Hyundai’s new 2022 Santa Cruz truck bridges the gap between the compact SUV & small pickup

Technically, it's a 'Sport Adventure Vehicle' but we'll still call it a mid-size truck.

At first glance, Hyundai’s new 2022 Santa Cruz truck — dubbed a Sport Adventure Vehicle — may be a head-scratcher for many. Like, what’s going on here? Is this a mid-size pickup with a compact SUV complex — or is it the other way around? What is Hyundai attempting to do, who’s going to buy this thing, and does this quasi-SUV-truck even make any sense? 

When you break it down, however, the new Santa Cruz makes a lot of sense, bridging the gap between the capabilities of a small pickup with the comfort and manoeuvrability of the ever popular compact SUV.

Sporting a multi-utility open bed to haul gear, a 2.5L turbo engine with AWD and 5,000 lbs. of towing capacity, all packaged into an agile compact footprint with the benefits of a Hyundai SUV, this adventure-going hauler will traverse rough terrain while managing the suburbs without breaking a sweat.

As Hyundai’s CEO puts it, “Our customers will wonder just how they managed before owning one.” And we may just have to agree with that.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz truck front grill
2022 Santa Cruz. Photo: Hyundai

Release Date: Expect the 2022 Santa Cruz to hit dealerships sometime this summer 2021. Pricing to be announced closer to the release date.

Power and performance: 2.5L turbo making over 270-hp

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There will be two powertrain options for the US market, including the standard 2.5L direct-injected in-line four-cylinder with an estimated 190+ horsepower and 180+ lb.-ft. of torque. And the optional 2.5L direct-injected turbocharged engine making an estimated 275+ horsepower and 310+ lb.-ft. of torque.

The more powerful turbo engine pairs to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) sporting steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The Canadian market gets this bigger, 2.5L turbo engine as standard (single engine equipped).

Standard EngineOptional Engine
US Market2.5L four-cylinder (190+hp)2.5L four-cylinder turbo (275+hp)
Canada Market2.5L four-cylinder turbo (275+hp)

HTRAC AWD system across the board

Both powertrains come with all-wheel drive coupled with a multi-mode system to fine-tune driving behaviour. For more spirited drives, a Sport steps it up offering a more nimble feel by sending extra torque to the rear wheels.

Canada gets a few extra, exclusive modes including Mud, Sand, and Snow. Go Canada!

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz truck
2022 Santa Cruz 2.5L turbo engine good for over 270 horsepower. Photo: Hyundai

Santa Cruz Towing Capacity

Most mid-size trucks like the Toyota Tacoma offer between 6,000 to 7,700 lbs. towing capacity. Hyundai’s pickup will do a respectable 5,000 lbs. with the more powerful 2.5L turbo powerplant, compared to the non-turbo 2.5L offering 3,500 lbs. towing capacity.

Here’s a quick summary of the Santa Cruz’s performance specs:

HorsepowerTorqueDrivetrainTowing Capacity
2.5L four-cylinder190+180+ lb.-ft. of torqueAWD5,000 lbs.
2.5L four-cylinder turbo275+310+ lb.-ft. of torqueAWD3,500 lbs.

How will the Santa Cruz handle?

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Well, we’ll know once we get behind the wheel. But the Korean automaker is promising “enhanced driving dynamics and responsive performance for a wide variety of urban and off-road, multi-surface driving conditions.”

Sporting a shorter wheelbase, short overhangs and wide track, the Santa Cruz is designed to be a more planted pickup that should offer more agility on everyday roads while managing to provide off-road capabilities courtesy of 18-inch wheels with larger sidewalls. For proper off-roading, 20-inch alloy wheels are optional, wrapped in wide, all-season, all-terrain tires.

2022 Santa Cruz Interior

Pickups in general these days have really stepped up their game in terms of comfort, convenience, and tech. Rivalling premium 4-door sedans, really, and this newcomer is no different.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz truck seats
2022 Santa Cruz truck. Photo: Hyundai

Hyundai did a good job blending ruggedness with style in the cabin, particularly by offering 10.25 inches of visibility coupled with an optional 10.25 inch digital cluster display. A Bose sound system comes standard and extra storage is provided under the rear seats — you don’t get that with a crossover.

The overall interior design is what the brand calls “an enveloping dual-cockpit design” which sounds like a warm hug from your Auntie. Again, we’ll need to experience the truck ourselves to find out.

Bluelink Connected is Hyundai’s smartphone app service allowing remote functions like starting the vehicle, locking doors, locating it, and more. It’s free for three years with the Santa Cruz and can be accessed via web portal, or in Canada.

In terms of safety features, expect the usual list of goods. Some notable standards include things like lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning system, and forward collision-avoidance, to name a few. Optional is Blind View Monitor (BVM), Highway Driving Assist (HDA), and Surround View Monitor (SVM).

The Santa Cruz’s distinct looks

Looking at these photos with those 20-inch wheels, the Santa Cruz indeed looks like a bold Weekend Warrior machine with sleek looks siding on the premium side. The truck’s low-slung looks give it that sporty yet stylish feel, paired to those angular A- and C-pillars. Not sure we’d feel the same with the standard 18-inch wheels, however.

At the back, the horizontal T-shaped lights provide a wider presence and look pretty sharp. The rear door finds a very large, coloured-matched ‘Santa Cruz’ engraved at the bottom. And that front grille is all Hyundai, taken almost directly from the small 2022 Tucson crossover, suiting the new pickup just fine.

Open bed with lockable tonneau cover

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz truck open bed with gear
2022 Santa Cruz truck. Photo: Hyundai

But the big deal here is that open cargo bed. While SUVs offer abundant cargo space, frankly, they’re not always ideal for hauling stuff like bikes, odd-shaped gear, and all that dirty crap from Home Depot. The convenience of simply throwing it in the back is sort of a game changer and what should appeal to buyers here.

This truck (sorry, Sport Adventure Vehicle) finds a secure, open bed area which includes a lockable tonneau cover, hidden bed storage and versatile bed extension accessories.

Interior and exterior 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz photos

Amee Reehal
Shooting cars professionally since film was a thing, Amee's work has appeared in various outlets including NBC Sports, Chicago Tribune, SuperStreet, GlobeDrive, MotorTrend, and others. He's the managing editor & founder of Find him travelling, spending time with his kids and family. Or golfing, poorly.