The Right Spec: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
the right spec 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.

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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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 16, 2021

    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.

  • Daniel J Daniel J on Aug 16, 2021

    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

    • JMII JMII on Aug 16, 2021

      MPG sounds about right, its rated at 22 mixed @ 19 city & 27 highway.

  • Arthur Dailey What the heck is an 'influencer'?And who would buy or do something because somebody on a social media site told them to or recommended/flogged something?Maybe I am just too old and cynical to understand those who actually are 'influenced'? But then I also never trusted or was 'influenced' by celebrity endorsements or product placements.However I did know and coach a teenager who became extremely wealthy because he set up a Youtube channel where people paid to watch him and his friends play video games.
  • Dukeisduke $8,000 for this rustbucket? It's a '73, not a '74 ("Registered and titled as a 1973…it looks like a ‘74 to me"), and anyway, mid to late '60s Alfa Berlinas are much more desirable.Even if you kept it in a garage and didn't drive it in the rain, it wouldn't stop rusting, it might just progress more slowly. This looks more like a parts car than something you'd drive. It needs rear main seals all over the car, so that oil leaks can slow down the rust, like all the oil on the underbody.
  • Analoggrotto Only the truly influential , affluent, educated and elite drive TESLAs. This is a fake influencer.
  • Analoggrotto Looking forward to the comments.
  • Dukeisduke Where the hell did he get the money for all those? Likes on YouTube?