Featuring an overall length of 195.7 inches, the four-door, five-passenger Santa Cruz is more than a foot shorter than the Honda Ridgeline and 4 inches shorter than Ford’s new Maverick, a size that works in its favor in crowded city environments. Hyundai also emphasizes driving dynamics in the engineering of the Santa Cruz, with its size, short wheelbase, and wide track contributing to a nimble, maneuverable nature (as does an optional all-wheel-drive system).
At its longest point along the floor the model’s sheet-molded composite bed measures just shy of 4.5 feet, with 42.7 inches between the wheel wells. Payload capacity maxes out at 1,753 pounds. The bed can be secured with a lockable tonneau cover and for versatility there are storage compartments in the bed walls and floor.
Two gasoline engines are offered for the Santa Cruz, delivering up to 27 highway mpg. Standard is a 2.5-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder producing 191 hp and 181 lb-ft torque. It’s backed by an 8-speed automatic. The optional direct-injected, 2.5-liter four-cylinder turbo is rated at 281 hp and 311 lb-ft torque, and connects to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
In standard trim the Santa Cruz is front-wheel drive, but both engines can be paired with Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system. Its electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control varies power delivery to the front and rear axles depending on road and driving conditions. The selectable Sport mode sends more power to the rear wheels for a sporty, dynamic experience. Ordering a Santa Cruz with the turbocharged engine and AWD raises towing capacity to 5,000 pounds, compared to its standard 3,500-pound rating.
Amenities in the Santa Cruz interior include a standard 8-inch touchscreen (10.25 inches in the Limited trim) with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. A 4.2-inch multi-information display in front of the driver also increases to 10.25 inches in SEL Premium and Limited models. For charging personal devices, standard dual front-seat USB outlets can be augmented by an optional wireless charging system. Hyundai’s Digital Key app enables Android smart-phone control of several vehicle systems including door locks, engine start, and panic alert. Hyundai also offers a subscription-based Blue Link connected car app with features that include remote door lock/unlock, remote start with climate control, and stolen vehicle recovery.
The Santa Cruz is equipped with Hyundai’s SmartSense package of driver aids and safety features. Forward collision avoidance assist, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning are standard. Blind spot collision avoidance, rear traffic safety alert, and a surround-view monitor are among the model’s options.