By on August 25, 2021

2022-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.

Santa Cruz

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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44 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    “even one of those hard-sided hybrid campers.”

    Have fun with that.

    Santa Cruz SEL Premium AWD in Blue Stone
    +”Bed Fence” (nice naming Hyundai).
    + tailgate cover
    + Tow hitch (which should be factory instead of dealer installed, but I’ve already complained about that enough)

    Total price: $36,720. Which IMO is acceptable in the world of 2021.

    • 0 avatar
      Flipper35

      I agree as the factory installed towing packages are more than just a receiver and wiring harness.

      Even a minivan has sway control, HD cooling, transmission cooler etc.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    “the reality remains that this is more than enough truck for most people”

    I love the complete confidence with which this evidence-less statement is uttered in every article having to do with this or the Maverick (and the Ridgeline before that).

    Is there some obligation for auto writers to imply (subtly or otherwise) that people are wasting their money on larger trucks? I’ve never in my life seen a review of a large sedan argue that most people could get by with a compact.

    • 0 avatar

      Never quite got that either, don’t see many arguing to get the car with the less powerful engine?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        This is a good point. Anyone buying an E63S or Cayman could almost certainly handle their “needs” with a Corolla or Camry hybrid.

        I think a part of it is because truck owners don’t like to admit they bought their Tremor (or whatever) because they actually like it. They always try to bring in some justification as if they made the purchase under slight duress. When I say “I bought a C43 Coupe because it gets my d*ck hard” there isn’t much of a follow up.

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          I have zero problem admitting I bought my F350 because I like driving it, and while I think it was the best tool available for the “trucky” needs that I have, I could have managed with a smaller one.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      And along those lines: “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. ”

      …you mean like Hyundai since they corrected every journo who called it a truck at the release event I saw on youtube and called it a ‘sport activity vehicle’.

      I like the vehicle, feels unnecessary to editorialize about peoples level of security based on whether they feel this meets their needs or not. If Hyundai doesn’t feel like it should be called a ‘real truck’, then I guess I won’t call it that either.

    • 0 avatar
      Rick T.

      Well we live in an age where experts are telling us what we do and don’t need as well as what we can and can’t do. Why should this be any different?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      written with a grin on my face. Truck owners love having a big stonking engine, RWD or 4WD, and Joe Diffie song to boot! No one wants, needs, or appreciates an internet scold, “the reality remains that this is more than enough truck for most people”. Unless the author is buying one for me. Yeah, I bought my kids cars while they where in school and shared the same address. I also had some simple rules: going to school is your job, no drugs, no tats, no babies. As far as what someone buys, ain’t none of my business.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I don’t know about Joe Diffie…it’s hard to find a truck nowadays with that “8 foot bed that never has to be made”.

        I think I saw recently that he’d died of Covid.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      It’s a crazy statement. Yes most could step down a class, even if their jobs occasionally exceed their current class. Although smaller doesn’t always make sense, even if you don’t hate it.
      Still if you knew what you were looking at, you’d cringe at all the pickups loaded or towing very close their limit.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Think the “most people” part of that statement applies to the majority of people who don’t own a truck or need the capabilities/bed size of a BoF pickup.

      It basically applies to those CUV and sedan owners who wouldn’t mind having a bed to carry their bikes, camping gear, make runs to the home improvement store, transport smaller pieces of furniture, etc.

  • avatar

    Still wish you could get the turbo in a lower trim. With a turbo at 30K this would be much more appealing to me.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I still like the Maverick better

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      Me too. The Maverick seems to be doing a better job differentiating itself with it’s just different enough interior.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I like the Santa Cruz more but Ford is handling the Maverick’s market position and options much better.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Without a doubt Hyundai has flubed the launch of the SC, where as Ford hit a home run in terms of marketing. About the only misstep on the Mav is no hybrid AWD.

        I wouldn’t buy a Mav based on its Lego interior alone. In find it completely uninspired. Its about as generic of a truck design as possible. The SC looks different because it is.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          What marketing has Ford done better aside from offering the Maverick at a low, low price? (Part being that the Maverick is built in Mexico and part being that Ford is offering a poverty spec – steel wheels, no cruise control, etc.).

          Hyundai is going with a more upmarket buyer with the SC.

          Now, what they should have done is offer a hybrid at the start (probably should just ditch the base 2.5L engine).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Why have we had two articles on the same topic in two weeks’ time, and by the same author?

    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2021/08/the-right-spec-2022-hyundai-santa-cruz/

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    From a review posted yesterday in the newspaper operated by TTAC’s parent company: “While customers south of the border in America can select a Santa Cruz with a naturally aspirated engine and front-wheel drive, Hyundai has chosen to bring only turbocharged all-wheel drive variants to our dealerships. This puts the trucklet in a much higher price bracket ($38,499 Cdn to start) than in the U.S.”

    Personally I cannot rationalize paying that for a ‘trucklet’ when you can purchase a full size Ram 1500 Classic ‘night edition appearance package’ for $38,000 Cdn.

    Canadians are generally more frugal then their southern neighbours when purchasing vehicles. More hatches, more base models, more manuals, more ‘Quebec specials’ without A/C etc. Therefore you would think that the ‘stripped’ version of the Santa Cruz would be more popular in Canada.

