Even though I attend first-drive events, I always appreciate getting a second crack at a vehicle with a longer time behind the wheel. Invariably, I find something I missed after just a few hours behind the wheel. Such was definitely the case with the all-new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.
Plus, when you fit a vehicle into your own life – rather than the perfect scenario constructed by an automaker – you get a better sense of how it will be on a daily basis.
My first impression of the Santa Cruz was favorable – and that hasn’t changed. But here’s what I missed.
One of the things I dinged on the 2022 Santa Cruz was the flat buttonless and dial-less center stack. Instead, there is a swath of black lacquer with flat touch points for volume, menu items, radio tuning and HVAC controls. In the video, I made a big deal of tap, tap, tapping to make any changes.
Well, here’s the thing, all you have to do is touch and hold to change the volume or temperature. While I do miss the volume, tuning and HVAC dials, the press-and-hold method isn’t that much slower. It’s just a different muscle memory.
Now, that doesn’t address the black lacquer fingerprint issue, but the OCD among us probably keep a cloth in the arm rest to clean it daily anyway.
When we originally tested the 2022 Santa Cruz, we were in Arizona. And it was warm. So, though I used the heated seats, they didn’t really have an impact beyond the I’m-always-cold thing.
Testing them in Chicago when it’s 30 degrees is a different story. They. Were. Awesome. The seats warmed up nicely before the heat kicked on and helped keep me toasty as I waited for the engine to warm up.
The heated steering wheel was just as nice.
Both times I’ve driven the 2022 Santa Cruz, I had the up-level turbocharged engine. Which is a total blast with 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque. This engine is only mated to the all-wheel-drive platform – and that might be part of the problem.
EPA estimates you should get 22 MPG in combined driving, yet I was getting a measly 17 MPG in my mostly highway driving.
I usually do a little closer to EPA ratings in Hyundai vehicles, so this was a surprise. Colder weather and the turbocharged fun factor definitely played a role. But still.
Fuel economy aside, I still really like the Santa Cruz, and I’m still impressed with all the up-level amenities and comfortable ride and handling.
While a lot of comparisons are currently being made to the Ford Maverick, and we’ve certainly made them, too, I think this is a drastically different vehicle for a drastically different customer. Santa Cruz is going to be more of a statement vehicle because of its unique design and bevy of creature comforts.
Can you haul some stuff? Sure. But you’ll more likely use this as a compact SUV – and look cool while doing it.