We’ve seen pictures of the Santa Cruz for years now and finally it’s arrived. Oddly enough, Ford also released the Maverick around the same time so we’ve now got two variations of the same theme: a Unibody pickup truck that is not a real truck, but is a truck in looks and utility. The Santa Cruz is Hyundai’s first pickup truck in North America and can I say…it’s long overdue. Having owned a Ranger for the past 10+ years I can honestly say I don’t know how I ever lived without a pickup truck.
In addition to running off to the lumber yard, there’s dirt and stones and mulch to haul – you can’t do that with another SUV or a car, can you? Gotta take the lawnmower in for servicing? Toss it in the back, no need to worry about dirt, grass or gas leaking. In the old days we had Ford Ranchero’s and Chevy El Camino’s when we didn’t want to buy a real truck, but they disappeared sometime in the mid to late 80’s. Australia never gave up on them, just called them Utes. The timing for getting the Santa Cruz couldn’t have been better because we also had access to a Maverick on the week we had it – see comparison pictures at the end of the article.
What Is It?
- It’s NOT a pickup truck, it’s “the first-ever Sport Adventure Vehicle”
- Based on the same platform as the Tucson CUV
- 5 L Turbocharged I4 Engine
- 8-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (wet-type) with SHIFTRONIC manual mode & Paddle shifters
- HTRAC All-Wheel Drive (AWD) + Multi-terrain Control Modes
- It comes two ways – Preferred and Ultimate. We’re driving the Ultimate
How Does It Look?
- We really like it – it’s very well proportioned, just the right size – why did it take so long for Hyundai (and Ford) to give us these perfect -sized trucks?!!!
- Great looking truck, but not a big fan of the schnozzle however
- Very attractive 20” Alloy Wheels
What’s It Like Inside?
- VERY quiet – very noticeable on a blustery cold day when we picked it up. At Highway speeds it was impressively silent
- Visibility is excellent, but reversing can be a challenge because of the large C pillar. Fortunately there the 360° camera (Surround View Monitor) and the rear camera to help guide you
- Love the interior – the top of the dash is a nice rubber-type material – way nicer than the Maverick and to be honest, it’s a much nicer interior too
- The Heated and Cooled front seats are very comfortable – no discomfort after an hour – that’s two thumbs up and very rare!
- The driver’s seat gets an 8-way power adjustable + 2-way lumbar adjustment, the front passenger gets a manual 4-way adjustable seat
- Leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel – we easily found the button, it’s NOT stuck in a menu some place
- The driver gets a semi-customizable 25″ digital instrument cluster (see pictures at the end of article for various options)
- The layout looks great and the HVAC and audio controls are all touch-control – and I hated it…gimme dials and buttons any day! I was constantly changing the temperature when I wanted to adjust the volume on the stereo. I’m sure owners will get used to it, but for the week we had it, it stood out as quite annoying
- A unique FYI… I’m driving on the highway, climate is set to 21c and I come around a bend when suddenly the cabin gets a little cooler and I get a cool breeze blowing on my back and then my butt… what the?!!! I look down and the A/C is now on, along with the seat cooler – why? Well it turns out the outside temperature had gone from 11c to 21c instantly while coming around that bend and the auto climate switched on. I’ve never had that happen before, but it was pretty cool – literally
- An 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that includes Wireless Apple CarPlay and Wireless Android Auto as standard, the Ultimate had the impressive 10.25” screen with navigation – Voice-activated touchscreen with pinch-to-zoom capability
- The very good Sound system is a Bose AM/FM/HD Radio/MP3/XM premium audio system with 8 speakers
- Bluelink connected car system comes standard and like almost all manufacturers’ now, it offers an abundance of information and features that connects your smartphone to your car/SUV/Sport Adventure Vehicle
- Rear seats are 60/40 split with tip-up lower seat cushions – the back doesn’t fold forward. The seatback is very upright, but there’s plenty of knee and legroom for adults back there. The floor is flat, so 3 could easily fit there without playing footsie, but I can’t imagine you could get 3 people to sit there willingly for any length of time
What’s It Like Outside?
- A factory installed aluminium integrated sliding tonneau cover comes standard. Unfortunately, someone (a previous journalist?) has found a way to lock the thing closed and we couldn’t find any way to open it. There was plenty of tell-tale tiny stones, so maybe someone has filled the box with it and some of the stones have gotten stuck in the rails that allow the tonneau to slide into its cubby hole. The cover itself can hold up to 220 pounds on it
- The tailgate locks when the vehicle is locked, so the hard tonneau is a great feature for securing stuff in the bed while unattended
- Inside the bed are a couple of bed lights, a 115V outlet and 2 decent-sized sidewall storage compartments on either side of the bed
- The HUGE bonus that the Santa Cruz has over the Ford Maverick is the lockable underfloor storage compartment that also has a one-way drain plug (the Honda Ridgeline also has this feature)
- Sheet Molded Composite bed comes standard – no need to get a spray-in liner
- Six tie-down points, including four rotating Heavy-Duty D rings, Dual C-channel adjustable utility track rail and cleat system runs along each side for additional mounting points and comes standard
- Multi-functional hydraulic tailgate (Maverick doesn’t have this either)
- Integrated rear bumper side steps can hold fat people up to 440 pounds on each corner – I love these…WHY can’t all pickups have this feature? Talkin’ to you Ford
- Cargo Bed Dimensions: Length – 48.4” / Width – 9” / (between wheels) – 42.7” / Height – 19.2” / Total – 27 Cu.Ft
So How Quick Is It & How Does It Handle?
