Oct 1, 2021 - Economy

What we're driving: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Image of a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz compact pickup utility parked at a beach

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is somewhere between a crossover utility vehicle and a pickup truck. Photo: Hyundai

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is one of those "neither fish nor fowl" vehicles: It's an SUV crossed with a pickup truck — and I love it.

The big picture: Truck devotees will complain that the 4-foot-bed is too short, or that the Santa Cruz can't haul a giant RV or motorboat. (For the record, it can tow up to 5,000 pounds.)

  • But for the vast majority of urban dwellers whose big adventure is an outing to the garden center, this is the perfect vehicle.

Details: The Santa Cruz drives like a crossover SUV, which isn't surprising, since it's based on the same basic underpinnings as the Hyundai Tucson.

  • That means it's refined and easy to park, which non-truck people will appreciate.
  • Some reviewers have complained that the standard 2.5-liter engine is underpowered, but I drove the turbocharged all-wheel-drive option, which, at 275 horsepower, had plenty of get-up-and-go.

One of my favorite features was the Santa Cruz's lockable, roll-up metal tonneau cover.

  • At a tailgate, we packed our valuables in the bed and safely locked them away while we went to the game.
  • The extra storage below the bed (similar to a Honda Ridgeline) was especially handy.

Other goodies: The Santa Cruz Limited also featured a 360-degree camera system, heated and cooled seats, a premium Bose sound system and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

  • Android smartphone users can use a phone app as their digital key.
  • The optional 10-inch touchscreen is lovely but difficult to use, with no buttons — keeping your eyes off the road for too long.

The Santa Cruz comes with a full suite of standard safety and available assisted driving technologies.

  • Hyundai's highway-assist technology was a bit overbearing at times, though.

The bottom line: The Santa Cruz starts at about $24,000, which is higher than Ford's new Maverick compact pickup. And at $39,720, the Limited AWD I drove seems downright expensive.

  • But if it fits the bill for weekend warriors, that's OK.
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