The South Korean’s first pickup truck will be a unibody construction and is expected to feature a starting sticker price of $25,000

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Hyundai has a fairly long lineup of sedans and SUVs. With that covered, the company now plans to enter the pickup truck market, too. Back in 2015, Hyundai revealed the Santa Cruz truck concept at the Detroit Auto Show. Not a lot is known about the production model yet, but it will be based on the new Tucson SUV and will have a unibody construction. The truck has been spotted a few times over the years during its test runs, but we’re yet to see it without camouflage. The production is set to begin this year, and Hyundai could debut it sometime next year with deliveries starting soon after.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior Spyshots
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As noted earlier, the Santa Cruz will be based on the new Tucson. For the 2022 model, the South Korean automaker made huge changes in terms of aesthetics. Since the truck is always spotted under heavy skin, decoding its exterior features is a tough ask. It, however, will be vastly different from the concept unveiled. If Hyundai plans to follow the Tucson design philosophy, we might have a bold-looking truck at our disposal.

The Santa Cruz will not be a hardcore workhorse like, say, the Tacoma or the Colorado. Instead, it will cater to families for their adventurous trips. Since it is a unibody construction, the ride quality is expected to be far superior to the traditional body-on-frame trucks. You can expect the ride quality to be somewhere on the lines of the Honda Ridgeline, which also features a unibody construction.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior Spyshots
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The Santa Cruz will be an entry-level pickup truck, but we don’t see why it won’t feature stuff like LED headlights and taillights, 17- and 18-inch wheel options, crew cab body style, and a whole lot of other appealing packages that make it look family-oriented.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Interior

2022 Hyundai Tucson Interior
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Trucks these days have gotten quite plush and premium on the inside and you can expect the Santa Cruz to follow the same trend. It will be on par with other vehicles sold in the market in the $20,000 to $30,000 price bracket. It will be spacious and will have storage spaces all around. Stuff like leather seats, heated seats, and heated steering wheel, etc. could be available on the higher trims.

On the tech front, an eight-inch touchscreen system could be offered as standard, whereas nine- or 10-inch touchscreens could be offered on higher trims. It goes unsaid that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be offered as standard. Other basic creature comforts that are offered in this range, irrespective of the segment, could be featured here.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Drivetrain

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior Spyshots
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On the new Tucson, Hyundai offers three different powertrains. To make a splash right from the launch, the South Korean automaker could offer all the three options on the Santa Cruz, too. First up is the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine that dishes out 187 horses and 178 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This could be the one offered as the standard option. Also, power will be sent to the front wheels by default, whereas an all-wheel-drive model could be offered as optional.

Next in line is the 1.6-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s comes with a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid system. In the hybrid avatar, it generates 227 horses and 195 pound-feet of torque combined. Hyundai has plonked in a small 1.49 kWh battery pack that recuperates while braking.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior Spyshots
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As for the plug-in hybrid option, Hyundai offers the same engine, but it makes 261 horses and 224 pound-feet of torque. It comes with a bigger 13.8 kWh battery pack that takes roughly around two hours to charge when connected to a 7.2 kW connection. Both, the hybrid and the plug-in hybrid models are mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Since the truck is based on the Tucson and these options are new for the SUV as well, Hyundai could offer them on the Santa Cruz. The plug-in hybrid could be offered in the future – maybe a year or two down the line – but the 2.5-liter and the hybrid might be offered from the beginning. The power outputs, too, fit the bill, and offering an existing engine will reduce the developmental costs of the trucks, while will allow Hyundai to price it aggressively.

Another engine that Hyundai would be tempted to offer in here is the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder GDi hybrid engine that is seen under the Sonata’s hood. The engine makes 150 horses and 139 pound-feet of torque, and the electric motor further supplements by offering 51 horses and 151 pound-feet of torque.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Pricing

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior Spyshots
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The Santa Cruz could be priced around $25,000 and go north of $30,000. Since Hyundai doesn’t have any other truck in its arsenal, this will be the one that takes on numerous mid-size and compact trucks from companies like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, etc. With Ford, for instance, it will go up against both, the upcoming Maverick and the Ranger, and thus will be priced somewhere in between the two.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Competition

Honda Ridgeline

2017 - 2018 Honda Ridgeline High Resolution Exterior
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In a market filled with body-on-frame trucks, the Ridgeline proudly stands as a unibody build despite purists looking down at it. The Ridgelines has been around for over a decade now and the is still doing well, selling around 30,000 examples every year. Honda refreshed it last year and it now looks more muscular and sharper than before, and comes with a redesigned cabin layout and tech features that are won’t leave you complaining.

Under the hood is the same 3.5-liter, V-6 engine as before that churns out 280 horses and 262 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all the wheels via a nine-speed automatic gearbox. The Ridgeline features an independent rear suspension, and coupled with the unibody construction, it offers better driving dynamics and ride quality than other traditional trucks.

2017 - 2018 Honda Ridgeline High Resolution Exterior
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The Ridgeline also features a tailgate that can open downwards and sideways like barn doors, thus making it more versatile than the simple tailgates. Such touches make the Ridgeline a good family-oriented truck and the Santa Cruz should use it as a benchmark.

As for the towing and payload capacities, the truck can tow up to 5,000 pounds and haul up to 1,580 pounds in the all-wheel-drive models. It starts at around $37,000, which is well over the Maverick’s price, but it is the only established unibody truck in the market today.

Read our full review on the Honda Ridgeline

Ford Maverick

Is Ford Working On A Bronco-Based Pickup Truck Called Maverick?
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This is another mythical figure as of now, but we are aware of its existence. The truck has even been spotted a few times along with leaked images of its tailgate and the likes here and there. Ford is resurrecting the ‘Maverick’ moniker, one that was slapped on its vehicles back in the 70s and 80s, for this new compact truck. The Maverick will sit below the Ranger in the hierarchy, which means it will start around $20,000. Just like the Santa Cruz, this one, too, will be a unibody build.

There are no details whatsoever about its powertrain options, but Ford could plonk in the powertrains from Escape in the same state of tune. This includes a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder engine that makes 181 horses and 190 pound-feet of torque, and a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder mill that dishes out 250 horses and 280 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the Escape, and it could be the same for the Maverick as well. The Ford Maverick may also arrive in a similar timeframe as the Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Conclusion

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Exterior Spyshots
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The Santa Cruz will be sold here in the States and will be manufactured at the company’s Alabama plant. Production is expected to begin this year and the truck will debut and go on sale sometime in 2022.

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Senior Editor, Truck Expert, EV Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. Fast forward to today, and he is currently serving as a senior editor, pickup truck expert, and EV expert.  Read full bio
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