2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
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The best new combo concept for 2022
Story and Photos By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
One of my first press vehicle loans was a 1986 Ford F-150. I reviewed the truck after using it to tow my race car to the SCCA Solo 2 Nationals in Kansas. That Ford had a big open bed, but no way to hide all my tires and equipment from theft and weather. So I laboriously constructed a plywood deck to serve as a bed cover. Each removal and reinstallation took forever, but it did serve its purpose. It's taken 35 years for a manufacturer to come up with a better pickup protection policy.
The ingenuity award goes to Hyundai for the roll-up bed cover that hides the 52"(L) x 42"(W) open box of the new Santa Cruz mini pickup. First, you drop the hydraulic tailgate. Then activate a trigger-like release mounted atop the segmented bed cover. The cover magically slides open and stores itself in an aluminum canister mounted beneath the rear cab window. Retrieve it with the provided lanyard. This device has just got to be the best invention since Henry Ford replaced the Model T's trunk with an open box and called it a truck.
Inside the Santa Cruz' open bed you discover a full complement of added features. A fully covered storage locker hides beneath the bed floor. When you open it, a pair of pneumatic struts hold the lid open while you pack your goods out of sight. Two additional storage cubbies mounted on the sidewalls of the bed add to the useful division of space. A complement of sliding tie down hooks and fixed stanchions allow you to tote a wide variety of equipment in this box. Although we discovered that a bike would not store inside the box with the tailgate shut, we were able to it with the tailgate dropped by using a bungee cord to secure the bike in place.
Even if the rest of this truck were junk, it would earn its keep just for its utilitarian value. But the Santa Cruz, especially in top line Limited form, is an absolute blast to drive. This is a rare pickup with definite sports car attributes. Although the base model SE Santa Cruz retails for just $25,215 versus the $39,720 base price of our test truck, you'll definitely want to shell out the extra bucks for the top-tier turbo (281hp) versus the sluggish non-turbo SE (191hp). The first time we laid into the throttle hard, we were frankly astounded at the scat this 2.5 liter engine generated. With skillful assistance from the 8-speed double clutch automatic gearbox, the Limited AWD Santa Cruz pops off 0-60mph runs in 6 seconds flat, and sprints through the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 98mph - on its way to a top speed of 130mph. This thing is a bullet, and you don't even have to touch that nifty gearbox to achieve max blast off.
Even more surprising is the adept handling of the Santa Cruz Limited. At first we were cautiously concerned about the truck's ability to negotiate twisty back road curves. After all, it sits tall in the saddle, with a height of 67 inches, and weighs in at 4,132lb - not exactly sports car specifications. But once we became confident of its handling propensity, we started flinging it through tight curves like a Mazda Miata. This truck generates great amounts of pavement stick. The Michelin Primacy LTX radials (245/50R20), which are mounted on very distinctive 5-spoke alloy rims, never gave a hint of losing their grip, even when we went apex hunting with real determination. And they're even mud and snow rated.
Hyundai has done a remarkable job of catering to comfort inside the airy cab. The front seats are infinitely adjustable, ventilated, and heated, as is the steering wheel. That wheel features Hyundai's patented two-level set of spokes which allow you to get a grip up high or slouch your hands down low. The rear seat lower cushions flip up with a simple strap pull to reveal a vast hidden storage bin that's perfect for holding grocery bags. Once we figured out how to delete the exceptionally annoying lane centering nanny (hold the button on the steering wheel spoke down for 3 seconds) freeway lane changes became a pleasure instead of a perpetual nuisance.
Hyundai has selected a flat expanse of obsidian glass and plastic to control almost all HVAC, infotainment and navigation inputs. This is unfortunate, but at least the seat heaters have their own button. Most of all, we missed a simple volume control knob, though a switch on the left spoke of the steering wheel suffices for driver control of sound level. Stylistically, the attractive flip-ups of the sheet metal on the rear doors look great, but reduce your view out the side windows. This makes parking a blind proposition. Finally, the AWD system saddles the Santa Cruz with a vast turning radius that makes U-Turns two-cut propositions on any street. Aside from those modest complaints, the Santa Cruz Limited wins our vote as the best new combo concept for 2022.
2022 HYUNDAI SANTA CRUZ LIMITED AWD
ENGINE: 2.5 liter inline 4, turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16 valve, aluminum block and head, port and direct fuel injection
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 19MPG City/27MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $41,500
HYPES: Hands Down Ingenuity Award Winner
GRIPES: Dash Volume Knob Please
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10