The US market has been lacking a truly affordable, small pickup truck for years, but luckily, we’ve got two of them coming this year. But interestingly, it’s not a Ford, Ram or General Motors product that’s come first, but a Hyundai. First previewed in a concept back in 2015, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the first small unibody pickup America has had in years, and actually looks to beat the highly anticipated Ford Maverick small truck to market.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is essentially the pickup truck sibling of the Tucson crossover. And they aren’t even calling it a pickup truck, but rather a “Sport Adventure Vehicle.” With a name like that, we aren’t surprised Hyundai says it’s geared towards people who live an “active lifestyle,” or urban dwellers that escape to the wilderness for their weekend adventures. But for all intents and purposes, this is indeed a compact unibody pickup truck.
It looks pretty rad, too. Being unibody, the Santa Cruz doesn’t have the same proportions as your typical mid-size or full size truck, but that’s let Hyundai’s designers get pretty wild. It gets a similar front end design to the Tucson, with some very interesting “jewel” DRLs, but the grille and bumper are unique. Around the side you’ll find some prominent character lines that provide more sculpture than we’re accustomed to on a pickup, as well as a neat slanted C pillar. And then we get to the bed.
It’s rather small, but then again, this is a compact pickup truck. It’s about 4 feet long (Hyundai says it ranges from 48 to 52 inches with the tailgate closed and open), but also features a lockable underfloor storage compartment. The small bed is what makes it more appealing than a larger pickup to so many people. In fact, the whole vehicle is only 195 inches long.
That’s about how long we expect the Ford Maverick to be, evident by pictures comparing the size to both a Mustang and a Ranger. But the Maverick’s bed looks longer to our eyes, so we’ll have to wait and see how they compare later on. If we had to guess, the Maverick will probably be the more capable of the pair off-road, given it’s Ford Bronco Sport underpinnings. These aren’t off-road pickups, but a crossover with a bed. But the Bronco Sport has already proven itself to be highly capable off-road, and that was never the Tucson’s intent during development.
As for the drivetrain, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz comes standard with a 2.5 liter four cylinder with around 190 hp, an eight speed auto and front-wheel-drive. Optional is all-wheel-drive, which comes standard on the upgraded 2.5 liter turbo four cylinder that’s hooked up to an eight speed dual clutch. That motor is pretty peppy, delivering 275 hp and capable of towing an impressive 5,000 lbs.
On the inside, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is almost a carbon copy of the 2022 Tucson, save for a physical gear selector. That means all of the modern tech you’d expect, delivered through a large central touch screen and digital gauge cluster. It’s a pleasing design with an interesting two-step upper dash that houses the air vents. Under the rear seats, you’ll find a hidden storage compartment.
We are hugely excited to see what the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick will bring to the pickup truck market. Customers finally have something to slot under the great, but large and expensive mid-size trucks in price and dimension. Plus, the unibody construction is perfect for the target audience: outdoorsy people who will daily drive it during the week, and take it to the trailhead on the weekend.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is expected to begin production in Montgomery, Alabama in June of this year, and will be available for sale by summer.
Your move, Maverick.