Don’t get it twisted: the new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a pickup truck. Its smaller proportions and unibody construction just mean it’s no full-size tow rig. Instead, think of the first Hyundai pickup as an alternative to the also-unibody Honda Ridgeline, which too features a one-size-fits-all crew cab, short-bed body style. The Santa Cruz certainly looks more distinct than the Honda–or any other mid-size truck, for that matter–with its interesting face and creased sheet metal. Its interior is snazzier than its classmates, too, but the lack of physical controls on some models is disappointing. Its standard four-cylinder engine is also undesirable, but the more powerful turbo option is a pricey proposition. Still, the 2022 Santa Cruz is a more functional twist on the tired crossover formula, and that open box on its butt means it qualifies as a pickup truck.
What’s New for 2022?
The idea of a Hyundai pickup truck has been around since the Santa Cruz concept was revealed at the Detroit auto show. That concept has become a reality as the Korean automaker has shown off the production version to the world, and now the all-new model is set to take on undersized trucks such as the forthcoming Ford Maverick and established mid-size pickups.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Santa Cruz comes with two different powertrain choices. The standard setup is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. However, based on the languid acceleration it provided the Tuscon crossover we tested, this entry-level engine is best avoided. The upgraded engine is a turbocharged 2.5-liter four with 281 horses and 311 pound-feet. Its added power and punchier responses are much better suited to the Santa Cruz. Both engines mate to eight-speed automatics, but the turbo option partners with the dual-clutch variety. All-wheel drive is also offered with both four cylinders. The Santa Cruz is shorter and lower than its segment rivals, which helps make it easier to maneuver around town. The top-of-the-line Limited model we drove showcased the truck’s refined ride and agile handling.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Equipped with the base engine and front-wheel drive, the 2022 Santa Cruz is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Oddly enough, adding all-wheel drive improves its highway figure by 1 mpg. The turbocharged version has estimates of 19 mpg city and 27 highway. Once we can test the Hyundai pickup on our 75-mph fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, we can evaluate its real-world mpg.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Inside, Santa Cruz has one of the nicest cabins among mid-size pickups. Hyundai has made a habit of building vehicles with attractive materials and desirable modern features that would look right in costlier vehicles. It’s the first truck in its class to offer a fully digital gauge cluster, and we appreciate that it has a traditional shifter on the center console instead of a finicky rotary knob or push-button setup. The Santa Cruz is only available with a four-door crew cab, and passenger space in the front and the back is competitive with similarly sized trucks. Its cargo bed is one of the shortest in the segment at about four feet long, but it’s very versatile, with a lockable tonneau cover and a useful in-bed trunk that’s similar to what the Honda offers.