 lb (56/44%)
SEATING CAPACITY 5
HEADROOM, F/R 40.7/40.1 in
LEGROOM, F/R 41.4/36.5 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 57.6/56.1 in
PICKUP BOX L x W x H 48.4 x 53.9 x 19.2 in
CARGO BOX VOLUME 27.0 cu ft
WIDTH BET WHEELHOUSES 42.7 in
CARGO LIFT-OVER HEIGHT 31.6 in
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 1,609 lb
TOWING CAPACITY 5,000 lb
TEST DATA
ACCELERATION TO MPH
0-30 2.4 sec
0-40 3.5
0-50 4.8
0-60 6.2
0-70 7.9
0-80 10.0
0-90 12.5
0-100
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 2.9
QUARTER MILE 14.7 sec @ 97.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 122 ft
DOUBLE LANE CHANGE RESULTS 3.1 sec @ 56.3 mph
FRUSTRATION TEST 5.5 sec @ 367.7 ft**
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,500 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
BASE PRICE $40,945
PRICE AS TESTED $41,990
AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 5 years/60,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 10 years/100,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 years/unlimited miles
FUEL CAPACITY 17.7 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 19/27/22 mpg
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular
ON SALE Now
* 35-55 mph, 4% grade acceleration with 1,500-pound trailer
** 35-55 mph, 4% grade acceleration with 3,000-pound trailer
*** 35-55 mph, 5% grade acceleration with 5,000-pound trailer

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