By on August 13, 2021

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Our own Tim Healey recently found himself behind the wheel of Hyundai’s new trucklet, where he proclaimed it to be an all-around performer while tooling around the tony environs of Palo Alto. Whether he stopped into Tesla HQ for Elon’s take wasn’t mentioned and doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the Santa Cruz starting price, anchored at the end of a swimming pool that’s usually filled with commuter cars and small hatchbacks. Its sticker does climb to nearly 40 grand when all the option boxes are checked, however, leaving us with the question of finding the right balance of price and features

And, yes – before you get your delicate noses out of joint, we know that’s an image of a top-rung Limited at the head of this post. It’s all we have. Nevertheless, we can use it to pass judgment on the Santa Cruz styling choices, which are very similar to the expressive new Tucson with its gonzo front lighting signatures. At least it looks like nothing else on the road, a feat for which Hyundai stylists should be applauded.

Base SE models are equipped with the 2.5L four-banger making just shy of 200 horses and 181 lb-ft of torque. This permits the thing to haul 3,500 lbs of trailer, an important metric to know when buying a vehicle with a bed. This number is the same for all Santa Cruz models, save for turbo all-wheel-drive models packing a heavy-duty transmission cooler, which bumps capacity to 5,000 pounds.

Hyundai made a name for itself by including standard equipment that would often be optional on competitive vehicles. This time around, Hyundai has laid out a similar spread but there are some notable feature deletions on the base SE which makes the case that the brand was definitely working towards that attractive $23,990 sticker.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Making the $3,200 walk to an SEL trim certainly isn’t chump change but a study of the spec sheet seems to suggest it might be the right move. Niceties like heated seats and side mirrors, satellite radio, and push-button start might seem like frivolities until you’ve got a cold rear end, a hankering for Prime Country, and don’t wish to dig for your keys. Stepping up to the SEL also opens the option sheet to fit Santa Cruz with useful truck features such as a sliding rear window and a factory-installed integrated tonneau cover. Blind-spot avoidance and rear cross-traffic alerts are also handy.

Such largesse will keep your note under $30,000 while providing buyers with a vehicle that has truck-like attributes yet won’t crowd the limits of every single drive-thru attempted while in search of early morning coffee. It’d seem that, in this case, venturing beyond the base model turns up The Right Spec.

Please note the prices listed here are in United States dollars and 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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53 Comments on “The Right Spec: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz...”


  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    Seems a little premature to do a Right Spec feature when the full configurator isn’t available yet… or is it?

    That said, whichever trim gets me the turbo motor for the lowest price is the Right Spec for me.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      They don’t have a true build site but the trims and packages are defined. Your choices are SE, SEL, SEL w/Activity Package, SEL Premium or Limited. All of which can be had with or without AWD. Beyond that you have 6 exterior colors and 2 interior colors. The gray interior is limited to being combined with certain exterior colors only.

      • 0 avatar
        nrd515

        The color choices really blow. I don’t get it. Except for black and white, all the other 4 are just weak, dull, and drab. Even the worst manufacturers (color choice wise) have one or two decent colors, but not Hyundai. It’s not a deal killer for me, but they aren’t helping with these lousy weak colors.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “All of which can be had with or without AWD. Beyond that you have 6 exterior colors and 2 interior colors.”

        — While I will admit those colors aren’t bright, they are at least COLORS and not just grey, silver, black, white and steel. You actually have some green, some blue and some gold in those shades; better than Honda’s truck, by far, just for that reason.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      These are already at dealerships in all trims. Cars.com shows about 100 for sale at this point, and I imagine some have been sold already.

      I agree with the article – the SEL trim would be right for me, and maybe I’d spring for AWD for the first time in my life.

      Oh, and there are photos of the other trims available, if the author would have spent a moment to look. :)

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Weirdly I went to TrueCar and was able to spec a Santa Cruz with far more detail that you could on Hyundai’s website.

      Hyundai needs to get their heads out of their a$$es and get moving with that.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Hyundai has done a really poor job on the launch of this vehicle as far as information and ordering goes, especially when compared to everything Ford had ready for the Maverick.

