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With its swoopy shape, clever headlights and the fact that it has a truck bed, a lot of what makes the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz interesting is on the outside. But step inside, and you’ll discover that, while not as original as the Ford Maverick’s cabin, the Santa Cruz can be a comfy, stylish and arguably upmarket environment, provided you’re willing to pay the price.
And, boy, did this Santa Cruz come with a price: $41,100, including destination. It’s the range-topping Limited, though, which means it not only comes with the 281-horsepower 2.5-liter turbo four-cylinder and all-wheel drive, but an abundance of luxury equipment for that luxury price. That includes a sunroof, big screens for instruments and infotainment, power leather seats with heating and ventilation, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control, lane-centering, blind-spot monitoring, surround view cameras and more. It is all that and a bag of chips (wood chips, because it’s a truck).
It’s not just those features that help the Limited justify that price tag — when you actually do hop in, it makes a strong first impression. The dashboard is basically the same as what you get in the Tucson, which is a graceful, architectural design. Two alcoves are formed by panels with silvery trim that waterfall down the center stack, which is canted toward the driver. These also have integrated air vents to clean up the look. Nestled in the driver’s alcove is a bright and crisp 10.25-inch instrument screen that shows analog-style dials and presents fluid animations when switching between drive modes that change the dial design. The center stack features another sharp 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment that is pleasingly part of the stack, rather than sitting on it. Other fine touches are the classy black leather, which can be paired with sporty orange accents if desired, as well as the cloth trim along the dash. The plastics are appropriate for the price point (which means they’re very good at lower prices), and everything fits splendidly, too.
It does have a few foibles, though. The fancier your Santa Cruz, the fewer physical buttons you get. The entire center stack of the Limited is all touch “buttons,” including for adjusting temperature, volume and other items. So you’ll be doing a lot of tapping and possibly hearing a bunch of beeps when changing things (center stack sound effects can be switched off). If this puts you off, the base, naturally aspirated Santa Cruz provides nice big temperature knobs and admittedly unusual scroll wheels for volume and tuning. Then again, you also get a smaller infotainment screen and physical instrument dials (which you may prefer, anyway). Back in the Limited, buttons for the heated and ventilated seats are oddly placed, too, at the leading edge of the armrest where they’re difficult to see. But for the most part, the cabin is pleasing to look at and touch.
As for the seats, those up front have thick padding and a mild amount of bolstering. The lower cushion is short, so the long-legged might find themselves wanting more thigh support, but the seat can be angled to help make it comfortable enough. It’s pretty easy to find a comfortable driving position, too, but knee room is a bit tight thanks to the Santa Cruz’s relatively small dimensions, plus door and dash components that intrude on the area a bit. Speaking of the driving position, it is quite high, but with a tall roof and lots of headroom, it doesn’t feel like you’re teetering atop the truck. Combined with a low hood and cowl, forward visibility is superb. Rear visibility on the other hand is disappointing. The upswept window line and thick rear pillars make for some nasty blind spots, so you’ll be glad for the Limited’s array of blind-spot warning features.
Those same factors make the rear seat accommodations sub-optimal, and it’s where the Santa Cruz definitely departs from the Tucson. Kids will likely have great difficulty seeing out over the high window sills, and even adults will find it to be a dim locale. The seats themselves are also flat and firm, and the seatbacks more upright than what you’d find in a compact SUV. Legroom is tight compared to those as well, but then it’s also about what you’d find in larger pickups like the Ford Ranger and Chevy Colorado. The rear seats do have 60/40-split flip-up bottom cushions, so the rear can also be used for additional locked and weather-proof storage beyond the covered bed and shallow rear trunk that we covered in this Santa Cruz bed review.
Overall, the Santa Cruz Limited does back up its big price tag with not just plenty of features, but solid interior quality and comfort. That is, as long as you’re not putting people in the back too often. So as a do-everything machine with a touch of class, it’s a good choice.
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