Preview: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz compact pickup priced from $25,175

If you can’t beat ’em, build pickup trucks to join ’em. That’s what Hyundai has done with its new 2022 Santa Cruz which was revealed in April and now on sale with a starting price of $25,175, including destination.

Hyundai first previewed the compact pickup in 2015, when it rolled out a concept of the same name, and for a while it wasn’t certain the concept would make the transition to production. Given the strong interest in pickup trucks, both as a workhorse and lifestyle vehicle, Hyundai has likely made the right decision.

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The Santa Cruz is 195.7 inches long, making it between 15 and 20 inches shorter than popular mid-size pickups. This results in a much smaller bed; it measures about 50 inches long, which means you aren’t going to fit much construction gear here. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Hyundai said at the reveal of the Santa Cruz concept that the vehicle isn’t an alternative to traditional pickup trucks, as it doesn’t prioritize towing, payload, or ground clearance. Rather, Hyundai said it wants to appeal to crossover buyers who want the extra utility of a bed without having to opt for a bigger, body-on-frame truck.

The advantage is that the Santa Cruz will be easy to maneuver around town. It should also drive more like a car due to its unibody construction. Honda does the same for the larger Ridgeline pickup which is related to the Pilot crossover, and Ford also has also just revealed its own compact, car-based pickup in the form of the 2022 Maverick. The Maverick is the Santa Cruz’s closest rival, and is priced to start from just $21,490, including destination.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz is offered with two powertrain options. The base option is a 2.5-liter inline-4 that delivers over 190 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, and is hooked to an 8-speed automatic. Above this is a 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-4 that delivers over 275 hp and 310 lb-ft, and is hooked to an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The turbocharged engine is an extra $11,690, but you get a lot of extras thrown in including all-wheel drive which is a $1,500 option on the base model. The all-wheel-drive system features a rear bias whenever the Sport mode is activated. Hyundai quotes 3,500 pounds of towing for the naturally aspirated engine and 5,000 for the turbo.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

The exterior of the Santa Cruz looks rugged, which pickup buyers tend to appreciate. One interesting element is the design of the headlights. Each headlight cluster is made up of multiple smaller units integrated with the grille. For the interior, the designers have focused on practicality. There are plenty of storage cubbies, including under the rear seats, and buyers are able to opt for premium touches like a Bose sound system and 10-inch digital instrument cluster. A 10-inch infotainment screen in the center stack is standard.

Production of the Santa Cruz is being handled at Hyundai’s plant in Montgomery, Alabama. The plant is where the Elantra, Sonata, Santa Fe and redesigned 2022 Tucson are bolted together, with the Tucson the closest to the Santa Cruz. Hyundai spent $410 million in preparing the plant for production of the compact pickup. Around 200 direct jobs will be created plus an estimated 1,000 at suppliers and related logistics companies.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Hyundai has seen its sales in the U.S. slide since a high of 768,057 units in 2016 due to a sedan-heavy lineup and the lack of a pickup. The tally in 2020 was 622,269 units. The automaker is turning the ship around with new additions like the Kona, Palisade and Venue crossovers, and now the Santa Cruz pickup.

For more on the Santa Cruz, head to The Car Connection.

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