  • avatar
    JMII

    The sweet spot is the SEL with Activity Package for sure, especially for those that are worried by turbos and like traditional slush boxes.

    “heavy-duty transmission cooler” huh? No such thing that I am aware of – can you provide a link to this information?

    Mine will be the full blown Limited AWD, likely as pictured in Blue Stone unless the Sage Gray (aka pea soup green) looks better in real life vs pictures. I need that turbo power. How will the DCT how up to towing duty? That is what the 100k warranty is for I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      A long, long, time ago, cars used to tow trailers. Without a transmission cooler, such towing could, and would, burn out those transmissions. Even then, there were basic coolers which was a relatively small radiator attached to the lower corner of the engine coolant radiator and then there were ‘heavy duty’ versions that occupied almost the whole back side of the engine radiator, offering significantly more cooling capacity. Today, you pretty much can’t get that transmission cooler on anything smaller than a pickup truck rated to 5,000# or more and guess what, with the turbo, the Santa Cruz is rated to… 5000#.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Hyundai needs to get better MPG out of it’s 2.5/8 speed automatic combination before I would be interested in buying one. Heck some competitors are getting better highway numbers with V6 engines, especially on the 2021/22 Sante Fe with this engine and AWD. I don’t see how it’s possible that the FWD version of this using the 2.5 gets worse MPG with FWD vs AWD. That can’t be possible.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The lack of a factory-installed trailer hitch(?) and 7-pin connector on the 5000lbs towing models is still a real kick in the teeth. I’d wait a model year or two to see if Hyundai rectifies that.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      You can get both from the factory. We have seen YT reviews with SC’s towing small loads like dirt bikes. I post here constantly with tons of SC info:
      https://www.santacruzforums.com/threads/the-official-santa-cruz-towing-thread.7729/page-2#post-165794

      Right now availability seems to be very limited in regards to the 7 pin. Only 1,784 SC have been built to date after like 6 weeks of production, so its still a touch early for all the goodies. For example fender flares are an option but so far nobody has seen any photos of them.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “You can get both from the factory.”

        Dealer installed accessories or factory installed options?
        The Maverick only has a 4000lbs rating but it’s $745 factory tow package seems superior to what Hyundai offers.

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          Dealer installed accessories or factory installed options.

          Both. I don’t fully understand the how, when or why behind the factory option, in general this appears to be mostly a dealer installed option.

          And yes in comparison the Maverick has a real tow package with extra cooling. The SC is just a hitch and wiring pig tail, nothing fancy, you could install it in your driveway.

    • 0 avatar

      Honda does this with the current Pilot. Previous gen had a factory installed tow package. Current model is dealer installed. For a full tow package the dealer, installs a trans cooler, brake controller rear hitch lower rear bumper and 7 pin harness.

      The Pilot makes this pretty easy, the hookup points for the cooler are capped with a loop of hose on the transmission, there are nuts welded into the frame for the hitch, and the wiring for the lights brake controller (including fuse positions) are all there. But it does annoy some on the Forums. I installed a 7 pin and hitch on mine in a couple hours but haven’t done the cooler yet but plan too.

  • avatar
    slow_poke

    I’m interested to see how this sells. What’s the size of the bed? I’ve got a Gen1Ridgleine and yeah its got a bed which is good for some things but i get frustrated by its 5’length many times.. i look at this thing and cant get those weird Subaru and explorer “pickups’ out of my mind. Surprised if this sales volume is larger than those…

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Bed is similar to the Maverick at around 52″ with the tail gate up. Its like a modern day Explorer Sport and thus I too predict slow sales. Its a combo between a CUV and a pickup. For me its perfect but I realize many will not deal with this half-something / half-something else.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        sounds perfect for businesses that need a small truck that gets 40mpg and has the same ford telematics suite they offer for their larger fleet vehicles. its pretty impressive they can keep tabs on all their vehicles status

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Depends on what you mean by “slow sales” – production capacity for the SC is slated to be around 40-45k (a lot less than the reported 150k for the Maverick).

        But think Hyundai will sell every one they make with the upmarket 2.5T being the one more in demand.

