2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz – The Trendsetter

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Hyundai is no longer a trend following brand. It’s obvious that truck segment has been very popular. Though Hyundai did not create the truck segment, they came up with a brilliant idea, where all other manufacturers try to be bigger, more masculine, more rugged and more suitable for suburb lifestyle, Hyundai created something different, more civilized and definitely more unique.

They come up with an idea that combined the most popular two segments in one car, called the Santa Cruz. It is technically a truck, but Hyundai calls it SAV – Sports Activity Vehicle as it combines the practicality of a truck and driving dynamics of an SUV. On paper, it’s the best of both worlds, but let’s see how 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz performs in real life.

Exterior and Interior

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz shares the same front end design with Hyundai Tucson

You probably realized that the front end looks exactly like the new Hyundai Tucson, and there is nothing wrong about it. It looks absolutely gorgeous and quite different than any other car on the road. This is where Hyundai proves that they are not trend followers or copycats, but they are creating new trends in the automobile world.

Like many other modern Hyundai models, they placed the low beam and high beams at the bottom, but the daytime running lights are integrated into the grille, makes it look like one giant piece of a grille, but DRLs make it look even more unique. Hyundai did a great job with the front end design.

Side profile looks very modern and SUV-Like even with the bed in the back

From the side profile, it looks uniquely like a combination of a truck and SUV. Since it does not have a huge ground clearance, it definitely looks more like an SUV until you see the rear end. As it differentiates itself having a bed in the rear, compared to Tucson, it is significantly longer and it also has longer wheelbase compared to any other compact SUV.

This is where you feel it’s a truck, though in a civilized fashion

The rear design has more traditional approach, but the good thing is even it is designed to be used for light-duty tasks, it still comes with bed liner for additional protection, as well as it has additional storage compartment placed inside the bed if you need extra practicality.


There is only one bed size with the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. It’s not the biggest at 4.3 feet long, but it also comes with factory-installed cover that rolls back and forth, though when you keep it open all the way, it still covers a little bit of area limits your overall cargo capacity. It also comes with 115-volt power outlet and tailgate is damped in all trim levels as well as remote opening feature.

It shares the same interior design with the Tucson

In the interior, it has really nice touches, lots of soft touch plastics and leather, but what it makes more interesting is that it comes with a huge infotainment screen as well as digital gauge cluster that is quite customizable. Though the gauge cluster doesn’t have any sun visor cover, they are super clear and easy to read even under the sun.

There should be a volume knob, and less amount of glossy black

Where it falls behind is the material choice. Overall quality is not bad as we discussed, but the problem is that Hyundai decided to use tons of glossy plastic all around the interior, which already looks dirty. Also, it is missing any type of physical buttons in the center console, makes it very hard to use the infotainment without volume knob and A/C controls while you are driving.

The rear legroom is not the greatest, significantly smaller than compact SUVs

The interior design looks attractive, but it’s not very user friendly as it prioritizes form over function. Same trend continues in the rear seat area. You get significantly less amount of rear legroom in the rear, compared to any other SUVs or mid-size trucks. It’s almost sub-compact SUV level which may be a deal breaker for people who prioritizes rear seat passenger accommodation.

Engine and Drivetrain

Though it shares the same platform with the Tucson, they come with two different drivetrains. Unlike the Tucson, it does not come with 1.6 liter turbo engine. Hyundai was nice enough to offer their latest 2.5 liter turbocharged engine that produces 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, which they also used in other (bigger) Hyundai and KIA models.

2.5L turbo engine produces 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque

Hyundai decided to use their latest 8 speed wet clutch dual clutch transmission which is also used in other models, and it is a pretty smooth transmission for dual clutch standards. Unlike many trucks and some modern SUVs, it comes with paddle shifters and upshifts/downshifts are relatively fast.

8 speed dual clutch transmission feels very smooth

As expected from a truck, it comes with an HTRAC All Wheel Drive system, but it is quite different than traditional trucks. It does not have a transfer case, and it is an on-demand AWD system that is heavily front wheel biased. You have bunch of different driving and off-road modes and it can send power to each wheel accordingly, but there is no mechanical limited slip differential.

