The newly arrived Hyundai Santa Cruz has an enclosed cab in front and an open bed in back. The official definition of a pickup truck.
But I’d bet good money not one pickup owner in Snohomish County would say the Santa Cruz is a pickup.
Hyundai won’t be offended. In fact, Hyundai agrees. They’re calling the Santa Cruz a sport adventure vehicle. That’s a made-up name, but so was sport utility vehicle, and now SUV is as commonly accepted as coupe, sedan or van.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is based on the company’s Tucson compact SUV, with four doors and seating for five passengers, but an extended wheelbase. The bed is short, about 48 inches, but highly functional with a built-in retractable and lockable solid cover.
Within the bed are multiple tie-downs, adjustable cleats, and hidden storage spots, including a lockable underfloor space complete with drain plugs to allow ice-chest duty.
Speaking of duty, it’s mine to mention that the bed cover and accoutrements within the bed aren’t necessarily standard. It depends on trim level. Or they may be part of an optional ($3,270) Activity Package.
Santa Cruz is available in four different trim levels: SE, SEL, SEL Premium, and Limited. The first two trims have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic and front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available for an extra $1,500.
SEL Premium and Limited trims get a 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder good for 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive are standard on these two guys.
Fuel economy ratings for the standard 2.5-liter engine with front-wheel drive are 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. With AWD the numbers are 21/27/23 mpg.
The 2.5 turbo is rated 19/27/22 mpg.
Maximum towing capacities are 3,500 pounds for the 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 5,000 pounds for the 2.5L turbo.
Base pricing starts at $25,215 for the SE model, including a $1,225 destination charge. It’s comfortably equipped with standard features such as 18-inch wheels, LED lights, remote keyless entry, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and an infotainment system with 8-inch display, six-speaker audio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, and two USB ports. The SE trim’s standard equipment also includes a comprehensive list of safety and driver assistance features.
I drove the Santa Cruz Limited model, whose base price is a fairly steep $40,945 but it does have the stronger turbo engine, AWD, all the upgraded features of the SEL, SEL Premium and Activity Package, and adds 20-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, front seat ventilation, smart cruise control, voice recognition, a 10.3-inch screen with navigation, Bose premium audio and I could go on and on.
The zippy turbo engine serves the Santa Cruz well. Turbo lag is negligible and power bursts are at the ready when called upon. The extra 1,500 pounds it can handle over the standard engine might seal the deal for drivers who own towable things.
The Santa Cruz doesn’t just look like a truck-SUV mash-up, it acts like one. Inside the cab it’s easy to forget there’s an open bed back there. Styling is handsome, ambience is tranquil, and handling is just like a car’s. Step outside and you’ve got a nice handy bed for items you can’t or won’t transport inside your nice fancy passenger cabin.
2022 HYUNDAI SANTA CRUZ LIMITED AWD
Base price, including destination charge: $40,945
Price as driven: $41,100
Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.