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2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz revisited: 3 things we missed

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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.

The lack of buttons doesn’t suck

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.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

One of the things I didn’t like on the Hyundai Santa Cruz during the first drive as the lack of dials. However, during the full-week test, I started to learn how to navigate around the issue. (Photo by Jill Ciminillo)

The heated seats are awesome

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.

The fuel economy isn’t great

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.

The bottom line on the 2022 Santa Cruz revisited

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.

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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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