Driving Impressions and Features

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz feels more like an SUV rather than a truck

When you get behind the steering wheel, you immediately realize that this is not a work truck. Hyundai designed the Santa Cruz as an alternative for SUVs and Crossovers, for people who are not confident switching to a huge truck and compromise the daily drivability and gas mileage.

As it still carries fundamental SUV driving elements, such as having an on-demand AWD, 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, unibody frame design, it really drives like an SUV more than a truck. Though it doesn’t mean it can’t do basic tasks, it can tow up to 5000 pounds, which is exactly the same with Honda Ridgeline.

20″ wheels looks gorgeous, but they are not optimal for off-roading

Compared to Nissan Frontier that we recently reviewed, which is one of the newest entries in the mid-size truck segment, the Santa Cruz feels completely different and much more civilized for urban environment. It definitely feels more like a lifestyle choice for people who wants to have more space in the back for cargo hauling.

As it does not have any locking differential, or transfer case for low gear ratio, I would not take the Santa Cruz to any type of heavy-duty off road activity, but it has decent amount of ground clearance of 8.6 inches for light duty tasks. AWD system is pretty capable if you utilize the driving/off-road modes properly.

It’s great to see you can fully utilize 10.25″ screen with the CarPlay

As a daily driver, 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a great option if you don’t off-road it. The suspension feels very refined on any type of pavement, despite having huge wheels. It also gives you a lot of confidence if you do a little bit spirited driving, though you don’t get much feedback from the steering wheel.

We briefly talked about the engine and drivetrain options, and we also reviewed this platform in other Hyundai models, I still think that the Dual Clutch transmission is not the best choice for an SUV or Truck that is meant to be driven on all types of surfaces and tow heavy items, as they tend to overheat quickly.

Digital gauge cluster has great resolution with no lag

However, I think that the engine is a great match for this platform. Having a 4 cylinder engine in a small platform is the only option, as it’s basically a Tucson and you can’t really fit 6 cylinder in a compact platform. I am glad that Hyundai didn’t put 1.6 liter turbo engine, instead they go ahead with the largest 4 cylinder engine that they have.

That’s the reason the Santa Cruz feels quite peppy. It offers tons of torque in the midrange and torque curve goes flat all the way up to the redline. The car would not feel underpowered in any type of circumstance, though I think it is one of the louder 4 cylinder engine, as you hear a lot of valvetrain and injector noise.

Front seats are quite comfortable but it’s missing memory function

Like many other modern Hyundai and KIA vehicles, the Santa Cruz comes with a lot of features. The list is too long to add here, but I will mention two of my favorite features that comes with pretty much all other Hyundai models, but also with the Santa Cruz.

The first one is the Blind View Monitoring. Hyundai took it to the next level when it comes to blind spot monitoring and added a camera in the digital cluster, and every time you use the indicator, it pops that camera so that you can shoulder check without having to do it physically.

Blind View Monitor is one of my favorite safety features

The second feature is the Highway Driving Assist. Though many manufacturers came to a point where they started to catch Hyundai, I think Hyundai / KIA group still offers one of the best Adaptive Cruise Control with Highway Driving Assist feature, where you don’t have to keep your hands on a steering wheel (not recommended) on highway driving.

Pricing and the Verdict

Like many other trucks, this may have been just another truck in this segment, but Hyundai did a great job creating a distinctive product. We already know that this is not a product for someone that wants to have maximum towing capacity, or a dedicated work truck.

Hyundai Santa Cruz is a lifestyle truck that can take you to places

It’s clearly a lifestyle truck that can take you to places, will haul your family and cargo, while still maintaining decent driving characteristics like an SUV and that’s the reason why it’s a unique choice that I am sure other manufacturers will follow in the near future. This shows Hyundai has come a long way from being a trend follower to a trendsetter brand.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz starts at $38,499 CAD

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz starts at $38,499 CAD and there are two trims available. Like our tester, if you want all the features available, such as the big 10.25″ infotainment screen, Blind View Monitor, bigger 20″ alloy wheels, and ventilated front seats, the price goes up to $44,799. For more details – please visit www.hyundaicanada.com