2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Robert Duffer Robert Duffer Senior Editor
November 4, 2021

Buying tip

The 2.5T turbo-4 turns the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz into a great weekend getaway car.

features & specs

Limited AWD
19 city / 27 hwy
21 city / 27 hwy
21 city / 26 hwy

Putting the fun in functional, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz combines the utility of a truck with the ride quality of a crossover.

What kind of vehicle is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz? What does it compare to?

New for 2022, the Hyundai Santa Cruz exists in the center of a Venn diagram of sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks. It’s more like a Subaru Baja from 20 years ago, though its open bed and seating for five pit it against small pickup trucks such as the Ford Maverick to adventure-leaning crossovers in the Subaru Outback. 

Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz a good car/SUV/pickup?

Review continues below

Putting the fun in functional, the 2022 Santa Cruz steps out of the crossover fray with sharp looks, compelling maneuverability, and a bed to separate the cargo from the cabin. It earns a TCC Rating of 6.7 out of 10 pending a NHTSA crash-test rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What's new for the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?

The new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz splits the difference between the Maverick and the Outback, even though it shares a platform with the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover. From the front it looks like an off-roadable crossover; from the rear, a square-box pickup. The front end wears the stepped grille with integrated daytime running lights of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. The squat profile features tasteful and textured black cladding running over the rockers and available 20-inch wheels to bumpers with integrated bed steps. 

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. Clever storage areas continue inside, with 60/40-split rear seats that flip up to reveal a seat-length storage cubby. Mesh pockets line the front seat backs, but the utilitarian becomes a technocrat in the cockpit, headlined by an 8.0-inch touchscreen and touch-capacitive climate control panel housed in a wall of high-gloss black plastic. A larger 10.3-inch touchscreen is available but smartphones will need to be tethered. 

The standard engine is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that makes 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. It uses an 8-speed automatic with front-wheel drive and can tow up to 3,500 lb, but with available all-wheel drive the towing capacity increases to 5,000 lb. 

The available 2.5-liter turbo-4 with standard all-wheel drive best suits the Santa Cruz. It makes 281 hp and 311 lb-ft with minimal turbo lag. It pairs to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic used in Hyundai’s performance N variants but with different tuning. 

The all-wheel-drive system splits the torque between the front and rear axles based on input and drive mode, while a center locking differential locks the axles for better uphill grip or when there’s slip. The AWD system is better for on-road handling than off-road prowess, but it should get you to most trailheads and boat slips. 

Hyundai assures Santa Cruz owners safety on the road. Standard driver-assist features include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection and active lane control, while options such as blind-spot monitors, blind-spot cameras, and a surround-view camera system help get your bearings on trail or into that parallel parking spot. 

How much does the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz cost?

The Santa Cruz starts at $25,175 (including destination) for the base SE trim level with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a remote opening power tailgate. Sold in three SEL grades and the top Limited trim, the 2022 Santa Cruz tops out at $40,905 with the turbo-4 and AWD. It includes wireless smartphone charging and a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster.   

Where is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz made?

In Montgomery, Alabama.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz


The 2022 Santa Cruz is a cure for the common crossover.

Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz a good-looking ute?

With a more rugged Tucson face and a four-door dad bod with a bed, the Santa Cruz is a cure for the common crossover. The exterior earns it two points to a 7, although the Sage Gray and Blue Stone paint colors are so perfect for this vehicle that they could earn another point. 

At 195.7 inches long, the 2022 Santa Cruz is more than a foot longer than the Tucson, but 4.0 inches shorter in length and 2.0 inches shorter in height than the Ford Maverick. 

The front end wears the stepped grille with integrated daytime running lights of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson. The DRLs only become distinguishable from the grille at night, otherwise the grille spreads its wings to the corners above the headlights. A skid plate girds the front bumper. 

The squat profile features tasteful and textured black cladding running over the rockers and around wheel arches that house standard 18-inch alloy wheels. 

Bulging taillights in the shape of hatchets frame a tailgate stamped with large “Santa Cruz” lettering above the bumper, like a Tonka truck. The rear bumper features integrated corner bed steps and arrowhead-shaped patterns on the cladding and the bumpers. Easter eggs throughout the design such as on the taillights express its American-made spirit.

The interior follows the Tucson with an 8.0-inch touchscreen folded into the touch-capacitive climate control panel; it’s a lot of smudgeable high-gloss black plastic. Cloth seats with mesh pockets in the hard seat backs reflect the utilitarian nature, as do molded cupholders in the doors.

Review continues below

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz


The 2022 Santa Cruz rides like a crossover but handles with more sport.

The 2022 Santa Cruz rides quiet and comfy like a crossover without the jitters of a body-on-frame pickup. It earns a 6 for its impressive handling for a vehicle based on a crossover and its quiet crossover-like ride. If rating it based solely on the more potent 2.5-liter turbo-4 it would earn another point to a 7. 

Is the Santa Cruz 4WD?

Like the Tucson, the Santa Cruz comes standard with front-wheel drive but all-wheel drive is available on the standard 191-hp 2.5-liter inline-4 for $1,500 more.

The all-wheel-drive system comes with a center locking differential that splits the torque evenly between the front and rear axles for slippery or uphill conditions. Without the locker activated, the system automatically adjusts torque between the axles based on conditions and drive modes. Sport mode sends up to 50% of the torque to the rear wheels, then brake-based torque vectoring routes it to the wheel with the most grip. When cruising, most of the torque powers the front wheels, where it is most efficient.

The Santa Cruz has a Subaru Outback-like 8.6 inches of ground clearance (8.7 inches in the Outback), a breakover angle of 18.6 degrees and approach and departure angles of 17.5 and 23.2 degrees, respectively (19.4/18.6/21.7 in the Outback). With all-wheel drive and hill descent control, the Santa Cruz manages fire roads and rutted paths easily, but it doesn’t have the two-speed transfer case of a true off-roader. 

Hyundai equips the Santa Cruz with a self-leveling rear suspension shared with the larger Hyundai Palisade that detects vehicle load and ratchets up the stiffness when the bed is loaded (the bed has a payload of 660 lb). The same principle applies when towing so the rear doesn’t sag over the rear wheels. 

On twisting mountain roads, the Santa Cruz AWD handles more nimbly than its roughly 4,100-lb curb weight would suggest, and with greater sportiness than the Tucson. The all-wheel-drive system conspires with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear suspension with parts cribbed from the larger Santa Fe to make for a spirited driving experience.

When not pressed hard, the Santa Cruz rides as quiet and comfortably as a compact crossover. The available 20-inch alloy wheels announce their presence with more speed. 

How fast is the Santa Cruz?

The standard 2.5-liter inline-4 makes 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. It uses an 8-speed automatic with front-wheel drive and can tow up to 3,500 pounds. We’ll update this space once we test that powertrain.

We doubt we’ll prefer it to the uprated 2.5-liter turbo-4 that churns out 281 hp and 311 lb-ft, similar to what’s used in the larger, heavier Santa Fe. It pairs to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic used in Hyundai’s performance N variants that can be more probing than decisive during some low-speed shifts in Smart mode. Acceleration to 60 mph is estimated in the mid-six second range, thanks in part to minimal turbo lag. It’s the right-sized powertrain for the Santa Cruz, and adds the sport element promised by the design. 

With all-wheel drive standard at launch, it can tow 5,000 lb. All Santa Cruz models come standard with trailer sway control that automatically applies the brakes when it detects sway and prewiring for a 4-pin trailer connection (on 2.5 models) or 7-pin on 2.5T models; the hitch and harness can be installed extra at the factory or later at a dealership.

Review continues below

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Comfort & Quality

The 2022 Santa Cruz has the versatility of a pickup with the comfort of a crossover.

The versatile bed and flip-up rear seats offer plenty of cargo room to earn a point on our scale, and ample rear leg room with the seats down earn another point to a 7 for comfort and quality in the Santa Cruz. 

Cloth seat coverings with 6-way manual adjustments expose the utilitarian nature of the base model. It’s another reason we’d skip it for at least the SEL that comes with an 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support. The SEL comes with heated front seats, but the front passenger doesn’t get the power treatment even on top Limited trim, which is the only model available with leather seats at launch. In that sense, the Tucson’s seats have more available creature comforts, though in both cases the seat bottoms could stretch a bit further for more thigh support.  

The bed better resembles a modern Subaru Baja than a traditional small pickup. The lower part measures nearly four inches longer than the 48.4-inch top part, yet it comes up a couple inches shorter than the Ford Maverick. But when the tailgate folds down, either by the fob or a button in the gate handle, it expands to nearly three inches longer than the Maverick. It’s wide enough for 4x8 sheets of plywood resting on the wheel wells. Hyundai says you can fit four 29-inch mountain bikes in back with the front wheels hanging over the gate and, like the Maverick, the gate can be set between vertical and horizontal positions for more flexibility. 

Short side walls make for easy access, enabled by five rear step areas, including corner steps like on the Chevy Colorado. The tonneau cover standard on SEL Activity trim and above locks at the handle, and retracts on a roller into a recess near the cab; a pull-strap attached by a carabiner to one of four tie downs makes pulling it shut a cinch. It’s water resistant but not waterproof, Hyundai confirmed. Six tie-downs, four D-rings, and adjustable cleats help to secure items, while twin storage boxes and one 115-volt outlet simplify camping needs. An underbed storage box with a drain plug can stow nasty gear or fish (and beer) on ice. 

With passengers and gear the payload maxes out at 1,906 lb in the base SE with FWD; on the other end of the spectrum, the Limited trim hauls 1,568 lb with AWD.

Clever storage spaces occupy the inside as well, with a 60/40-split rear seat that can be flipped up to access a storage well on one side and a flat tire kit on the other. With a 21-degree slant, the rear seats lean more to the crossover side of things than a small pickup with vertical seatbacks that tax even the shortest trips back home. A manual sliding rear window standard on SEL Activity and above makes dogs and their best friends happy. Even though the wheelbase stretches out 10 inches longer than the Tucson, rear leg room is nearly five inches less at 36.5 inches. It’s a bit more than the Maverick but the cabin is best suited for four adults.

Hyundai did not disclose official cargo volume.

Review continues below

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz


The Santa Cruz awaits official crash-test ratings.

How safe is the Santa Cruz?

The NHTSA hasn't completed their crash testing, but the IIHS awarded the Santa Cruz a Top Safety Pick when equipped LED projector lights found on the top trims. That earns a point on our scale, as does the standard automatic emergency braking system rated "Superior" by the IIHS. Good safety options earn it another point to an 8. It could earn another point if the NHTSA testing corroborates top ratings from the IIHS on all six crash tests. 

Standard on every Santa Cruz is automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection and active lane control. Options such as adaptive cruise control helps ease road fatigue, while blind-spot monitors assist in seeing beyond the narrow sightlines in back. Blind-spot cameras and a surround-view camera system help get your bearings on the trail or negotiating that parallel parking spot.

Review continues below

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz


Good base features and a better warranty acquit the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

The 2022 Santa Cruz comes with good standard features, an intuitive 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, an excellent warranty, and good overall value for a 9 here. 

Sold in SE, SEL, SEL Activity, SEL Premium, and Limited, all Santa Cruz models come with a 5-year/60,000-mile limited warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and 3 years/36,000 miles of complimentary oil changes and tire rotations. 

The base SE compels with its touchscreen and standard safety gear for $25,175, which undercuts the Subaru Outback, but is $5,000 more than the basic Ford Maverick. The SEL starts at $28,375, followed by the SEL Activity at $31,645. The first three trim levels come with front-wheel drive standard and the non-turbo 2.5-liter. 

Which Santa Cruz should I buy?

The more powerful turbo-4 is standard with all-wheel drive on the top two trim levels, with the SEL Premium starting at $36,865. That trim adds a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, blind-spot monitors, an integrated tonneau cover (optional on SEL, not available on base SE), a power sunroof, rear sliding glass, LED headlights, and a 3-year Blue Link subscription for “Digital Key” that lets users remotely start, condition, and unlock or lock the car, as well as track its whereabouts if stolen.  

How much is a fully loaded 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz?

The $40,905 Limited tempts us to consider a larger truck or fancier crossover. On the Santa Cruz, it adds a 10.3-inch touchscreen with wired smartphone compatibility, a surround-view camera system, blind-spot cameras that project rear lateral views into the cluster, adaptive cruise control that can restart from a stop, a heated steering wheel, and cooled front seats.

Review continues below


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Fuel Economy

The lack of a hybrid option limits efficiency in the Santa Cruz.

Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz good on gas?

It trails both the Subaru Outback and Ford Maverick. With all-wheel drive and the standard 191-hp 2.5-liter inline-4, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz gets an EPA-rated 21 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined. The highway rating is 1 mpg greater with front-wheel drive. It’s a 4 on our scale. 

The turbo-4 with all-wheel drive gets the same highway rating as the smaller engine, but city fuel economy suffers with an EPA-rated 19/27/22 mpg. 

The 2022 Ford Maverick comes standard as a hybrid with a targeted 40 mpg city, 37 mpg combined, which parallels the Tucson Hybrid’s 38 mpg combined. The Outback’s turbo-4 gets 23/30/26 mpg.

Review continues below

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Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 4
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2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Pricing Insights

  • 2022 Santa Cruz available with limited availability
  • Lease: From $282 per month for 36 months
  • Rebate: No rebate available
  • Finance: From 3.75% APR for 60 months
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