Susan Frissell, Editor,

A new vehicle for the Hyundai brand-along with many, the Santa Cruz is a different offering, and one that just may catch on. If you’ve always been on the edge of buying a truck, this smaller version of the ‘truck’ family might be the vehicle for you. We’ve certainly considered it.

It does seem as though the standard truck model keeps growing larger and larger, to almost monster proportions. Now, you may not be able to convince the die-hard truck buyer/driver, but it seems so to some of the public.

We were excited to try the Santa Cruz and after just one afternoon of driving, grew to really see its value. A great vehicle to drive-feels much like a sedan-the Santa Cruz is available in 4 trim levels: SE ($26,885), SEL 2.5 L, ($30,852) SEL Premium Turbo ($38,129) and LTD ($42,248). Our test car was the 2022 Santa Cruz Limited AWD, with a total price of $41,100.

Our test Santa Cruz came in handsome Ice White; the interior a two-tone dark gray with orange/dark gray trim. A friend who has owned several traditional trucks asked immediately what color the interior was. She assumed it was black, as, she added “all the truck interiors are black.” Although gray is close to black, the Hyundai’s choice of interiors was attractive and classy looking.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz offers a comfortable ride and agile handling, along with a powerful turbocharged engine option. Our test 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz “truck” was equipped with a Smartstream 2.5L Turbocharged 4-cylinder with GDI, MPI. A Gas engine it is paired with an 8-speed Wet Dual-Clutch Transmission with Shiftronic.

This is enough engine, we found, to carry the little over 3700 lbs or truck. The ride was quiet, smooth and helped out by adding 20-inch alloy wheels and tires. The spare is a temporary compact spare.

The interior trim and seating are upscale and feels roomy. Other than compromised legroom in back, this feels like a large car/truck. The big center touchscreen (option) and full digital instrument panel are placed well and do not feel obstructive. We found the touchscreen to be intuitive and mastered it quicker than some (saying a lot for this writer). The touch-sensitive pads take some getting used to and are better done when the car is idol.

To pair nicely with the Ice White exterior, the Santa Cruz has a premium finish dark chrome grille and a tailgate handle. Standard equipment includes power sunroof, roof side rails, LED bed lighting, adjustable C-Channel Clear Rail System, rear siding and glass with defroster, integrated tonneau cover, under bed and sidewall storage compartments, Rear Bumper corner steps and heated side mirrors with turn signal.

This all-new compact pickup from Hyundai has competition from Ford Maverick , and as buyers have learned to expect from Hyundai, a few extras not found on Ford’s offering. A couple of cool features include an underfloor cargo bed storage and bin and available retractable cargo bed cover.

The one place the Santa Cruz might be inferior is in overall towing. It does have lower overall towing, hauling and off-road capabilities than found in a traditional truck product. Max towing at 3,500 and 5,000 pounds still will satisfy many buyers with a trailer or small boat.

What the Santa Cruz possibly does best is mimic the comfort of a small SUV yet offers the utility of a pickup. I guess you would want to be able to have a truck bed handy for certain things, but we suspect young buyers won’t necessarily make that the reason they would opt for the Santa Cruz.

This writer was concerned about backing the Cruz into the street with several cars parked out front. Planning to turn it around and go out front first, I instead backed it out and it was quite simple. It handles somewhat like a smaller SUV.

The Santa Cruz offers a large package of safety technology such as forward collision-avoidance assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Drive Attention Warning, Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-traffic Collision Avoidance, Electronic Stability Control, ABS w/Electronic Brake, Downhill Braking control, Tons of air bags, Smart Cruise Control, Digital Key, etc.

The ride is more than comfortable with better manners than larger trucks, a turbocharged engine that is powerful, quiet and enough to tow 3700 lbs. and impressive technology features.
This new compact pickup may not be for everyone, but we see a large group of buyers-especially those who own one vehicle-opting for the Santa Cruz. The impressive assortment of technology will please the Millennial buyer, and those with a need for passengers will appreciate the backseat.

As with all vehicles there are a few cons: One being the limited visibility out the back windows, especially when backing up. This is where the optional 360-degree parking camera comes in.
The Santa Cruz is 10-15 inches shorter than most mid-size trucks and uses unibody construction. The Cruz shares a basic platform with the 2022 Tucson small crossover.

There was only one option on our test Santa Cruz: Carpeted floor mats ($195), and the MSRP was $39,720. It felt as though one was getting a lot for the price, which isn’t said often these days in car land.

Truck buyers do have choices in the last few years, including not only the standard full-size trucks, and midsize trucks. Now, with something like the compact trucks, Hyundai’s Santa Cruz and Ford’s Maverick, they can have the best of both worlds: ease of driving, room, a truck bed, better gas mileage, etc.


MSRP: $39,720; freight: $1,185; Total price: $41,100
Engine: Smartstreem 2.5L Turbocharged 4cyl, GDI, MPI, 281 hp
Transmission: 8-speed Wet Dual-Clutch w/SHIFTRONIC
Weight: 3,704 lbs.
Gall.Tank: 17.7
Seating: 5
Fuel EPA: 21/27 mpg.
Trim: SE
Length: 195.7 in.
Width: 75.0 in.
Height: 66.7 in.
Wheelbase: 118.3 in.
2022 model released April 15, 2021 in dealerships, summer 2021
Features: A/C, alloy wheels, AM/FM radio, auto headlights, bodyside/cab stepper running board, cargo area light, cruise control, driver lights, driver multi-adjustable power seats, electric steering.
Warranty: 5 yr./60,000 miles new vehicle; 10 yr./100,000-mile powertrain; 7 yr./unlimited anti-perforation; 3 yr./36,000-mile complimentary maintenance; 5 yr./Unlimited roadside assistance.