The Right Spec: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
the right spec 2022 hyundai santa cruz

One of the last things your author thought he’d be writing were the words “Hyundai pickup truck” as they relate to a real-world vehicle one can buy right off the showroom floor. Until this year, the only relationship we’ve had with such a vehicle is after a knackered old Elantra caught the business end of a Sawzall.

But build it they have, with Tim handing down his verdict after a First Drive earlier this month. As per usual on such events, all the testers were a top-rung model with the most expensive powertrain. But is that the way to go if you’re seeking a unibody trucklet for work and play?

Entry-level SE and SEL trims are equipped with a 2.5L inline-four making a perfectly reasonable 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. It’s a front-wheel-drive affair at this end of the pool, though Hyundai’s build-n-price tool maintains that power to all four wheels is optional with this engine for a $1,500 sum. An eight-speed automatic handles shifting duties. As equipped, the Santa Cruz is good for 3,500 pounds of towing prowess, more than enough to take care of a trailer-drawn side-by-side or even one of those hard-sided hybrid campers.

These stats make the base SE an appealing proposition at $23,990. While there are plenty of insecure types who’ll bleat this isn’t a ‘real truck’, the reality remains that this is more than enough truck for most people. As such, we need to cast a critical eye over any practical cargo features – or lack thereof – before passing judgment on a particular trim. The SE does include a remote-release tailgate and a lockable storage compartment underneath its sheet molded composite bed but does without handy tools like LED bed lighting and utility cleat system. The factory tonneau cover, a dandy idea, isn’t even an option at this level.

There are a couple of omissions inside the SE cabin, indicating Hyundai was aggressively building this thing to a price in order to hook buyers with a tempting price tag. Heated seats and steering wheel are absent and though its infotainment screen is the same size as the SEL’s unit, it fails to include satellite radio capability. At least Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless across the board. And before you complain, we know that’s a Limited trim in the hero image; shots of an SE or SEL are hard to come by even on the BnP tool. If you seek real-world pics of this trim, check out these links.

If you’re splashing out for the SEL, it’s worth looking at the $3,270 Activity Package, an annoyingly named group that includes the bed accessories mentioned above and an extremely useful sliding rear window. There’s also a handy power inverter in the bed. Again, this isn’t the cheapest route to Santa Cruz ownership but it does keep the price around 30 grand while including several practical features most pickup truck owners find useful. The jazzy 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster is included, as well.

Yes, there are fundamental problems with this type of machine (how do you access the covered storage if you’ve got a bed full of mulch?) but it’s a decently sized pickup that will satisfy the real-world demands of a wide swath of Americans.

Please note the prices listed here are in American bucks and are currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less, obscene market conditions notwithstanding. Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.

[Images: Hyundai]

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  • Steverock Steverock on Aug 25, 2021

    I live in one of the neighborhoods next to Hyundai’s HQ in Orange County and I’ve seen a few of you these driving around. They are a little unusual looking but I think they have a chance to be successful. I think the Maverick will do better but these things fill a niche.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 26, 2021

    @Arthur Dailey--In July I ordered an XLT Maverick with the hybrid. I did not order the heated seats or the blind spot monitoring because it added a package that I did not want or need. The XLT trim is the sweet spot for the Maverick offering more than the base for a little more. The Lariat trim gets a little pricey and for the money a midsize truck would be a better choice. The Lariat offers a two toned brown and black vegan leather (faux leather) seats. The gray and navy trimmed seats on the XLT is a better value. I did spring for the sprayed in bed liner and the full size spare otherwise no spare is offered.

    • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Aug 26, 2021

      @JeffS: Thanks. Unfortunately I have been told that heated seats and blind spot monitoring are non-negotiable items. They are 'must haves'. The other must haves being A/C a 'slush box', room in the back seat for an infant seat, and enough headroom to latch/unlatch the infant seat and move it comfortably. I need room for my golf bag/clubs. Other than that, constrained only by price, it doesn't matter what I park in the driveway/acquire as a vehicle. Performance, handling, colour, appearance, make, upholstery type, are not within the limits that I have to work under.

  • Tassos Before you rush to buy this heap of rusty metal, maybe you should wait a day or two.I hear Tim will have an Model T next time.
  • Redapple2 I d just buy one already sorted. Too many high level skills (wiring, paint, body panel fitment et. al.) that i dont have. And I dont fancy working 100 s of hours for $3 /hour.
  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)