Hyundai’s long-awaited Santa Cruz pickup stays true to the scene-stealing concept that was a hit at the 2015 North American International Auto show. The production model will measure 195.7 inches long — 15 to 17 inches less than midsize pickups like the Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma.
The dramatic looking little truck features a short bed, four-door cab and innovative headlights that seem to vanish into the grille when they’re not on.
The Santa Cruz is built in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside the Tucson compact SUV with which it shares many parts.
Visually, the Santa Cruz stands out. In addition to dramatic and innovative lights, its proportions, particularly bed and hood length and height, differ dramatically from other pickups. A steeply raked windshield and rear window add to its unique looks.
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz available features
—18- or 20-inch aluminum wheels
—Lockable in-bed storage
—Lockable tonneau cover
—Storage bins under rear seat
—Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
—Remote seat heating or ventilation
—Alerts for unlocked vehicle or open windows
– Front- or all-wheel drive
The control panel features a standard 8-inch or optional 10-inch touchscreen and what appear to be flat-panel capacitive controls for audio volume, tuning and climate controls. Bose audio is optional.
The rear bench seat flips up to reveal storage bins.
The base model has a normally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder engine. The optional turbo is projected to generate more than 275 hp and 310 pound-feet of torque.
Santa Cruzes with the optional eight-speed dual-clutch transmission will have steering wheel paddle shifters.
The base model has front-wheel drive. An optional three-mode all-wheel drive system varies torque between front and rear axles depending on conditions.
Trucks with the base engine can tow up to 3,500 pounds. The turbo is good for 5,000.
The Santa Cruz’s small size should contribute to parking ease and maneuverability. Hyundai claims a turning radius of just 20 feet, considerably less than midsize pickups.
Standard and optional safety features
—Forward collision alert and automatic braking
—Pedestrian and cyclist detection
—Lane keeping assist
—Drowsy driver alert
—Blind spot alert and assist
—Cross traffic alert and assist
—Safe exit alert
—Blind spot monitor
—Surround view monitor
—Adaptive cruise control
Is it a ‘real’ truck?
As with previous compact pickups, capability will likely be the Santa Cruz’s greatest challenge. The ability to fit big items and heavy loads in the bed is a key performance criterion for many pickup buyers.
The Santa Cruz’s bed is short, just 48.4 inches long at the floor and 52.1 at the top, due to the cab’s unusual shape. Competing midsize pickups all have beds around five feet long.
Hyundai says the Santa Cruz breaks new ground by combining elements of an SUV and pickup. That’s an overstatement. The small truck uses familiar ingredients in a new recipe in a bid to attract new customers.
The Santa Cruz is likely to compete fairly directly with the more traditionally styled Ford Maverick compact pickup expected to debut later this year.
No other automaker has publicly committed to building pickups this small, but if the Santa Cruz and Maverick succeed, you can count on other brands to follow suit.
Photos courtesy of Drew Phillips/Hyundai/TNS