• Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover

10 reasons why the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the perfect off-beat alternative to conventional crossovers

LISTEN 08:20

Hyundai is venturing into unexplored territory with the all-new Santa Cruz which shares its underpinnings with the popular Tucson crossover, but adds a four-foot-long truck bed to the mix to keep things interesting. So, who is it for? Well, the Santa Cruz is not a regular pick-up but a "Sport Adventure Vehicle" according to Hyundai, so let’s look at 10 reasons why the different yet wonderful Hyundai Santa Cruz is the perfect crossover alternative that you didn’t know you need.

Punchy Turbo Engine

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Drivetrain
- image 983653

The Hyundai Santa Cruz shares its hardware with the Tucson compact SUV including its powertrain. The Santa Cruz range is available with two engine and transmission options starting with the base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four. It makes 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque and comes mated to a CVT transmission. Still, we recommend the higher-end 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four engine that makes a healthy 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque and feels surprisingly quick in this compact pick-up truck that weighs just less than 4,200 pounds. As a result, acceleration is brisk with a 0-60 mph time of just 6.0 seconds, thanks to the quick-shifting eight-speed DCT transmission which makes the Santa Cruz surprisingly fun to drive and quicker than most compact crossovers on the market.

Car-like Dynamics

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 1012062

The biggest advantage of buying a crossover over a typical body-on-frame SUV or truck is the noticeable improvement in ride quality and handling. Hyundai has taken a great handling crossover and given it a short bed design to create the Santa Cruz. The inherent advantages of the unibody design are evident from the get-go in the way the Santa Curz drives over bumps and on flat roads. It is also easier to maneuver and has an excellent turning radius, something that’s not commonly associated with old-school body-on-frame trucks.

A Proper Four-seater

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Interior
- image 983667

If you take a look back at the history of pickup trucks in America, you will come across plenty of attempts made by automakers to make smaller, city-friendly pick-up trucks like the F-150 Adrenalin with the two-foot bed from 2005. But, these unconventional trucks never offered much in the name of practicality or added convenience. The Santa Cruz, as mentioned before, shares its basic design with the popular Tucson crossover, and as a result, offers similar amounts of space and comfort levels which make it a proper four-seater that can replace any conventional crossover on commutes with family, not to mention the added convenience of a fully isolated truck bed.

A Trick-Truck Bed

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 983677

Pick-up trucks have come a long way, from utilitarian and bare-bones work trucks from the 60s that offered nothing more than a seat-mounted and a steering wheel in the name of comfort to the modern trucks with plush interiors, extensive features list, and prices bordering the $100k mark. One area where modern pickup trucks have made noteworthy improvements is to their truck beds and the Santa Cruz keeps up this tradition by offering a tricked-out truck bed. For starters, you get integrated steps in the bumper for easy access and it also gets clever under-floor storage with a drain plug which makes it perfect to store cold drinks on a hot day. Hyundai has also included a clever and robust tonneau cover made of metal that locks in place and completely closes off the truck bed, allowing you to use it as a proper boot. The tunnel cover is available as standard on higher trim levels of the Santa Cruz.

Towing Capabilities

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 983703

Most people expect a real truck to have proper towing capabilities even if the owners never end up using it to tow things. Luckily Hyundai has thought about it and given the Santa Cruz a decent towing capacity. Thanks to the low-end grunt from the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, the Santa Cruz can tow as much as 5,000 pounds which might not be as much as some of its body-on-frame rivals like the Toyota Tacoma and Jeep Gladiators, but its enough to carry small trailers and RVs which is more than enough for a lifestyle vehicle and still higher than most crossovers in this price bracket.

Distinctive Styling

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 983710

At first glance, the Hyundai Santa Cruz looks almost identical to the Tucson, but a closer inspection would reveal that these two vehicles don’t share a single body panel between them despite their near-identical design. The Santa Cruz dives into Hyundai’s new design language and gets the aggressive split headlamp setup with DRLs integrated into the grill for a distinctive look. The sides are fairly straight, unlike the Tucson but the plastic wheel arch cladding does add some visual bulk and combined with the 20-inch wheels, the Santa Cruz looks futuristic and grabs a lot of eyeballs.

