Engine: 2.5-liter Smartstream turbocharged 4-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Torque: 311 lb.-ft.
EPA ratings: 19/city, 27/highway, 22/combined
Base price: $39,720
As tested: $41,100
Overview: The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the Korean automaker’s very first pickup. We’ve had three occasions to drive it — at Mudfest, the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s (NWAPA) national off-road event, where it won its class; during a trip in Florida thanks to our friends at Prestige Auto Specialists; and during our regular DriveShop rotation at home. This crossover hauler impressed us every time, delivering lots of available turbocharged power and offering technology borrowed shamelessly from Hyundai’s Tucson and Santa Fe models. The Santa Cruz features several trim levels starting around $26,000 and topping out north of $41,000. A 191-horse inline-4 is standard, while a 281-horsepower turbo-4 — which powered our AWD test-driver — is included on the two highest trim levels. Automatic transmission is standard on all. The base powerplant comes with front-wheel drive and is upgradable to all-wheel drive, which is required with the turbo.
Walkaround: Forget pickup-truck boxiness — the Santa Cruz is basically a sleek-looking, low-slung SUV, with a small pickup bed measuring just over 4 feet in length transplanted at the rear. It makes up for its size by featuring hidden storage pockets and optional equipment including various lights, tie-downs, power equipment and a rollback-style tonneau cover. Up front, the grille flows smoothly into the headlights, which harbor LED running lamps. While unpainted cladding suggests ruggedness, the aggressive windshield rake screams sportiness. The standard 18-inch alloy wheels are a dressy touch, making the Santa Cruz a fashion statement as well as a utilitarian choice.
Interior: Like much of the Santa Cruz, both the technology and interior rely heavily on Hyundai’s Tucson crossover SUV. Our test-driver featured the optional 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen, comfortable heated and cooled leather seating, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel and remote start. It has all the expected infotainment options — Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, satellite radio, Bose premium audio, wireless phone charging, USB outlets and LED ambient lighting. Large rear doors reveal 36.5 inches of legroom and a 60/40 foldable rear seat, plus an optional sliding rear window. Small-item space inside is impressive, with the center console and door panels showcasing excellent space utilization. All models come with automatic emergency braking and active lane control, while optional adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors and a surround-view camera system graced our test-driver.
Behind the Wheel: Our Santa Cruz test-driver was equipped with the 281-horse turbo-4. It provides decent acceleration with a little cabin noise, and works well with the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Santa Cruz delivers a relatively soft ride, even with the largest wheel option. Sharp steering gives it car-like poise — unlike your typical pickup. On road trips between Orlando and Hernando, Florida, and here to Portland and back, the Santa Cruz was a surprisingly comfortable highway cruiser, handling well and delivering unexpected fuel economy. With optional adaptive cruise control, the Santa Cruz can be a comfortable highway cruiser, although we’re not really fans of that particular option on any vehicle. With standard all-wheel drive, the turbocharged Santa Cruz can tow a robust 5,000-pound load with an optional hitch. A load-leveling rear suspension that automatically adjusts to accommodate bigger loads is included.
Bottom Line: The Santa Cruz is fun to drive, is comfortable on the highway and offers pickup-like utility. The best warranty available, car-like driving dynamics, impressive technology and optional turbocharged power make the Hyundai Santa Cruz a very worthy choice for a myriad of uses — and buyers.