        Can see Hyundai expanding production down the line to add a hybrid powertrain (actually, would drop the base NA 2.5L and just go with the hybrid and 2.5T).

        Definitely for buyers who don’t want something as big as a Ridgeline, and don’t need a larger bed.

        Basically for compact or midsize CUV owners who want the added utility of a bed.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @JMII: “For me its perfect but I realize many will not deal with this half-something / half-something else.”

        — Had this been available three years ago, I would probably have it instead of the Colorado I now drive. I never wanted a truck this big but it was the best available at the time. It’s usable but much more than I wanted or needed.

        And yes, old Road Whale™ is back.

  • avatar
    numike

    that is one damn ugly vehicle
    But than again thats what they said of the Pontiac Aztec
    Nah this vehicle is ugly

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      by today’s standards it fits right in

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Otoh, the Maverick looks incredibly dorky.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The Mav looks like a kid with Legos cobbled something together. At least Hyundai did something interesting here. Personally I love the SC’s sleek style vs just another blocky truck shape. To me the Mav is trying to look like a truck despite being a CUV with a bed. In this way the SC is the more honest design.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          I actually prefer the Maverick, but then again, the only truck I’d buy would be a basic two door one that’s about 20 years old. I’m not the target market. YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @numike: “that is one damn ugly vehicle”

      — What, and the Ford F-series isn’t ugly? The Chevy and GMC S-series aren’t ugly? Yeesh! I’d much rather have this than either of those on appearances alone! It’s not trying to pretend to be something it’s not.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    right spec, wrong car?

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Again, the Santa Cruz is starting $10k higher than the Maverick in Canada.
    The announced Canadian starting price for the Santa Cruz is $38,499!!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Canada doesn’t get the NA engine SC. All are turbos with AWD. Thus Canada’s base model is the SEL Premium in the US that starts at $35k. I believe the money rate conversion makes the Canadian models a little cheaper then their US counter parts.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      that’s just wow! Is AWD standard over there or why the price disparity?

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    The Ace of Baja.

  • avatar
    Mackie

    Sales will be brisk at first and then will drop when everyone who wants one will have one—like the FIAT 500 and other trendy urban vehicles.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The front end is ok, but the back is too Baja-like. The Maverick looks much better to my eye.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I like the basic look of it, but some of the details need to be addressed. WTF is with the “tabs”at the top of the wheel arches? The wheels in the pics are, well, awful. And the “blowing cheeks” in front are a mistake. Add the terrible color choices, and it’s a pass.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      WTF is with the “tabs”at the top of the wheel arches?

      GoPro camera mounts.

      The factory wheels are kind of meh and the color choices are all pale, muted shades. I get what they were going for but its dull and boring for the most part.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        From Hyundai:

        “These are part of our new ‘Hyundai Automated New Drive – Joint Offroad Baja” (HAND-JOB) system, which enhances off-road capability by 200% every time the owner pulls into the drive-through at Starbucks.”

        I’d say that pretty much sums it up.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I wonder if I have to step up to the “Limited” trim to get that option?

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Word is, it’s $70 for HAND-JOB and $150 for the upgraded “Basic Low Overland Wasteland-Joint Offroad Baja” package.

            BTW…found this one for my kid this weekend. High miles but appears to be impeccably maintained.

            She might be coming back to The Church.
            https://tinyurl.com/xypm98aw

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Not a bad find, make sure you check all the fluids. That’s the base model so it should not have a broken 4T65-HD as opposed to an L67.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Hyundai missed the mark on this vehicle by not offering a less expensive compact truck that is more affordable to the masses and fleets. Hyundai needs to offer a more base model and price it the same or less than the Maverick and still offer the existing more premium trims. The Maverick will get more sales than the Santa Cruz.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Think they’ll be fine (they’re going for more of an upmarket buyer than Ford is with the Maverick), esp. since production capacity for the SC is reportedly 1/3rd that of the Maverick.

      In fact, think that Hyundai should have just gone with the hybrid (taken from the Tucson) and the 2.5T, instead of the base NA 2.5L which is barely adequate for the smaller Tucson.