Off-road Capabilities

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 983698

The Hyundai Santa Cruz comes with front-wheel drive as standard, but you can opt for the H-TRAC AWD system on all models. Even though the base, naturally aspirated engine can be had with AWD, we recommend pairing it with the 2.5-liter turbo that makes the best use of the AWD traction to get you out of sticky situations. The driver will find dedicated off-road modes that alter the traction control and AWD system for optimal grip and with 8.6 inches of ground clearance, the Santa Cruz can take on rough roads and small trails with ease, which puts its off-road capabilities on par with most crossovers at this price point.

Throwback to the Subaru Baja

2002 - 2006 Subaru Baja Exterior
- image 470397
Subaru Baja

The Santa Cruz is a very compelling attempt made by Hyundai to give the customers what they need, rather than what they want which results in a vehicle that crosses segments or in this case, a vehicle that combines the best attributes of a crossover and a pickup truck with minimal compromise, but Hyundai wasn’t the first to think of something like this. That award goes to the Subaru Baja, which was essentially a Subaru Legacy with a 41-inch cargo bed at the back and a slew of clever touches to maximize storage space.

2002 - 2006 Subaru Baja Exterior
- image 470404

But, what made it special was its car-like driving dynamics, the Rally bread Subaru AWD, the turbocharged boxer engine, and manual transmission, all of which come together to deliver the best all-weather rally car experience with practicality. After a two-year production run, the Subaru Baja was discontinued in 2006 and its been dearly missed, but not anymore, because, with its brilliant car-like handling and ride, good ground clearance, a competent AWD system, and punchy powertrain, the Santa Cruz is the spiritual successor to the beloved Subaru Baja.

The Perfect Urban Pickup

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 1012067

The combination of a short but useful bed in a smaller unibody platform is what makes the Hyundai Santa Cruz truly unique. This Sports Adventure Vehicle, as Hyundai likes to call it, is designed as an urban lifestyle vehicle that lets you use the bed on weekends and acts as a regular crossover on weekdays. With crossover-like ride and handling, the Santa Cruz is effortless on those daily commutes and comes with clever touches like Hyundai’s highly acclaimed lane keep assist and radar cruise control and a very well-designed and feature-rich interior, all of which make it the perfect daily driver and a compelling alternative to your mundane crossover.

Competitive Pricing

Why The Hyundai Santa Cruz Is The Perfect Alternative To A Crossover Exterior
- image 1012061

The Santa Cruz is a segment disrupter which is exactly why Hyundai insists on calling it a Sports Adventure Vehicle instead of a compact pickup truck. But, once you take the bed, the engine, and features into consideration, it’s easy to determine its competitors, which include the Ford Maverick and the Honda Ridgeline. With prices starting at $25,735, the Santa Cruz is cheaper than the Ridgeline which starts at $39,435, but it’s not as cheap as the Ford Maverick which starts just under $23,000. But, the Santa Cruz makes a strong case for itself with its unique design, its car-like driving dynamics, and a turbo engine that outperforms the other two cars and so does its extensive feature list.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Specifications:

Engine 2.5-liter Naturally aspirated/ turbocharged Inline-four
Horsepower up to 281 horsepower
Torque up to 311 pound-feet
Drive FWD/AWD
Transmission CVT / Eight-speed DCT
0-60 mph 6.0-seconds
Top Speed 133 mph
Base Price $25,735
Bhavik Sreenath
Bhavik Sreenath
A keen automotive enthusiast with a love for anything with engines. He loves discovering the world of cars and technology to explore new boundaries in the field of modern-day journalism.  Read full bio
About the author

Related Articles

Unibody Trucks - the Ultimate Guide

Best Pickup Trucks Of 2021

Ford Maverick Vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz: Which Is The Better Compact Pickup?

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup - Everything You Need to Know

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder:
  • Hyundai Santa Cruz