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Model Showcase: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

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July 22, 2021—The compact trucks are back in U.S. markets. And while the Ford Maverick sucked up a lot of buzz, Hyundai was first to announce plans with its model, the Santa Cruz.

Now ready to hit showroom floors, the Santa Cruz will test consumers’ appetites for a compact vehicle that has an open-air bed out back. 

Two things are important to note right off the bat for the Santa Cruz. Firstly, it has a large range of trim offerings and, accordingly, retail prices. Secondly, The debut model doesn’t have a hybrid option—it remains all internal combustion for now.

Production started around June at the company’s Montgomery, Ala., production facility. Take a closer look at the vehicle Hyundai calls a “sport adventure vehicle.”


Though eight trim levels are offered in the 2022 model year, there are essentially two drivetrain options: naturally aspirated and turbo. 

The lower trims get a 2.5-liter direct injection four-cylinder engine. Owners who want a little more power can go for the turbocharged model, which adds around 85 horsepower to the package.

The transmission option is an eight-speed, dual-clutch style automatic. Hyundai explains the system thusly:

“A multi-disc and individually controlled hydraulic channel torque converter improves responsiveness by expanding the direct connection band, while a downsized oil pump and double ball bearings minimize frictional losses.”

All-wheel drive is an option at the fourth or higher tier. The rest are front-wheel drive setups.


Hyundai has a suite of ADAS features under the name SmartSense. Just three of them come standard: forward collision assist with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning.

Optional ADAS features include blind spot collision avoidance, safe exit assist, blind spot view monitor, highway drive assist, and more.

The highway drive assist feature is like an enhanced cruise control. Hyundai says the system maintains a certain distance from the next vehicle ahead and helps to center the vehicle in the lane on straighways or curves. The company also advertises a separate “smart cruise control” that maintains a distance from the next vehicle.

The Bottom Line

Most observers are comparing the Santa Cruz to the Ford Maverick because there aren’t really other options in this vehicle style. There are a couple of key differences.

The first is that the Maverick’s starting price is lower, just below $20,000. The Santa Cruz comes in at an MSRP of $23,990 at the lowest tier and runs all the way up to $39,000 at the highest.

The bigger item of note is in the powertrain. Ford made the Maverick with a standard hybrid powertrain, even at the lowest trim level, while Hyundai opted for the full internal combustion engine setup. While there are non-hybrid options, Ford’s move toward a hybrid standard raised eyebrows at a time when automakers are making big pledges toward electrification of their fleets. Perhaps it signals that Ford feels that the compact pickup is a safe bet for the long term.

Image: Hyundai

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