      Sure, that would mean a higher price of entry but buyers want efficiency (the Tucson hybrid is one of the fastest selling models) and power, if not both.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        Hyundai clearly went upmarket for the SC vs what Ford did with the Maverick. Just compare the two interiors. Marketing fluff indicates the SC is aimed at CUV buyers that want the versatility of an open bed vs pickup buyers wishes for a compact, cheap, bare bones truck like the mini-trucks I knew in the 80s. I believe most of the sticker shock related to the SC comes down to this misunderstanding.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Jeff S: I don’t think they can pull the price much below that $23K range for the base model, all things considered. Going below that puts you into mini-compact territory like the Fiat 500 and the Cooper Mini (by BMW).

  • avatar
    Irvingklaws

    Still wanting for the option (for this and Maverick) to NOT haul around a set of back seats I would rarely use in favor of more useful bed space and perhaps a modicum of useful storage behind the front seats. That might make both of these updated Explorer SportTracs less expensive and stylistically more palatable. ‘Fugly’ becomes a ‘hmmm ,maybe…’ when i imagine a regular cab version of either. But know i’m in a minority as evidenced by lack of such a choice not only here but in most PU trucks these days.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would have rather not have had rear seats and instead just more bed but it is impossible to find no rear seat in most midsize and compact trucks. Being a hybrid and the price were determining factors in my deciding to go ahead and order the Maverick. The Maverick might be the last new vehicle I ever buy and it will be my retirement vehicle. The lack of a hybrid, higher price, and 6 inch shorter bed were the main reasons I didn’t even look at the Santa Cruz. Also mainly black interiors in the Santa Cruz with limited exterior color choice with a gray interior. I like the interior on the XLT Maverick with gray trimmed in blue. The 40 mpgs made this a no brainer even if the hybrid doesn’t come with AWD. Who knows how much gasoline will go up in the next few years and I really don’t need that much of a bed so long as I have a bed.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    “Niceties like heated seats and side mirrors, satellite radio, and push-button start might seem like frivolities ”

    If you live in a warm climate as 50% of America does these things are “frivolities”.

    Driver asistance, if you cant concentrate enough to drive maybe you shouldnt.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Can’t speak to this beast yet, as I haven’t seen one. However, it appears to be a step in the right direction. I’ll have to see one for myself before I make any definitive statement.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I haven’t seen a Maverick or Santa Cruz in person yet as well. Putting my faith in that the Maverick will work for me and yes I would have rather had an extended cab version with a little longer bed but I doubt that will ever be offered especially since both these trucks are unibody and the market seems to be for crew cabs. I drove a fleet C-Max for a few years and liked the hybrid a lot. Realize the Maverick and the C-Max are different but Ford does have some experience with hybrids with the Fusion and the Escape. I will not be towing anything nor will I be hauling heavy loads like I have in the past so the Maverick is all I will need. In the past I have for the most part favored GMs but the Maverick comes the closest to what I need and want and the midsize trucks have grown physically and price wise. Ford is going to sell lots of Mavericks and there will likely be many more Mavericks sold than Santa Cruz especially at the price and offering a standard hybrid.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m interested in both the Maverick and the Santa Cruz but Ford’s major advantage is that they’re offering both engines at any trim level. Hyundai’s price of entry for the turbo/AWD is too steep for me. I’d probably be happy with an SEL (no premium) with 2.5T and AWD.

    $35K entry fee for 2.5T and AWD is too dear for me when I can get a Maverick XLT 2.0T/AWD with XLT Luxury Package and towing for about $32K.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Ford has a build your Maverick on its website where Hyundai does not have as good a website and I could not find where you could build a Santa Cruz on Hyundai’s website just reserve one. Since my wife has a 2013 Honda CRV with AWD I don’t really need AWD and the hybrid will give 40 mpgs without a turbocharged motor. The XLT has a nice gray and navy interior which is what I ordered. The price and the features on the Maverick make it a better choice for me.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Lots of complaints on Jalopnik about the tester only getting 22mpg with the 2.5T. I’d be interested in long term testing on this. I’d think in city 23-24 unloaded should be about right, where highway would be about 28 or 29

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