The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a gorgeous and welcome new addition to the world of trucks. It’s a less expensive alternative to the bloat of a full-sizer and, with the right engine, can tow up to 5,000 pounds and there you go. You two will get along as long as you remember you are not a Ram or F-250 or any of the mud-chomping brutes of yore despite the “Sport Adventure Vehicle” moniker given to it by Hyundai.
You’ll do Home Depot, but probably not for drywall. You’ll be able to navigate snow or rough terrain ok, but not with Brontosaurian authority.
The first big plus is the low base price. The Santa Cruz’s base model is the front-wheel-drive (FWD) SE, starting at $23,990. Their top FWD model, the SEL Activity, starts at $30,460. The only truck of this type that’s less expensive is Ford’s Maverick, starting at around 20K.
The Santa Cruz’ unit-body construction, based on the week I pushed the vehicle over roads and highways in 100% pleasant weather, gives it a decently grounded-feeling ride, and highway imperfections didn’t cause too much rattling. Acceleration, from a dead stop, wasn’t instantaneous despite my turbocharger and I found myself mumbling “any time you’re ready.” At speed, on the highway, we fared better when passing or needing a burst of speed.
And speaking of engines –
The 2022 Santa Cruz comes available with two engines and that’s it. Your base engine is a 191-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, producing 181 lb-ft of torque. Towing capacity with the base engine is 3,500 pounds, so forget any 5,000 unless you move up in engines as with the turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. That engine uses an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. With the optional engine, towing capacity goes up to 5,000 pounds. The turbocharged 2.5-liter is available only with all-wheel drive (AWD).
What I especially liked:
*Its bed isn’t particularly large, but it’s practically designed. There’s underfloor storage, a few tie-downs and “cleats” and a retractable locking tonneau cover. Access is easy even if you’re not especially agile, via integrated bumper steps.
*It’s base on a wider, longer version of the Tuscon platform, and the Tuscon has always been a solid, well-reviewed ride, the most popular Hyundai in the company’s lineup.
*Maintenance is complimentary for 36,000 miles, or three years, and the drive train warranty is 20 months or 100,000 miles. That’s pretty generous.
*You can get it with full-time AWD, which will increase the truckiness and make an easier job of snow and ice. The SE, SEL, and SEL Activity versions are also available with all-wheel drive.
*It comes with a 10.25-inch screen, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity come standard. My Droid synced in seconds. That’s not always the case.
*Party on, Wayne! The underfloor storage comes with a drain plug, making it double as a cooler when at a picnic or tailgate party.
*A 115-volt outlet and a factory-installed tonneau cover are options on th SE trim, and come standard on higher trim levels. Leather heated and ventilated front seats, a power driver’s seat lumbar support, and 2nd-row USB ports are also yours for some more coin.
What I didn’t like:
*Mileage is average at around 27 miles per gallon city/highway. But that’s better than a lot of big boy trucks.
*Neither blind-spot monitoring nor rear cross-traffic alerts are standard, and you really need those on a truck.
*Don’t expect a truck experience behind the wheel, at all. The cockpit is sedan-like, so much so that you can forget what you’re actually driving. One doesn’t feel that delicious, unstoppable might that makes trucks so satisfying. Thus the “Centaur of the Year” title of this article.
Beefs were small and pluses wee many, though. Other standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillamps and cargo area lighting, rear bumper side steps, rear privacy glass, body-color side mirrors, a locking tailgate, lockable in-bed storage, and 60/40 flip-up rear-seat cushions. The cloth seats come with a 6-way power adjustment. ‘
A power sunroof, roof side rails, and a dark chrome accent grille and tailgate handle are available on the smarter trims. You can also augment the list of SmartSense safety features with the addition of Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance, Safe Exit Assist, Blind-Spot View Monitor, a Surround View Monitor, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist.