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2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the compact truck we've been waiting for

Hyundai calls the new Santa Cruz a Sport Adventure Vehicle. We just call it cool.

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The Hyundai Santa Cruz first showed up as a concept at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, and in the ensuing six years, we've been stoked about the idea of this little trucklet coming to life. Well, rejoice, fellow car nerds; the road-ready 2022 Santa Cruz is here. Making its debut Thursday, this might be the coolest little truckini since the Subaru BRAT.

You might be quick to think that the Santa Cruz is a midsize pickup truck, but it's actually much smaller than that. It shares its platform with the Hyundai Tucson crossover, meaning it's actually a unibody like the Honda Ridgeline, and it's at least 10 inches shorter overall than the Ford RangerNissan FrontierToyota Tacoma and the aforementioned Honda. The Santa Cruz has a shorter wheelbase to boot, which should make it much easier to maneuver in city settings.

Instead, think of the Santa Cruz as a much more functional compact crossover. Bikes and surfboards can be carried in the bed but the truck's smaller stature means it's easier to load. The corner step is just shy of 19 inches from the ground and the bed height is about 2 inches lower than those of the aforementioned midsize trucks, so it's easier to access.

But the bed isn't as small as you might think. It's 4 feet, 3 inches long, 4.5 feet wide and just over 3.5 feet wide between the wheel wells. For comparison, the Ford Ranger's bed is 5 feet, 1 inch long, its width is just a smidge more and it measures 3 feet, 9 inches wide between the wheel wells.

At least until the new Ford Maverick arrives, the Santa Cruz doesn't really have a direct competitor. The closest we can currently get is the car-based Honda Ridgeline, but as you'll see in our spec comparison chart below, there's a big difference between the two. If you think of this Hyundai as roughly the same size as a second-generation Chevrolet S10 pickup, you're in the ballpark.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz specs


Hyundai Santa Cruz Hyundai Santa Cruz 2.5T Honda Ridgeline
Wheelbase 118.3 in. 118.3 in. 125.2 in.
Length 195.7 in. 195.7 in. 210.2 in.
Width 75.0 in. 75.0 in. 78.6 in.
Height 66.7 in. 66.7 in. 70.8 in.
Engine 2.5-liter I4 2.5-liter turbo I4 3.5-liter V6
Transmission 8-speed auto 8-speed DCT 9-speed auto
Power 191 hp 281 hp 280 hp
Torque 181 lb.-ft. 311 lb.-ft. 262 lb.-ft.
Driveline All-wheel drive All-wheel drive All-wheel drive
Payload 660 pounds 660 pounds 1,583 pounds
Towing 3,500 pounds 5,000 pounds 5,000 pounds

The Santa Cruz can carry 660 pounds in its bed. There's an extra storage bin beneath the bed floor, as well.

Hyundai

The Santa Cruz' bed can handle 660 pounds of gear, it offers six tie-downs, and there are lockable storage cubbies in the floor and on the sides. An optional locking tonneau cover adds another layer of security, and there's also a 115-volt outlet and LED bed lighting.

Santa Cruz engine options

Under the hood, the Santa Cruz comes standard with a 2.5-liter inline-four engine with 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, and an eight-speed automatic transmission puts the power down to all four wheels. However, Hyundai will also offer a turbocharged version of that 2.5-liter engine with 281 hp and 311 lb.-ft., as well as an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. With the base engine, the Santa Cruz can tow 3,500 pounds while the upgraded powerplant goes bigger with a 5,000-pound rating.

The Santa Cruz has optional 20-inch wheels, but stick with the standard 18-inch wheels if you'll be going off-road. There's a center differential locker to help distribute the torque equally between the front and rear axles, but the Santa Cruz definitely isn't some kind of off-road monster. The truck has hill-descent control and Normal, Sport and Smart drive modes, but nothing specifically to help out when the going gets rough. The Santa Cruz should get you out to the lake or up to the cabin, but at the end of the day, don't forget, this is really just a compact CUV with a bed.

An 8-inch infotainment screen is standard but this 10.3-inch display is optional.

Hyundai

Santa Cruz safety and convenience tech

A number of driver-assistance features are offered, although most are optional. You only get forward-collision assist, lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning standard. The good stuff, like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and Hyundai's Highway Driving Assist, which keeps the car centered in the lane and can respond to posted speed limits, are all optional.

Inside, an 8-inch touchscreen is standard, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. Drivers can option up to a larger 10.3-inch display, and while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are still included, the wireless functionality isn't offered with the bigger screen. A 10-inch digital instrument cluster is also optional, as is a wireless charging pad. For Android users, Hyundai's Digital Key is here, too, allowing drivers to remotely lock and unlock the doors, start the engine and even share access to the Santa Cruz with friends and family.

The Santa Cruz is in a class of its own -- for now.

Hyundai

Santa Cruz styling

Given the Santa Cruz' link to the Tucson, it's no surprise the two look very similar as well. The modern-looking grille has the same cool hidden daytime running lights that peek out from behind geometric panels. The headlamps are mounted down low on the fascia, and there is a faux skid plate tying it all together. We definitely wouldn't trust that skid plate to keep rocks from puncturing the radiator, but at least it looks nice.

Even with the truck bed, the Santa Cruz' silhouette is like nothing else on the road, what with its extremely raked rear pillars. The T-shaped rear light signature emphasizes the bed's width and should give the Santa Cruz a pretty cool appearance at night.

Santa Cruz pricing and fuel economy

Unfortunately, the Korean automaker hasn't released pricing or fuel economy information just yet, but expect those to be announced in the coming months. We won't have to wait too long to get behind the wheel of the Santa Cruz, either; the first trucks will start rolling into Hyundai dealers this summer.