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5 Things Wrong with the All-New Hyundai Santa Cruz

It’s tough to buck the trend but there are already 5 things wrong with the all-new Hyundai Santa Cruz. Hyundai should be able to fix some; others will require major investment by the Korean automaker.

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Hyundai introduced the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz earlier this week to great acclaim. Apparently it’s the small pickup truck (or sport activity vehicle) the world has been clamoring for, yet few people outside the automotive universe seem to be talking about.

Almost immediately it becomes obvious there are 5 things wrong with the Santa Cruz. Some are easy to fix (electric version) and some aren’t. All should affect your decision to buy a 2022 Santa Cruz.

(That's not to say we totally dislike the Santa Cruz. There are also 5 good things to know about the Santa Cruz that should be considered as well.)

The first thing is Hyundai isn’t a pickup company. Sure, the Santa Cruz is basically a Hyundai Tucson underneath. However, the rest of the Santa Cruz is all new for Hyundai and the team at the Hyundai plant in Alabama. There are bound to be issues with the 2022 model that will be fixed for the 2023 model year. Be patient and wait a year. Let the kinks get worked out.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz engine

The second thing is the choice of engines. The 1.6-liter 4-cylinder direct-injected, turbocharged engine from the Hyundai Kona would be the better choice because its low-end peak torque delivery seems better suited to a sport activity vehicle, which isn’t built for speed. Also, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission just seems to make more sense.

The third issue is the targeted market: urban dwellers. They’re a myth, especially in light of the pandemic when people moved out of cities in great numbers. The 2022 Santa Cruz will sell in great numbers among the people who don’t need marketing to. The challenge comes with the 2023 year and beyond.

2022 Santa Cruz bed

The fourth issue is it’s a four-door sport activity vehicle. More room could have been gained in the bed if this was a two-door vehicle with a small interior cargo area that could seat two kids in a pinch. It’s an educated guess but the market for the Santa Cruz isn’t going to be families; it’s going to be active couples with no kids. A coupe, so to speak, would make the bed more functional.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz sideview

The fifth issue is the choice of powertrains. Where is the electric option? Hyundai is on a massive move to dominate the electric vehicle market globally. It would have been a home run to unveil the Santa Cruz EV from the start. It has the electric vehicle platform technology. By 2025 Hyundai aims to sell 1 million electric vehicles globally. It took a giant step toward that goal with the reveal of a 10-vehicle EV lineup. It should have been 11 vehicles.

What do you think? Are there other issues that come to mind? Are these issues we raised incorrect? Comment below.

Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter, on @LinkedIn and on his Indepth Auto Facebook page.

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Rob (not verified)    May 12, 2021 - 1:12AM

In reply to by GBC (not verified)

Given that the core charge on EV batteries is thousands of dollars, I'm trying to imagine a scenario where it's cheaper to throw away valuable EV batteries rather than to strip them down for hundreds of pounds of nickel, copper, lithium, cobalt and aluminum. I guess if you can't think of any valid grievances against EVs, you have to make up myths and strawmen scenarios to posture against them.

Afazul (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 9:59AM

After waiting for years, the Santa Cruz has sunk it's future, with such a small bed, 12 more inches and it would be in the middle of a hot market segment.

Kevin (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 11:47AM

Cannot agree more on your 2 door opinion. Ford is doing the same with the Maverick. I had an old 2 door Ranger. It was all I needed and also all I want today.

Gord (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 11:49AM

I love the look of this little truck. Most of us buy from that one matrix so it’s good to go. I have a Ford Adrenalin and box is 50” deep and has served me well. But now trade up when a hybrid comes because I will never own an ev

Rick (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 12:03PM

Hmm. Serious hate on for Hyundai. I get a kick out of writers like you. Never even driven the vehicle, but decide to criticize and nit pick.
So let’s examine the five things that are wrong in “your” opinion.
1. It’s not a pick up truck. It’s an SUV style vehicle with an open box in the back.
It is if you will, could be called an ultra light pick up, but in no means a truck. It’s a
2. “Low end peak torque better” for this vehicle is a real stretch as most will not use
off-road for rock climbing. As for DCT, this is intended to be a sports style
vehicle, it’s utilitarian.
3. Huh? What are trying to say? Urban dwellers myth? This makes the Santa Cruz
4. Another assumption on your behalf, that owners won’t use the backseat. Wow!
It appears you fail to see this is in a market of none. As a soon to be senior, it
fits my needs to a T. I no longer want or need a behemoth pick up, just a small
box for the occasional light hauling. Other than the Ridgeline and Tacoma the
rest of the midsize market is junky.
5. Is it not the same as issue # 2? Choice of powertrain? It could and may be a
BEV in the future, but not right out of the gate.
So, your issues could stand perhaps improvements or modifications in the future if in fact they are warranted, but I don’t see it as “wrong”
This truck will sell well, in “my” opinion, even if you don’t think people “ outside the automotive universe” are talking about it. Probably because there are many other things going on and it has yet to be built. I mean it was just unveiled last week.
You asked for an opinion, you got mine.
Stay safe.

