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Hyundai has finally pulled the wraps off its super compact pickup truck: the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. Hyundai eschews the term “pickup truck” in favor of creating a new segment called “Sport Adventure Vehicle” – not to be confused with BMW’s “Sport Activity Vehicle,” which is really just an SUV.

What we want to say is: A rose is a rose … (is a rose, in case you’re not familiar with Gertrude Stein).

This compact truck is a full 10 inches shorter than the most compact midsize truck, which happens to be the Nissan Frontier at 205.5 inches.

We got an in-person first look at the 2022 Santa Cruz during the Hyundai Tucson media program, and it literally looks like a Tucson that just happens to have a truck bed – inside and out. While there are, of course, some functionality differences, the primary visual difference we saw on the interior was the gearshift lever (instead of push-button gearing) and the “T” lighting signature for the rear taillights.

Since we’re linking to the press release, I’m not going to regurgitate the specs and features ad nauseum. Instead, I’d like to focus on six cool things – a few of which the press release doesn’t detail.

2022 Santa Cruz

Of course, @girlinthetrunk had to try to fit in the under-bed storage. Duh.

Under-bed storage

Whenever I see storage spaces, my first thought is usually: I can fit in that. So, when I saw the under-bed storage, which has a drainage plug for tailgating ice and beverages, that’s where my brain went.

A funny thing happened when I mentioned this to the product experts. Apparently, there was some serious debate about whether there should be an emergency release tab in this storage compartment, and someone asked: Who would actually try to climb in here. The response was: Jill Ciminillo – or more specifically, my alter ego @girlinthetrunk.

Long story short: There is an emergency release tab. You’re welcome.

2022 Santa Fe

Small Easter egg on the cladding above the wheel on the 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe. (Image courtesy Hyundai Motor America)

Easter eggs on the 2022 Santa Cruz

While we’re not talking Jeep-level Easter eggs, there are a few cleverly placed image emblems on the vehicle including the mini Santa Cruz outline on the cladding above the wheels as well as on the step/ledge below the tailgate.

Hyundai is also super proud of the fact this vehicle was made in the U.S., so it has a “Designed in California” tag on the taillight as well as the “Hyundai Design North America” logo.

While Santa Cruz was designed in California, it will be built in Alabama.

A lockable bed

Because this is an “adventure” vehicle, Hyundai doesn’t want to limit the capability of the bed storage. So, in addition to having the ability to store large, upright items in the bed, the Santa Cruz enables lockable bed storage – more like a trunk – with a hard tonneau cover.

The cover has a latch release system, the slides the cover all the way to the back of the bed. In order to bring the cover forward again, there’s a tether strap that’s easy to grab and pull while standing in front of the bed. I’m about 5-feet tall, and I didn’t have any problems pulling it back in place.

2022 Santa Cruz

Flipping up the seat reveals a plastic bin for storage in the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. (Image courtesy of Hyundai Motor America)

Under-seat storage

Taking a page out of the full-size truck segment, Santa Cruz has implemented under-seat storage in the rear seat. The seat bottoms flip up and reveal a plastic storage bin to stow items out of sight of prying eyes.

Tri-level truck bed steps

If you’re familiar with full-size trucks, another familiar feature will be the truck-bed step. On both the right and left rear corners of the back bumper, there is a treaded cut-out made for your foot, so that you can easily step up into the bed to grab something.

Hyundai takes the foothold a step (yes, I did that on purpose) further with three step-height levels. One is the cut out, two is in the center of the bumper below the license plate, and the third is the top of the bumper itself – all treaded for anti-slip purposes.

2022 Santa Cruz

Looking at the rear of the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, you can see the in-bumper steps with tread. (Image courtesy of Hyundai Motor America)

Two powertrains at launch, but …

The 2022 Santa Cruz will have two 2.5-liter engines available, with one being a turbocharged version. Though Hyundai hasn’t released any power ratings, we do know that the non-turbo will get a 3,500-pound tow rating, and the turbo will have a max 5,000-pound tow capacity. Additionally, both engines will have all-wheel-drive availability.

One thing Hyundai pointed out during the press preview is that this is built on the Tucson platform, which has flexibility built into in terms of future power trains. Since Tucson is getting both a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid, we have to wonder if this is on tap for Santa Cruz as well at some point in the future.

Additionally, with Hyundai’s electrification goals, it might not be out of the realm of possibility to have an all-electric version – especially with the target of this vehicle being very urban focused.

The bottom line on the 2022 Santa Cruz

Other than seeing the vehicle up close and personal, there really aren’t too many additional specs or details available. We don’t know pricing, and we don’t know an exact on-sale date – though we do know production will begin this June.

From the brief glimpse I got of the Santa Cruz, it looks really cool, but a part of me wonders what the take rate will be. Ironically, on the way to the airport after leaving the Hyundai Tucson media preview, I saw a Ram 700, which isn’t sold in the U.S., at a stoplight — and it’s a dead-ringer for the Tucson in terms of size and function.

So, maybe this will be the impetus for Ram – and other truck makers – to bring more compact trucks to market. Time will tell.


Related posts:

Finally! 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz slated to make debut with 12 new SUVs

What is Ram working on? Could this be the 2022 Dakota ?

2022 Ford Maverick spied: Is the U.S. ready for a compact Ford truck?

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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