- Steering is exceptional, predictable and well balanced – just the perfect weight and feel
- Stomping on the gas pedal gets you an instant response that can catch you out if you aren’t paying attention the first time you do it
- Braking is superb – very easy to balance and modulate
- The Santa Cruz doesn’t feel the least bit like a truck, it’s very car/CUV like
- Lane Keeping Assist is annoying, and constantly micromanages the steering wheel. Thankfully it has a dedicated button on the steering wheel to switch it off
- There are 3 Driving modes: NORMAL – for everyday driving. SPORT adjusts the throttle and steering response. SMART automatically adjusts between all available modes.
- Sport mode is the fun mode, the steering and throttle response get dialed up a notch. To initiate it you press the Drive/Terrain toggle button and then you have to scroll using the blue toggle switch to the right. When you are driving it’s easy to hit the Terrain instead of Drive when using touch – I did it several times. Thankfully everything is electronic and it didn’t throw a wobbly when I did it at highway speed, but you could feel it was not agreeable to my input as I felt around for the appropriate button combination
- Three dedicated terrain modes – Snow, Mud or Sand
- The 8-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (wet-type) with SHIFTRONIC manual mode is very quick to respond to your right foot and smooth. If you don’t fancy using the paddle shifts, you can bump the gear shifter to the left and shift forward and back to change gears. According to Hyundai the wet clutch system offers better cooling and copes with high torque
- Towing capacity: 5,000 lbs – impressive, the Maverick tops out at 4,000 lbs (after you add the towing package)
- Safety Features are listed below “What’s The Verdict”
Horsepower: 281 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque lb-ft: 311 @ 1,700 rpm
Top Speed: 214 km/h / 133 mph (limited)
0-60 km/h (sec): 6.0
What Does It Cost?For up-to-date pricing visit: HyundaiCanada
Base Price – Preferred: $40,655
As Tested: $46,995
- Rated at (L/100 km): City – 12.1 / Highway – 8.6 / Combined – 10.6
- Annual cost to operate (Transport Canada – 20,000 kms / $1.25/litre): $2,120
- We averaged 9.7 L/100 kms during highway driving at 120-130 km/h and 8.3 L/100 kms between 115-120 km/h in Smart Mode
- Over the entire week of driving, we averaged 12.5-12.9 L/100km around town in short trips
- Basic: 5 years/100,000 km
- Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km
- Roadside Assistance: 5 years /100,000 km
Ford Maverick, Honda Ridgeline
Note * Hyundai offer a very good comparison between all the trucks on their website HERE
… and a very good video comparison
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- The Good: Looks, quality, driving and comfort are all top class, PLUS the bonus of cooled seats
- More Good: Warranty, bed storage compartment/trunk
- Even More Good: The Santa Cruz is far superior to the Maverick for interior quality materials used – it has a more budget feel to it. Which is perfectly fine when buying the base model, but it quickly climbs to $45k with some options
- The Bad: Nothing jumps out
- The Ugly: HVAC/Audio control – gimme buttons and /or dials!!
For our review of the Ford Maverick, click HERE
What’s The Verdict?
Direct comparisons with Ford’s Maverick will always be made, not only because they are new, but they are both designed to do the same thing. According to Ford, a large portion of the people purchasing the Maverick have never owned a pickup truck before – and I bet that’s the same thing with the Santa Cruz purchasers.
The size is perfect, with ingress and egress being terrific along with the driving position. It drives and feels like an almost luxurious CUV – it’s a very nice place to spend time – and you get the bonus of having the pickup bed for when you need that usefulness. There are a lot of Hyundai owners out there and I imagine many of them are seriously looking to get something this unique looking and comfortable. I doubt Hyundai will be able to keep up with the demand for the Santa Cruz for several years.
Hyundai SmartSense safety features include:
- Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA)
- Blind View Monitor (BVM) – loved that it actually chimed if you put your signal light on and someone was in your blind-spot
- Surround View Monitor (SVM)
- Highway Driving Assist (HDA)
- Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) with Pedestrian, Cyclist and Junction-Turning Detection
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with stop-and-go capability
- Lane Following Assist (LFA)
- Lane Keeping Assist (LKA)
- Driver Attention Warning (DAW) – drive erratically and it tells you to stop for a coffee (I’m assuming, I never drive like that)
- High Beam Assist (HBA)
- Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) – great if you’ve got kids, annoying as hell if you don’t
- Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA)
- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
- Safe Exit Warning (SEW)
- SUPERSTRUCTURE, a state-of-the-art platform built with our very own Advanced High-Strength Steel to deliver exceptional stiffness and strength
Copyright © 2022 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland
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