Michael Glisson (not verified)    April 28, 2021 - 5:10PM

In reply to by Rick (not verified)

I agree with you on all accounts. It's not being marketed as a "truck". It's a true compact truck-like Sports Activity Vehicle, smaller than the smallest light truck, but having a bed big enough for a few sheets of plywood or 2x4's with very handy adjustable tie downs to keep in place! Most "trucks" sold today are either quad-cab or extended and most of the "compact trucks" are cramped at best! This vehicle is lower to the ground, easier to access rear for children with enough room for adults to be comfortable, plus it's not a truck, so will be more comfortable on any trip! 0-60 mph is a wasted attribute. If it has enough power to tow 3000lbs with the standard engine and get 30 mpg on the highway, what's not to like! I for one am looking forward to it for all that it's not, a "truck", but can do most of what most people buy compact trucks for, but with style!

Frank Raimundo (not verified)    May 1, 2021 - 11:40AM

In reply to by Michael Glisson (not verified)

Why do people keep saying it's not a pickup truck Google the definition of a pickup truck small enclosed cap with an open bed in the back hello people

Raymond riddle (not verified)    May 9, 2022 - 10:11AM

In reply to by Michael Glisson (not verified)

I just purchased the Hyundai Santa Cruz recently. I am so far very pleased with this vehicle. I am 71 years old and larger cars and trucks just don't work for me anymore. I did some research and i was excited to see the options that was available. I traded in my Hyundai Palisade that was a very good vehicle but after taking it to the beach i felt uncomfortable with the size. Knowing that the Santa Cruz will tow a small camper without all the extra length. I was very pleased with the towing capacity. Time will tell but i think this vehicle will sell extremely well.

Diana. (not verified)    February 15, 2024 - 7:03PM

In reply to by Raymond riddle (not verified)

I bought the Santa Cruz in August of 2022. I have loved it. HOWEVER the radio quite putting out sound as did the blue tooth. Reading on line it said disconnect the battery and reconnect. Has work three times simple fix. Till yesterday. Radio works Santa Cruz won’t start. Says to put it in park. It is in park in my garage. Blue link hmmm couldn’t get me a tow truck. Called Hyundai they said call roadside assistance. I did they could not help me.very disappointed. I called my own tow truck and my dealer is short staffed. So it is being towed to Jenkins Hyundai in Bridgeport WV . We will see what happens maybe trading back to my trusty Ford

Rick Ohnsman (not verified)    May 6, 2021 - 4:17PM

In reply to by Rick (not verified)

You're write-up reads like I could have written it because you are describing me and how I feel about this vehicle. The only thing I'll disagree with you about is that it will sell well. No, I don't think it will sell that well because it's a niche market vehicle, one that's been ignored up until now. And that's just fine because I've never been a mainstream guy anyway. I'm driving an 03 Ford Sport Trac and the Santa Cruz looks like the perfect next vehicle for me. Of course I'm also waiting to see what Ford does with the Maverick.

Ronnie (not verified)    July 16, 2022 - 9:24PM

In reply to by Rick (not verified)

Rick, I could not have said it any better. My wife and I just retired and decided that we no longer needed two vehicles. We had a 2006 Hyundai Veloster and a 2002 Mitsubishi Montero Limited. We were looking for something in between the two. That's when we saw the ads on the Santa Cruz. We researched and found that it was a perfect combination of the other two vehicles that we owned. We spoke with the Dealer prior to them having it in stock. Once it came, we test drove it and enjoyed its comfort. Since we no longer needed to haul large or oversized items, the truck bed was PERFECT. Since we are not in our 20's, we no longer needed the SPEED. And since our children are grown and have families of their own, the occasional visit with the grandchildren makes it PERFECT. We've had it for ten (10) months now and enjoy it very much. All our friends and neighbors are looking to do the same in the near future.

