May 18, 2021 Volume 17 Issue 19

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Hyundai Santa Cruz: Car-truck mashup for a new generation

If you like that old-school Chevy El Camino vibe with a car-pickup mashup and lots of utility, Hyundai is feeling it too. The Santa Cruz Sport Adventure Vehicle is a totally new offering from Hyundai that aims to give particularly urban drivers a lot more flexibility. Featuring a powerful and efficient 2.5L turbo option, four doors, and a lockable bed, everything old is new again and improved for a whole new generation.

Available this summer, the Santa Cruz offers two powertrains and four trims.

The standard powertrain is a 2.5L direct-injected in-line four-cylinder engine with an estimated 190+ hp and 180+ lb-ft of torque. This engine couples to an eight-speed hydraulic automatic transmission for quick acceleration and excellent efficiency.

Santa Cruz also offers a 2.5L direct-injected turbocharged engine with an estimated 275+ hp and 310+ lb-ft of torque linked to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT). This DCT includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual shifting control by the driver. The automatic transmission adds ratio range at both the top and bottom of output speeds, allowing for extra thrust off the line and a quieter, more fuel-efficient trip on the interstate. A multi-disc and individually controlled hydraulic channel torque converter is also included.

Both the 2.5L four-cylinder and 2.5L four-cylinder turbo models offer HTRAC all-wheel drive capability. It was developed as a multi-mode system, providing an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between the front and rear axles. The Sport setting gives a more agile feel by sending more torque to the rear wheels for a sporty, dynamic experience. This system has a wide range of torque distribution variability, tuned for conditions such as straight-line acceleration, medium- and high-speed cornering, and hill starts.

For those customers who like to tow their weekend gear with them, the 2.5L four-cylinder is rated at 3,500 lb for towing, and the 2.5L Turbo AWD model boasts 5,000 lb of towing capability. Pretty impressive.

The vehicle's shorter wheelbase, short overhangs, and wide track create a planted stance that makes it very agile in urban environments and when traversing off-road terrain. Available 20-in. alloy wheels with wide, all-season, all-terrain tires give surefooted handling on a variety of road surfaces. Available 18-in. wheels with more voluminous tire sidewalls for off-road adventures are also available.

The forward view of Santa Cruz has a hidden lighting signature that becomes visible within the grille only when illuminated. Other design features up front include parametric jewel-design daytime running lamps, a cascading grille, and a skid plate element in the lower front fascia.

In profile, a multi-faceted, triangular design and armor-like wheel arches are noticeable right away.

From the rear, a horizontal "T" lighting signature adds visual width and distinguishes Santa Cruz from anything on the road. The functional rear open bed area features its own secure, lockable in-bed storage, integrated corner bumper steps, and a lockable tonneau cover. The upper bed length is 48.4 in. long and 52.1 in. long if you remove the cover near the cabin wall.

The interior is mostly utilitarian with a dab of sophistication. It features a dual-cockpit design that encapsulates each passenger. Design targets included ease of ingress and egress and ergonomic comfort. The premium center stack display features an edgeless infotainment screen with 10 in. of visibility. The optional center digital cluster display also measures 10 in. Convenient in-cabin storage is available under the rear seats, which are tight. A Bose audio system is available.

Santa Cruz offers a host of safety and convenience features including: Remote Engine Start, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Attention Warning. Options include: Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist, Blind-spot View Monitor, Highway Drive Assist, Surround View Monitor, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist.

Pricing has not been released. Edmunds estimates it will start at $35,000, while some other sites say it will be closer to $30,000.

You can learn more details at

Source: Hyundai Motor America, Edmunds

Published May 2021

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