    Personally we are looking at a Maverick for the spring/summer of 2022. FWD, hybrid powertrain. The only ‘options’ required being heated front seats and blind spot monitoring/warning. Meaning one step up from the base model. That will be more than enough for going to the home improvement store/garden centre, garage sales, Ikea etc. Which is primarily what these types of vehicles will probably be used for.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Fully loaded is ~40K. We paid 37K a year ago for an almost loaded CX5. I have no problem paying a few grand more for a fully loaded Santa Cruz.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Why when you can purchase a vehicle that is either a) more prestigious, or b) more capable for the same or less?

        Reminds me of how those in the auto sector viewed people who purchased fully loaded Chevs, Plymouths, etc when they could get a version of a more ‘upmarket’ marque with more ‘standard’ features and a better resale for the same price or less.

        The Maverick starts at about $10k less in Canada than the Santa Cruz.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Eh, there are buyers who have ZERO interest in a traditional pickup.

      Too big, not the greatest handling/ride, poor fuel economy, etc.

      The SC is for CUV owners who want an open bed.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “The SC is for CUV owners who want an open bed.”

        Hyundai gave it 281hp, a 5,000lb tow rating, and a decent payload capacity. If their target group was Rav4 or Equinox owners that wanted to haul petunias and inflatable pool toys then I think they overshot that and ended up building something much closer to a truck.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Never said that Hyundai wasn’t going to give the SC “pick-up cabilities” (or at least some of it).

          But there are people who want the ride, handling, amenities and fuel economy of a CUV (what they are used to) and not of a BoF pickup.

          And chances are, we’re talking more Palisade, Telluride, Highlander, Santa Fe, etc. owners as opposed to compact CUV drivers (tho, will be some of them as well).

          Despite being a “compact pick-up,” the SC is only 0.4″ shorter than the Palisade and its WB is 4.1″ longer (the longer WB helps tow rating – which is the same 5k lbs as for the Palisade).

          Despite being a small trucklet, it’s on the large side when it comes to CUVs, larger than what many compact CUV owners want or can fit in their garage.

          The YT channel Truck King tested the tow and off-road capabilities of the SC and gave it their seal of approval despite being proper truck guys.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            I would say the SC is for people that want a small-dimension truck and I anticipate the Colorado and Frontier are going to be cross shopped against it more often than the 3-row CUVs. Although the Ridgeline and Maverick will be the most direct competition.

            It’s more capable than any compact/mid-size 2-row CUV and I’d expect most Telluride and Highlander buyers are looking for minivan-adjacent family vehicles and would have a hard time giving up the extra interior dimensions. The SC is probably going to attract single people and childless couples in a way that a Palisade does not.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    This looks too much like a crossover and not enough like a truck. In the higher trims it is probably a better vehicle, functionally, than the Maverick (though the hybrid powertrain on the base Maverick is a bit of a trump card). But the Maverick is styled, and its trims organized, about 1000 times better. One of these companies has been marketing trucks for decades and the other hasn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      One of these companies doesn’t even market its vehicle as a truck.

      I see an identity problem here and perhaps a shift in marketing strategy in a couple years.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Neither are trucks. One just looks more truck-y. Both are just CUVs with small beds.

      Hyundai sells trims like Honda, while Ford sell options like other American car companies. Thus the mix-n-match limitations handicap the SC.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The SC is geared towards CUV owners who want an open bed and not traditional truck owners.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    No volume knob and more importantly $$$ sends me to Ford for a Maverick. Hybrid for under $23,5K MSRP.
    For me, low cost small truck or I’ll pay for full size. If I’m paying $40K for a small truck it would be Ridgeline or Tacoma.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The Quad? Yeah but it still had the regular Citation cradle and Chevette front suspension. It was a joke as a sporty car.
    The Mk1 MR2 was legit.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    ‘No Trucks in the Left Lane’ – if this does not apply to you, you don’t drive a truck. You may be driving a pick up… but you do not drive “a truck.”

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I just can’t see buying one of these instead of a Tacoma. Ok, I’m too lazy to break out the build your vehicle site for both of them and compare trims/prices. Unless a Tacoma can’t fit in your garage. Or you really don’t need 4wd and all the Toyota dealer will stock are 4wds. Ford stopped making the Ranger and tried to tell me get a Fiesta, or an Escape; they’re almost about the same. The Ford went on for months about the Bronco. At 1st we got the Bronco Sport which really is an original Escape with some chrome Broncos on it. Now Ford is coming out with the Maverick. Heated seats, heated steering wheel have an appeal to my aging bones. However, the Maverick is based on the Escape. I don’t see lift kits for Escapes being advertised. I’ve wandered; my morals are kinda low but not low enough to enter an H/K dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      “I just can’t see buying one of these instead of a Tacoma. Ok, I’m too lazy to break out the build your vehicle site for both…”
      Someone comparing those two wouldn’t be assisted by a build guide. It would involve whether you’d prefer something actually enjoyable to drive. The Santa Cruz would drive basically like a modern car/CUV. The Tacoma would drive like a slow-steering, stiff-riding, body-on-frame pickup truck. ‘Very different categories.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Tacoma drives/rides like a BoF pickup (and has the fuel economy to match), has a crappy outdated interior/tech and is larger than what prospective SC buyers want.

      The SC is for those people who are not traditional BoF pickup buyers.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Dear Mary Barra, please have your company build me a modern El Camino (using the third-gen for styling inspiration). The kids left [lucky them!] and I don’t need a back seat (but you would get bonus points for tool storage – perhaps in the frunk).

    After that, you can build me a cabover pickup, with a 97-inch-long bed at the height of the no-longer-needed rear axle. Because it’s electric. [Are you picking up what I’m laying down?]

  • avatar
    steverock

    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.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @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.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @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.

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