Rick G. (not verified)    August 9, 2022 - 4:13PM

In reply to by Ronnie (not verified)

Ronnie and Rick, same here, I am 68 and had a very nice chevy pickup full size, we decided after we drove the Santa Cruz it would more than meet our needs for hauling light loads (if needed) and work for comfortable trips as well, therefore we sold the Chevy full size and my wife's Buick and bought one, so far we enjoy it!
I do not miss the gas mileage I got with the Full size truck.....that is for sure!

Rick G. (not verified)    August 9, 2022 - 4:45PM

In reply to by Ronnie (not verified)

Ronnie and Rick, same here, I am 68 and had a very nice chevy pickup full size, we decided after we drove the Santa Cruz it would more than meet our needs for hauling light loads (if needed) and work for comfortable trips as well, therefore we sold the Chevy full size and my wife's Buick and bought one, so far we enjoy it!
I do not miss the gas mileage I got with the Full size truck.....that is for sure!

DZumbro (not verified)    August 24, 2022 - 1:12PM

In reply to by Rick G. (not verified)

I purchased the Santa Cruz in June and have really enjoyed it. Everyone who sees it, likes the way it looks. It's a comfortable ride and has really come in handy a couple of times in picking up larger items (much to the relief of my son). My only complaint is locking it - for some reason, I'm hit or miss on getting my thumb on the right spot on the handle. Besides that, it's a keeper. Went camping last week and I had it loaded down - do miss the 40 MPH gas mileage I was getting with my Vesta but the Santa Cruz is so much better and a lot of fun to drive.

JALENE K ROBSON (not verified)    August 25, 2023 - 5:40PM

In reply to by Rick (not verified)

I agree the "5 things wrong" are NOT wrong. I do not want a longer bed. I do want 4 seats and 4 doors. The seats fold up easily towards the back and is easy for a 75 yr old woman to open and close for loading small suitcases, large purses and grocery sacks. I love having the small bed for hauling now and then but only will use it for bunglesome items that won't fit in the back seat. I've had my 2024 santa cruz for only 6 days and hauled a doll crib one day and a dirty piece of canvas the other day. Just perfect!!!!. MOTOR is perfect and gets up and goes when I want it to. I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT WANT AN ELECTRIC CAR, so thanks, hyundai for not making this one that! !!! Ice chests are hard for the elderly and the built in ice chest is PERFECT as I can load a grocery sack full easily, add some ice or ice packs and I am off!!! Resale will be easy as it can be used as a tailgate car and good for college students when the car has aged. BEST VEHICLE I HAVE EVER OWNED FOR COMFORT AND

Quirky 1 (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 12:54PM

A drop down panel behind the back seat coming into the cabin would be ideal so longer items could be stored and carried.

Dave (not verified)    April 23, 2021 - 12:09AM

In reply to by Quirky 1 (not verified)

At 54 years old I have to agree that a smaller truck is exactly in with my thinking. I'm sure the customization Market will come up with ladder racks ones that preferably extend over the cab that can I handle The Kayaks, the Home Depot runs, and a Bed Extender from the tailgate might I say might handle the bikes. I don't need huge towing capability but I've always fancied a small trailer, the few times a year that I will pull something far less 5000 lb. Technology features and the fuel economy will make this thing a home run, and I won't spend anywhere near $50,000.

Allen (not verified)    June 19, 2021 - 1:56AM

In reply to by Dave (not verified)

I don’t see the benefit of the open bed when it is this short. I had an Avalanche and used the open back wall only occasionally. The bed was short but long enough that most long items could be safely loaded and stick out over the tailgate. This bed is so short that the fulcrum on an eight foot 2x4 is going to be right at the tailgate. Most of what you could haul safely would fit inside the Tucson.

Joseph Maguire (not verified)    August 2, 2021 - 12:15AM

In reply to by Allen (not verified)

Not everyone needs a huge pickup bed. But, here's a trick I learned from a YouTube reviewer, Truck King: you can put a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood on top of the wheel wells, and the tailgate can be set up to a partially-open position to support the rear of the sheet. This gives more flexibility on types of payloads. The thing about the Santa Cruz is, it's for suburbanites who only occasionally need to tow a small camper or trailer, pick up lumber, or a load of lawn and garden material, but comes in a compact package that's easy to park and keep in a garage.

Paul Martin (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 3:35PM

#4 for me! But I’m not a couple with no kids. Rather, now we are empty nesters. 2 door king cab with a bigger bed. Like their original concept vehicle.

Paul L (not verified)    April 18, 2021 - 3:46PM

A swing and a miss. Poorly thought out, the Holden (Australian) should have been the example Hyundai tried to follow.