Americans buy a lot of pickup trucks to serve a lot of different needs. Hyundai
believes that some of those needs could be met by something radically different than any other truck on the market. The Korean automaker’s first truck, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, poses a new answer to almost every problem trucks can solve. In fact, Hyundai doesn’t even call it a truck. It’s a “Sport Adventure Vehicle.”
Hyundai hasn’t even hinted at the price of the Santa Cruz. It shares many of its parts with the Tucson SUV, which starts at $23,700. The Santa Cruz goes on sale this summer. It will be built in Montgomery, Alabama.
First things first: It’s small.
There are no true compact trucks currently for sale in the U.S. (though we’d recommend keeping your eye out for the upcoming Ford
Maverick, which may touch that niche).
The smallest pickups today are midsize — like the Toyota
Tacoma and Nissan
Frontier. The Santa Cruz is 17 inches shorter than the shortest truck currently on offer and four inches lower than the lowest. Its bed is just 4.3 feet long (though oddly sloped, so that it’s just four feet at the top). That bed has a trunk built into its floor and a standard roll-top tonneau cover.
Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive an option. A few off-road-centric options will be available, like a center differential lock and hill-descent control.
Inside, the Santa Cruz borrows a lot from the Hyundai Tucson, with which it shares a platform. An 8-inch infotainment screen is standard, with 10 inches available for an added cost. Blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, and 360-degree cameras are optional.
Choice of two engines
The Santa Cruz eschews the big, torque-heavy, tow-ready engines of most trucks. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 190 horsepower. Optional is a turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 275 horsepower. With the standard, non-turbo engine, towing capacity is 3,500 pounds. The larger engine bumps that towing load up to 5,000 pounds.
Both numbers are surprisingly good for the most compact truck on the market, rivaling what the least-expensive Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, or similar midsize truck can do.
And the Santa Cruz will likely find buyers no current truck attracts. Hyundai says its research “found consumers, often living in urban environments, whose lifestyles include the need to escape to weekend adventures of all kinds. Many of these customers carry various gear and equipment that is better suited to an open bed rather than a typical SUV body style,” but “still value the secure utility of a compact SUV, with its comfort, passenger space, fuel efficiency, and parking ease.”
For such a buyer, neither today’s midsize trucks nor current SUVs quite reach the sweet spot. Maybe Hyundai’s odd little SAV will do the trick.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.