Is it a bird or a plane, a truck or an SUV? The questions we ponder when looking at the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Consider the Santa Cruz a cross pollination experiment between a pickup truck and an SUV. The back end is a truck, the front end an SUV and it drives like a car.
I test drove the top trim Hyundai Santa Cruz Ultimate.
At $47,154 it’s not cheap, but typical of Hyundai the price includes many features that might be extra options on other vehicles.
It’s all wheel drive, has a wide range of safety features, comfy heated and cooled driver’s seat, different drive modes to suit terrain and a power sunroof.
The 2.5 litre turbocharged engine produces a more than adequate 281 horsepower with 311 lb.-ft. of torque. The 8-speed transmission shifts smoothly.
It may be a truck but it drives like a car
Right away I liked driving it, I didn’t t have to convince myself that is was ok, or that I would get used to it. It’s quiet, the suspension is forgiving of rough roads, steering is crisp and visibility is good.
Good visibility is critical. Think about when you’re driving around Hamilton. When you turn left into an intersection, do you have to bob your head back and forth around the side mirror and “A” pillar to make sure there isn’t a pedestrian hidden in the blind spot? I didn’t have that challenge in the Santa Cruz.
In the US right now they are studying reports that big side mirrors on pickup trucks and SUV’s are contributing to collisions involving pedestrians in intersections.
Extra safety features
The Santa Cruz also has a feature called a Blind Spot Monitor. When turning right at an intersection for instance a video camera is activated in the instrument cluster that gives a view down the side of the vehicle, it shows if a cyclist, or skateboarder for example is sneaking up between your vehicle and the curb.
So why would I consider this hybrid of a truck and SUV?
Well the four-foot truck bed is versatile. In it you could haul garden supplies, garage sale finds, lumber for projects, or odd stuff that doesn’t fit easily into an SUV trunk. In addition to being an open bed, the built-in tonneau cover can be pulled over the bed and locked to protect cargo when needed. It also has a 5,000 lb. towing capacity.
The interior is lovely, it’s more elegant than Flintstonian pickup-truck rugged. Nicely organized and ergonomic, its only downfall is the heavy reliance on touchscreen controls. Knobs, dials, and switches won’t be found in the Santa Cruz. One must hunt and peck for even the basics, like volume control for the radio. This diverts attention from driving and it’s distracting.
One other major criticism is the lack of a seat height adjustment on the passenger side. Instead of warning me of a red light camera ahead, please put that money toward a manual mechanism to raise the seat.
Call the Santa Cruz quirky but beyond the odd looks it is a practical, pleasing vehicle.
Even Hyundai says the Santa Cruz will be a niche product in their lineup. Which is disappointing because it is a capable, polished truck that just might suit the needs of many buyers searching for a light duty vehicle.