TESTED: The 2022 Santa Cruz Doesn't Care If You Don't Think It's a Truck

TESTED: The 2022 Santa Cruz Doesn't Care If You Don't Think It's a Truck

It may have a truck bed, but everything else about the Santa Cruz suggests a different category

  • The Hyundai Santa Cruz joins the Ford Maverick in the revived small truck segment.
  • These new small trucks are based on small SUVs, the Santa Cruz sharing its platform with the Hyundai Tucson.
  • With less weight, a healthy amount of horsepower, and the advantage of a rigid unibody foundation, the Santa Cruz proves it's a wide receiver among linebackers at our test track.

If you compare the size of small pickup trucks from 20 years ago with the entry-level trucks on sale today, you'll notice that everything has ballooned up a size class. That's why we call the Tacoma, Frontier and Colorado "midsize trucks" — for many years, small trucks were simply no longer a thing. But Hyundai saw a big opportunity to revive the small truck class, and thus was born the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz, however, doesn't utilize the typical body-on-frame truck architecture. Hyundai instead took a page out of the Honda Ridgeline's playbook, repurposing the platform of a car-like SUV (the Tucson) and adding a 4-foot truck bed behind a cozy cabin that can accommodate five passengers. Some purists may not consider the Santa Cruz a true truck for this reason, but we say if it has a bed and quacks like a truck, it's a truck. You know?

In any case, we recently got our hands on a new Santa Cruz Limited with the upgraded turbo engine and put it through its paces at our test track. Here's how it lines up compared to other trucky vehicles.

How does the Santa Cruz perform?

We tested a Santa Cruz Limited with the stronger turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. According to Hyundai, it pumps out an impressive 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, increases of 90 hp and more than 100 lb-ft over the standard engine (more on that in the next section). An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic backs it up, distributing power to all four wheels.

On our scales at the test track, this Santa Cruz weighed in at 4,128 pounds, which is significantly heavier than the last Tucson we tested (3,694 pounds), although that vehicle had the non-turbo engine and a conventional automatic transmission.

From the driver's seat, you'd be hard-pressed to discern that there's a truck bed in the back. Trucks typically transmit a certain type of vibration when going around corners or over bumps due to their body-on-frame foundations, but there is no trace of that in the Santa Cruz. It drives as if it were still a small SUV. In our handling test around the skidpad, the Santa Cruz managed 0.85 g, which is unsurprisingly comparable to what the Tucson recorded (0.87 g). To put this into perspective, the best skidpad figure for any midsize truck we've tested is 0.81 g (Honda Ridgeline, shocker!), and the worst was 0.70 g (Tacoma TRD Pro, shocker again!).

Acceleration is another area where the Santa Cruz flexes its small but potent muscles. It was able to reach 60 mph from a standstill in just 6.5 seconds, passing the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 95.9 mph. Our quickest midsize pickup is the Ford Ranger at 6.8 seconds to 60 mph and 15.1 seconds in the quarter mile at 90.5 mph. We'll save the diesel-powered Chevy Colorado ZR2 the embarrassment of quoting its leisurely acceleration stats.

The turbo 2.5-liter engine is a pretty juicy one. It starts to feel good around 3,500 rpm and maintains that turbo thrust till it shifts at 6,000 rpm. Paired with Hyundai's HTRAC all-wheel drive, there's no wheelslip ever on dry pavement, even with traction and stability control turned off. The dual-clutch transmission shifts smoothly and quickly, with nice rev-matched downshifts if you like to utilize the fingertip shift paddles. This isn't a particularly great-sounding engine, but it isn't annoying either.

As a lighter vehicle, it's no surprise that the Santa Cruz is able to stop in a shorter distance, too. We recorded a best stop of 119 feet, with good consistency run after run. The best-braking midsize truck, again the Honda Ridgeline, got it done in 126 feet.

Summing up, then, the pint-sized Santa Cruz has better acceleration, braking and handling than any midsize truck we've tested. That's impressive work right out of the gate.

Performance

  • 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
  • Quarter mile: 14.6 seconds @ 95.9 mph
  • 60-0 mph braking: 119 feet
  • Skidpad: 0.85 g

What kind of hardware is the Santa Cruz packing?

The Santa Cruz is available with two engines. The base engine is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four paired to a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine makes an unremarkable 191 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, sent to the front wheels if you don't spring for all-wheel drive.

As noted, the upgraded turbocharged 2.5-liter that our test car came with outputs a much healthier 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic backs it up, distributing power to all four wheels.

With the Tucson's body as a starting point, the Santa Cruz employs a MacPherson strut front suspension and an independent multilink rear suspension, as opposed to the usual truck fare of a solid rear axle with leaf springs. Twenty-inch wheels with 245-millimeter-wide Michelin Primacy LTX all-season tires and disc brakes at all four corners round out the Santa Cruz mechanicals.

Powertrain as tested

  • 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four (281 hp, 311 lb-ft of torque)
  • Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • HTRAC all-wheel drive (optional; front-wheel drive is standard)

Edmunds says

The Hyundai Santa Cruz may not drive, perform or even look like a conventional truck, but we're going to continue to consider it one. Outside of towing and hauling, the Santa Cruz puts up some impressive numbers and is also comfortable and easy to drive. It's a compelling overall package for those who don't need the massive workhorse capabilities of traditional trucks.



Edmunds news

See all car news