Hyundai Launches Santa Cruz Mini-Pickup Truck

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz unveiled Thursday looks to be a crossover’s crossover.

Hyundai calls the truck-like model a sport adventure vehicle designed as an easy daily drive in an urban setting but with an open bed, providing the utility to haul bikes, kayaks and other equipment into the wilderness for weekend adventures.

The Santa Cruz looks a touch like a modern Chevrolet El Camino. However, like today’s SUVs, it sits much higher off the ground. It has two full-size doors and two small, rear-hinged doors. 

“Open-bed flexibility coupled with closed-cabin security meets the changing everyday needs of its adventure-oriented buyers, while powerful and efficient engines and superb maneuverability ensure it is a pleasure to drive in urban or off-road environments,” said Jose Munoz, president and chief executive of Hyundai Motor North America.

Munoz said the vehicle creates a new auto segment. But it does channel past models such as the Isuzu Amigo.

Hyundai introduced the Santa Cruz as a concept vehicle at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit without committing to producing the vehicle. In late 2019, the automaker said it would invest $410 million to reconfigure its Montgomery, Ala., factory to build the Santa Cruz.

Sales start later this year, but Hyundai has yet to announce the price of the vehicle. It also has not provided a fuel economy rating.  

Hyundai grew rapidly by selling Elantra and Sonata sedan. But it has changed its lineup to focus on crossovers and SUVs. Vehicles classified as light trucks, including pickups, SUVs and crossovers, now account for 70 percent of U.S. auto sales.

With the Santa Cruz, the South Korean automaker is targeting consumers who live in cities but want a small truck-like vehicle for light hauling. 

The Santa Cruz’s truck bed includes a lockable tonneau cover, hidden storage and versatile bed extension accessories. 

But the vehicle is built on a unibody architecture – like most crossovers and SUVs now – rather than a truck frame. That makes it easier and more comfortable to drive and improves fuel efficiency and ease of parking. 

Honda uses the same approach with the Ridgeline pickup, although that is a bigger vehicle. Other mid-size trucks, such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma, are built as classic trucks and have a body that sits on a truck frame. 

The Santa Cruz is 195.7 inches long. That’s more than a foot shorter than the Ridgeline or the Tacoma. The smallest conventional pickup is the Frontier, with a 205.5-inch length. The Santa Cruz is about 4 inches shorter than a typical mid-size pickup truck, but at 75 inches, it is about the same width. At 48.4 inches, the bed is about a foot shorter than a mid-size pickup truck.

Hyundai Santa Cruz

The Hyundai Santa Cruz has a small truck bed. (Photo: Hyundai)

Hyundai is offering the Santa Cruz with a choice of two powertrains. 

The standard configuration has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an estimated 190 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. 

The upgrade uses a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an estimated 275 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 

Hyundai is offering all-wheel-drive with three selectable traction modes as an option.

The Santa Cruz has modest towing capability. The standard engine configuration is rated at 3,500 pounds. The 2.5-liter turbo engine with all-wheel-drive provides 5,000 pounds of towing capability.

The new model comes with standard forward collision alert with pedestrian and cyclist detection and automatic emergency braking. It also has standard lane-keeping assist and driver attention warning. Other safety features and automation, including blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert on adaptive cruise control, are options. 

Other technology includes a standard 8-inch touchscreen display and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also a digital key system that works on Android phones.  A larger 10.25-inch screen is an option. 

Like other Hyundai’s, the Santa Cruz carries a 5-year/60,000-mile new vehicle warranty and comes with three years or 36,000 miles of regular oil changes and tire rotations.

Hyundai is taking a cue from Apple’s marketing department with the Santa Cruz. Like an iPhone, the rear tail lamps are embossed with “Designed in California,” a nod to Hyundai’s California-based design team. 

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