All-Activity Vehicle?  It’s An Urbane Pickup Truck The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD

Watch a video review of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD on our Queer4Cars YouTube Channel.
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Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited.

black on black hyundai santa cruz Limited left front view
Santa Cruz has a lot of muscle and very little fat.

One of the most anticipated vehicles for 2021 was the Hyundai Santa Cruz. And we were not at all disappointed in this amazing four-door pickup, though Hyundai calls it an All-Activity Vehicle.

Small pickups have disappeared over the past few years, but now as we roll into the mid part of the 2020s, we are seeing these reappear as more and more consumers are looking for action-oriented people and cargo movers that are not the size of a monster truck.

Hyundai has always done a great job of putting out a well-priced vehicle that has a lot to offer in a well-designed package, and the 2022 Santa Cruz keeps up that tradition.  Our black-on-black limited in All-Wheel Drive was a pre-production model, with a few flaws, but still quite impressive and will be a great vehicle for those who want the utility of a pickup truck with a covered bed and seating for up to five people, four comfortably.

Outside styling

rear view of the hyundai santa cruz
Santa Cruz features a step bumper and a traditional tailgate. Plus it has a hard lockable tambour tonneau cover over the bed.

Pretty basic in some ways it looks like an SUV-based pickup, which in essence it is, and in other ways, it looks like a bruiser of a macho pickup truck, which it really is not, though it has a great and distinctive look.

The grill is classic Hyundai with its open grill and snake-like LED Headlights as eyes. The hood is long, the passenger space is well designed on the inside and outside, and the bed while short has a lot to offer from the tambour cover to the power outlets and tie-downs inside.

The bumper has a number of step areas on it making it easy to get into the bed of the truck. And Santa Cruz is embossed on the tailgate. Taillights are large and easily seen day or night with reflectors in the bumpers.

Inside the Santa Cruz

dash of the hyundai santa cruz
Santa Cruz’s dash is clean and modern with plenty of displays for what you need.

It feels bigger than it actually is. Hyundai has done a great job on the simple but quite deliberate interior design. The dash is very simple and clean the driver’s gauge cluster is a basic tablet-like display screen. The center touch screen handles all the functions of the radio, apps, navigation, and onboard functions.  With a separate lower control panel controlling the HVAC. Separate touch-sensitive buttons are for other controls, while seat heat and cool buttons are located in front of the console box/center armrest.

right front seat of the hyundai santa cruz
The front seats are heated and cooled, though could provide a bit more firm support for longer drives.

Leather-trimmed seats are comfortable but not super comfortable for long-distance road trips, they could use a little more firmness and support. The rear seating area provides adequate leg and knee room, maybe not super large guys, but for kids and smaller adults it will be fine for short trips. One passenger described the rear as cavern-like with the smaller window space and the black interior. Rear cup holders for the outboard seats are in the door panel,. This model did offer a sliding metal panel sunroof opens to provide more light, though it is only over the front seats.

There is a small operable, sliding rear window, and the rear window glass does have electric defrosting wires in it.  A small storage area under the rear seats holds the jack and tools on the right side and provides a small storage area on the left side. Not really big enough for anything of significance.

Inside the bed of the Santa Cruz

No pickup is worth its salt if it does not have a useable bed for hauling things. While the length of this bed is not much more than five feet, you can still get items from the garden center or bikes and other outdoor toys. The bed has a rough finish liner as well as a couple of cubbies on either side. On the right side of the model, we tested it had a 120v outlet built-in, as well as LED lighting.

The bed cover is a lockable hardtop that rolls up into a box at the front of the bed. Note, that box takes up a decent amount of bed space, not floor space. Strong enough that you can stand on it, but not jump around. Though we did break the connector to the lanyard that you use to pull the top closed.  I expect you will find fabric tops, or even hinged one-piece tops for this in the future, eliminating the bulky hardtop.

Powerplant

The Smartstream 2.5 Liter GDI Turbocharged 4- cylinder multiport injection engine prefers premium fuel and gets 19 to 27 miles per gallon with 281 Horsepower and 311-pound feet of torque. Mated to an eight-speed wet dual-clutch transmission with Shiftronic®.  Provided plenty of power for the highway as well as suburban and country road driving.  This model is even able to tow up to a two-thousand-pound trailer.

hyundai santa cruz engine
Our Santa Cruz Limited test vehicle features a 2.5 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder GDI dual port injection engine.

Driving Impressions

The Santa Cruz has a small sliding rear window opening for air circulation

Handling and operation on the highway, country roads, and city and suburban streets were excellent.  We did not have the opportunity to use the all-wheel-drive system off-road, and that would have been a great treat.  Driving along I-95 you have the size and weight to stay in your lane and not be intimidated by the passing semi-trucks.  You will get a lot of attention from other pickup truck owners wanting to know more about this well-designed mid-sized truck since it is rare out in the wild.

The onboard advanced suite of safety technology, and cameras do make for a safer driving experience both parking and at speed.

Overall Thoughts

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Vehicle
Hyundai showed a concept of the Santa Cruz a few years back at Concours of America in Michigan.

When I first saw a prototype of this vehicle several years ago in Michigan, I was quite impressed. Though that model was much sportier in appearance and smaller in stature. I thought then as I do now, this is a great idea and a good move for Hyundai to step into.  Their SUVs have proven to be very family-friendly, now with this Santa Cruz, you will see a more activity-oriented consumer becoming customers. This vehicle they can go camping in, haul bikes and other small outdoor adventure toys, even towing a boat or a small lightweight travel trailer.

Hyundai Santa Cruz HTRAC 2.5T logos
Our test Santa Cruz came with HTRAC and a 2.5 turbo engine

Would I buy this 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?  I sure would it is a great mid-sized truck, it has the size and heft you want, though having a larger bed would be helpful.  We most enjoyed spending time in this Hyundai Santa Cruz.  If you are looking at a $40K pickup, take a strong look at this offering from Hyundai.

The overall impression was excellent for a utility vehicle that combines the basics of an SUV and a pickup truck in a tidy package that is smart-looking and has all the modern technological advancements.

More Photos from around the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz


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