Most automotive related commercials on football Sundays are usually screaming advertisements for the biggest, baddest, and most over-the-top pickup trucks. Typically, and suspiciously, somehow every truck no matter which company the commercial is about, has a pickup truck that has either the most towing or payload capacity in its class. Those claims are usually followed by half a screen of fine print explaining that those claims are for a specific truck, with specific options, at a specific time… you get the idea. But, aside from those crazy trucks, many people forget that there is an entire sect of the population that wants the practicality of a pickup truck, but with a more car-like civility. Those people are in luck, because the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz was built exactly for them.
Although technically it is competing with other mid-sized pickup trucks like the Jeep Gladiator and Toyota Tacoma, the Santa Cruz offers many of the same features, but in a much different package. From the outside, the Santa Cruz looks like the evolved little brother to the first generation Honda Ridgeline, with a friendly and aesthetically appealing front end, a sweeping profile that incorporates four human-sized doors, and a cargo box that is big enough to be useful, while the rear end has unique wraparound tail lights, and a huge “Santa Cruz” stamped into the rear tailgate.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is available in five different trim levels: SE, SEL, Night, SEL Premium, and Limited. In the lower trims, the base drivetrain starts with a 2.5-liter inline-four cylinder engine that makes a modest 191-horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. That power is then routed through an 8-speed automatic that sends power to the front wheels (all-wheel drive is a $1,500 up-charge). However, if you’d like your 4,132 pound Santa Cruz to feel quite a bit lighter on its feet, then upgrading to the turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter inline-four that makes a much more impressive 281-horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. From there, you are treated to an upgraded dual-clutch 8-speed automatic and then power is sent to all four wheels where Michelin Primacy 245/50R-20 tires wait housing 12.8-inch vented disc brakes on both the front and rear. Of course, anyone that owns a Santa Cruz will undoubtedly haul cargo of some sort, so while towing and payload capacity aren’t the primary attractions, they still matter. Hyundai has given their crossover pickup a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds if you have the upgraded turbo motor, otherwise you are limited to just 3,500 pounds for the naturally-aspirated version.
Inside, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has a futuristic-looking, completely digital display with a unique rectangular dashboard, as well as an 8.0-inch or optional 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment center. The SC has wireless charging and is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is also an optional 8-speaker Bose stereo and with Hyundai’s Blue Link service that allows owners to remote start, lock, unlock and a litany of other things from their phone, the Santa Cruz has a lot to offer. The cargo bed offers an in-bed trunk as well as a lockable tonneau cover.
At the low-end of the spectrum, the base SE comes in with a base price of $26,745, while the top-of-the-line Limited checks in fifteen grand higher at $41,615. Within those two extremes the other three trims fill in the gaps, offering varying packages and a-la-carte options to make sure everyone can have what they want. That something-for-everyone philosophy is exactly the point of the Santa Cruz. While so many others will be happy with the crazy, “I can tow an airplane with my truck” mob, those that choose the Santa Cruz are going to be happy with a versatile, mid-sized pickup truck that offers a car-like ride, and a much more civilized attitude.