2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz: A Pickup Built Like a Crossover
THE MOMENT I laid eyes on the Hyundai Santa Cruz, I thought, Brah, that’s so much money.
Let me translate from my native hipster. I was struck by the obvious accuracy of this one. As far as real-world use goes, this affordable four-door, five-seat would serve Millennial truck buyers so much better than the chrome pituitary boxes that currently dominate the market. Closer to their needs, more on the money, is not it?
The timing also seems good. The average transaction price for new vehicle purchases in the United States reached $45,031 in September, according to Kelley Blue Book. The tangy-styled, feature-rich Santa Cruz starts at $23,990 (SE trim level); our fully loaded Limited – with a 2.5-litre 281hp turbo engine, all-wheel drive, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, loads of driver assistance, communication and connectivity features – was still lower than the national average.
“The small dimensions of Santa Cruz are thematic with its role as a vehicle that can go from city streets to wooded trails.”
But what is it? You might be tempted to call it a pickup, except the Santa Cruz is built like a crossover, using unibody construction, not body-on-frame. It’s almost an SUV, except that the all-wheel-drive system (HTRAC) doesn’t have a low gear. However, Santa Cruz has lockable SUV-style storage for large, wet gear, thanks to the sturdy cargo barrel, the sliding lid that locks into the tailgate. It works a treat.
For this new liminal being, Hyundai comes up with the phrase “Sport Adventure Vehicle” and claims that the Santa Cruz represents an “entirely new class of vehicle” – which will shock the Honda Ridgeline. In any case, the essential is the integrated barrel. Right here “[o]the flexibility of the pen bed coupled with the safety of the enclosed cab meets the changing daily needs of its adventure-oriented buyers,” said Hyundai Motor North America President and CEO José Muñoz, the old smoothie.
That being the case, I was surprised that the tonneau wasn’t standard on all trim levels. I understand that some customers might not want this; I just don’t understand these customers. Dude, don’t you remember when those filthy bags stole your crossbow?
One thing that Santa Cruz isn’t is midsize. With an overall length of 195.7 inches, it’s an entire shoe size smaller than the Honda Ridgeline (210.2) or the Chevy Colorado with the short cargo box (212.7). The Santa Cruz is also about a fist narrower and lower at roof level than the midsize competition. The dimensions are thematic with its role as an urban weekender, a vehicle that can go from narrow city streets to hopefully, weather permitting, tight wooded trails.
It also doesn’t trade in the rustications of the pickup style in general. The slightly polygonal exterior doesn’t try to evoke tooling or an angry toolbox, in the case of the Jeep Gladiator. In fact, with its thick composite body skin, capped nose, smooth-back windshield, sloping backlight and open bed, the Santa Cruz looks like a Claes Oldenburg racing shoe. Probably just a coincidence.
Where other lifestyle vehicles seem content to sing around the campfire, the Santa Cruz wants to go clubbing. This grille is sure to be ready to party. Eight daytime running lights are integrated into the grille opening, showcasing a “parametric jewel design with high-tech precision detailing”. Day-Glo binky not included.
The Santa Cruz definitely lives smaller than a nominal mid-size pickup, for better and for worse. The pickup has a curb-to-curb turning radius of 20 feet, according to Hyundai. But the rear cargo area is only 48.4 inches deep with the tailgate closed, with a maximum capacity of 27 cubic feet, compared to the Colorado’s 41.3 cubic feet.
Is it a sacrifice? Twenty-seven cubic feet happens to be one cubic yard, as in garden compost. Unload one and come back to me.
My wife and I had to take an old dishwasher to the dump. No problem, comrade. The cargo bed walls have exceptionally sturdy attachments on sliding rails (SEL trim and above). The rear bumper has step insets in the corners. Users close the barrel using the webbed nylon strap, like those on wetsuit zippers.
The Santa Cruz is offered with one of two gasoline engines, a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter (191 hp/181 lb-ft) and a turbocharged 2.5-liter (281/311). Our Limited trim tester was equipped with the latter and paddle shifters in manual mode.
The resulting powertrain was just okay, really. In crowded, stop-and-go-hell traffic, the Hyundai was often slow to wake up and hate to move. The powertrain is quite noisy, too, from the driver’s seat at low speeds and high revs. But if you give it a good kick, the Santa Cruz can muster a dash of 8 seconds at 60 mph, or thereabouts, depending.
The craziest part of the Santa Cruz is beyond the door sills. For the money, the cabin decor, tech content, and materials are top-notch. But the premium sedan’s vibe is a significant departure from expectations, even a mood swing. Have I made reservations at this supper club? A cascade of gloss black fascias cascade over the dash and around the large glass touchscreens. A strip of polished trim wraps around the cabin, paneling that conceals the air vents as it runs across the middle of the dash. Gabardine-like dashboard and door accents, thin pica metal accents. Chef’s kiss.
Do not try to wash it with a hose.
For millennial shoppers, the value might just lie in the electronics. The Limited model gets all the driver-assist candy, including forward collision-avoidance assist, with pedestrian, cyclist and curve detection.
In addition to Bluetooth-enabled Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Santa Cruz comes with a three-year subscription to its Bluelink Connected Car plan, phone-as-a-gateway technology with features like remote start with air conditioning, remote door locking/unlocking. , and others.
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited
Base price: $39,720
Price, as tested: $41,100 (including $1,185 destination)
Powertrain : 2.5-litre DOHC turbocharged inline-four; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; on-demand multi-mode all-wheel drive
Power/torque: 281 hp @ 5800 rpm / 311 lb-ft @ 1700-4000 rpm
Length/width/height/wheelbase: 195.7/75.0/66.7/118.3 inch
Unloaded weight : 4,123 pounds
0-60mph: 8 seconds (estimated)
EPA Estimated Fuel Economy: 19/27/22 mpg, city/highway/combined
Payload: 1,609 pounds max
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Loading capacity: 27 cubic feet
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