2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Keith Griffin's picture

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.

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.

Subscribe to Torque News on YouTube.

Follow Torque News on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.


I second the motion on number five. No BEV? No PHEV? No hybrid even? What is this 1990?
It’s 2021. Majority of vehicles sold currently are ICE. That’s not to say it can’t be electrified in the future.
Electric vehicles are fools' gold. Every energy source has a downside. In 25 years, environmentalists will be complaining about the negative effects of lithium batteries proliferating the landfills. "It's leeching into the groundwater. We must DO something."
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.
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.
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
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 unibody. 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 wrong?.......Hmmm....? 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.
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!
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
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.
A drop down panel behind the back seat coming into the cabin would be ideal so longer items could be stored and carried.
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.
That definitely would have been a big plus. Still seriously considering buying one.
I'm sure Hyundai is way above the curve on the future potential of this vehicle. They always are.
#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.
A swing and a miss. Poorly thought out, the Holden (Australian) should have been the example Hyundai tried to follow.
No V-6 ? Not Good. Not a vechicle for everyone for sure, and a good replacement for my Ford Sport-trac
Hyundai have been making trucks for the South Korean market for years ie the H100. The larger turbo engine is far better suited for the North American market compared to the 1.6 litre.
All of those reasons were your opinions. Not one had any real weighted truth Or fact behind it and I don't agree with any of them. I can't wait to get one.
As a 75 year old my wife and I will sell my frontier king cab Long bed & C-rv to get this . It's perfect for us . Our second car is a new 124 Fiat spider. Don't need a big bed or a smaller motor. And we want comfort not a truck ride.
or forced. Not mistakes just things that you want to take “personal” issue with. I am recently retired and I suspect that the Santa Cruz is going to replace my Tundra crew cab. I can pull a fishing boat, tote golf clubs, transport three to dinner or anywhere else,... all with ease and a smaller foot print. SO far I am digging what Hyundai is offering.
I've got a new gen Forester and Crosstrek and was looking at an Outback for next purchase, in the fall, but not excited for it. Really want a modern Baja and have been waiting forever for it, but as far as I can tell, one isn't even in development. This Hyundai fits the bill for what I am looking for. Just looking to be able to haul crap to the dump, and home from Home Depot, without destroying the inside of my car with dirt and leaves and branches. Santa Cruz is perfect. Never thought I would consider a Hyundai, for snow and safety Subaru better, but it doesn't snow that much and I already have a couple Subaru's so the Hyundai can sit in the driveway when the Nor'easter hits. Hate to buy a Hyundai over Subaru (or Toyota) but loyalty only goes so far. Home run Santa Cruz.
I wish that the rear window would completely roll down like the 4Runner. Also longer bed with 4 door suicide door like the i3 or old Chevy extended cabs as a second option would be great. Electric would have made me sell my car immediately, hybrid plugin would have been the better option with batteries under the bed instead of storage as an option.
What a beautifull little pickup. Love to have one. Hust with imperial toyotaselling it inSA the price willbe out of my range. They monipolize the market and Hyundai and Kia prices skyrocketed under there management. I think they carry Toyota in SA
No offense intended, but my 5 are simple. 1.The concept was beautiful and unique. In design language, this is not fluid. It's good, but since they had several years to make it as close to possible as the CONCEPT, this disappoints. 2.Rear seats are pointless. There should be an option to DELETE them for better storage. This point was made similarly, as in the question it begs. Why not make it a 2 door, increase the bed length a little? I'd add a sliding lockable hard bed cover. 3&4&5.Urban anything is a joke. Real adults, not the genderless skinny jeans latte crowd, camp, hike, mtn bike trail running NON XBOXER wants more ground clearance, horsepower, and 4wd ... not AWD with road tires.
If you want a bigger bed then buy a bigger truck if you only want two doors go buy a two-door truck don't even look at this one
I think this article is for clicks and pay. No real substance to speak of and a lot of piss poor assumptions. The internet is a cesspool of this crap.
I agree with your comment, I was going to write one but I saw yours, I'll just agree with yours and that saves me having to right one because I would probably piss some people off, I like the way it looks I'm thinking about getting one,
You forgot to include number 6 on your list of why you don't like it. It doesn't fit neatly into any of your pre-existing boxes. That's precisely why those of us who do like it are interested. It's not a big truck, and doesn't have a big price, it's not even a midsize truck also with a big price. It won't tow a large trailer and it's not a serious off-roader. And all that is just fine. Those of us that like it are like Goldilocks. This one fits "just right." It won't be for everyone, but for a certain niche, those who aren't liking the same old ideas, it has our attention.