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Hyundai Santa Cruz Review


Hyundai Santa Cruz

It isn’t lost on me that many of our readers would likely dismiss the Hyundai Santa Cruz as a viable option for their work truck needs. But perhaps after reading this review, some of you will reconsider. Hyundai markets its new Santa Cruz as being the perfect marriage between a pickup and an SUV, and depending on your needs, you might want to add one to your fleet.

For those who are seriously thinking about adding a vehicle to their fleet—especially those looking for something affordable but also capable—it’s important to ensure the vehicle checks all the boxes. The boxes could look differently depending on the job application, the primary use of the vehicle, the size of the crew, the individual driving the vehicle, and more. 

Hyundai Santa Cruz


The first box on many lists of “must-haves” is capability. The Santa Cruz with the Limited trim (the model reviewed) features a 2.5-L turbocharged GDI-MPI 4-cylinder engine. This engine pumps out 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque. Standard in the Limited is an 8-speed wet dual clutch transmission that improves acceleration, efficiency, and road comfort using an oil pump to improve the movement of the powertrain.

When the job calls for the need to tow and haul, the Santa Cruz just might fit the bill. The small pickup has a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs for most models, but when paired with an HTRAC AWD, the Santa Cruz has a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. Front-wheel drive Santa Cruz models have a payload of 1,521 lbs, while all-wheel drive models have a payload capacity of 1,609 lbs.

For those concerned about fuel economy, the Santa Cruz gets about 19 mpg in the city and up to 27 mpg on the highway. Speaking of highway driving, I’d say that’s where the Santa Cruz truly shines with all of its safety technology.

Hyundai Santa Cruz interior and infotainment


When driving the Santa Cruz on the highway, I was blown away by the accuracy of the Santa Cruz’s lane keeping. This technology was so advanced I wouldn’t be surprised if variations of it were used in self-driving vehicles of the near future. Unlike other systems that simply “bump” the steering from one side of the lane to the next, this lane keeping system seemed to do all the steering for me! (Note: Never remove hands from the steering wheel when a vehicle is in motion.)

The adaptive cruise control in the Santa Cruz is also noteworthy. What impressed me was the fact that its deceleration and acceleration were smoother than other vehicles and trucks I’ve driven with adaptive cruise control technology. It didn’t slam on the brakes if a vehicle merged in the lane 100 yards ahead as other systems tend to do. Further, the cruise control on the Santa Cruz will adapt the speed all the way down to a complete stop and then will accelerate once the “lead vehicle” (or the vehicle ahead) moves forward. 

On the note of “lead vehicle,” I noticed that when stopped at a traffic light, if the vehicle ahead of the Santa Cruz moves, the systems in the small pickup will notify the driver via audible alert and a graphic on the information cluster. This is a great way to help keep a driver’s attention on the road if their mind drifts while waiting for a light to change.

Aside from the mentioned features, other safety technologies include a Forward Collision-avoidance Assist with Pedestrian Detection (FCA-Ped), Blind-spot Collision-avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross-traffic Collision-avoidance Assist (RCCA), Surround View Monitor (SVM), a Safe Exit Warning (SEW), and even more. And yes, all of those safety systems are standard in the Limited trim.

Hyundai Santa Cruz interior storage


With the driver and labor shortages in the industry today, employee retention is important. Putting a driver in a vehicle with more advanced safety features with a comfortable environment can help keep them on your payroll. Even better, put a driver in a truck that handles similarly to their personal vehicle.  And the Hyundai Santa Cruz—even with the functionality and capability of a small pickup—drives much like a sedan.

The turbocharged engine really gave the vehicle the power it needed to zip through traffic much more efficiently than heavier pickups on the market today. Going further, the Santa Cruz Limited has many features that make driving comfortable, such as rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats (that work really well, I might add), and a heated steering wheel. The Limited also features a beautiful 10.25-inch touchscreen that houses navigation and audio controls as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities.

The Limited also features dual climate control, heated side mirrors, High Beam Assist (HBA), and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. One interesting feature to note concerning the information cluster is that when the driver initiates the turn signal, the instrument cluster displays the Blind-spot View Monitor (BVM).

These features and technologies assist and support the driver so they can keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and full attention to getting from point A to point B in the safest and most efficient way. 

Hyundai Santa Cruz rear storage



When one thinks of “work truck,” it’s unlikely their mind immediately pictures a Santa Cruz, or any Hyundai, for that matter. However, the Santa Cruz features a wide array of work truck features in its small stature. The Santa Cruz was designed to haul with trailer pre-wiring a standard feature.

Hyundai Santa Cruz rear

The bed of the Santa Cruz has three hidden compartments for tool and equipment storage: a lockable under-bed storage and two sidewall bed storage areas (one with a 115V power outlet). The roughly 50-inch bed also features 27 cu-ft of bed volume, heavy-duty cargo D-rings, and an adjustable utility track rail and cleat system. There are also integrated rear bumper steps. These features are all common for work trucks in the field today.


I’m not saying the Hyundai Santa Cruz is the missing piece to your perfect fleet lineup. But I will say I think it’s worth a close look. You never know, it could check all of the boxes for “must-haves” in a new fleet vehicle purchase.


Jade Brasher is the editor of Modern WorkTruck Solutions magazine. A graduate of The University of Alabama, Jade resides in Birmingham, Alabama, and enjoys writing about her town, travel, and of course, work trucks. Reach her at Find out more about the Hyundai Santa Cruz, visit 


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