Hyundai Santa Cruz Research

The Car Connection Hyundai Santa Cruz Overview

The Hyundai Santa Cruz combines the open bed of a pickup truck with the roominess of a crossover and the maneuverability of a hatchback. The off-road adventure vehicle makes for an easy urban getaway vehicle. 

The Santa Cruz rivals the mid-size Honda Ridgeline, yet the Subaru Outback might get jealous of this modern take on the Subaru Baja from the early aughts.

MORE: Read our 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz review

The Santa Cruz shares a platform and unibody design with the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover SUV. It wears a few similar design cues, such as a stepped grille with integrated daytime running lights that expand like wings to the corners of the face. The headlights sit below, and a skid plate lurks beneath the cladding that wraps around the wheels to the rear tailgate and open bed.

A lockable tonneau cover and hidden floor box with a drain plug help the Santa Cruz overcome the shortcomings of its bed, which at 4.3 feet is nearly a foot shorter than the competition. The Santa Cruz is made more for getting out of the city and to the trailhead than conquering what lies beyond. 

Shoppers choose between a 191-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 with an 8-speed automatic and front-wheel drive or an upgraded 2.5-liter turbo-4 making an estimated 281hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. It pairs to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic and, with available all-wheel drive, it tows up to 5,000 pounds. 

A locking center differential sends half the torque to the rear axle, and a ground clearance of 8.6 inches enables moderate off-road capability. The compact dimensions and independent suspension join the turbo-4 in making the Santa Cruz fun to drive. 

The bed doesn’t have the depth or length of other trucks, but it features a built-in lockable tonneau cover, hidden bed storage about six inches deep with a drain plug, and available bed extending accessories. Flip-up rear seats add storage options, and the manually sliding rear window upholds the pickup truck vibe.

But the Santa Cruz rides comfy like a crossover without a pickup's trademark jittering. Cloth seat coverings with 6-way manual adjustments expose the utilitarian nature of the base model, though an 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support is available. 

Standard features include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and driver-assist features such as automatic emergency braking and active lane control. A slew of advanced safety features such as blind-spot cameras and tech upgrades are available, such as a 10.3-inch touchscreen and 10.0-inch digital instrument cluster. Connected car tech includes a 3-year Blue Link subscription that lets users remote start, unlock, lock and condition the car. 

Every Santa Cruz comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty with three years/36,000 miles of complimentary oil changes and tire rotations.

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2021
The Car Connection
2021
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