Sunday Drive: Hyundai adds the Santa Cruz and calls it a Sport Adventure Vehicle
Over the past couple of years, Korean automakers have taken some huge steps outside of the box, including the completely new Hyundai Santa Cruz. With the Santa Cruz, Hyundai is claiming to have come up with a whole new category of vehicle that it has named a Sport Adventure Vehicle or SAV.
A week with the new Santa Cruz made it clear that it is going to need some sort of new name as it is definitely parked somewhere between a truck and an SUV. It has all kinds of new capabilities and ways to help buyers not only on weekend projects but also in taking more stuff on weekend adventures.
Our first thoughts when it arrived in our driveway were of the old Chevy El Camino and how it was truck-like but still looked and drove more like a car. The Santa Cruz is in somewhat of the same boat as it drove more like a mid-sized SUV or car yet still had truck-like qualities, including a bed that could be opened and closed.
The Santa Cruz is meant to be a huge disruption in the marketplace. It’s designed for those who want to get outdoors and need a larger, open bed space but don’t want to have a truck to drive every day. It is somewhat like the Honda Ridgeline except the bed isn’t as large; we couldn’t see fitting a motorcycle in the rear area of the Santa Cruz like you could in a Ridgeline.
However, without the limitation of having a roof over the rear area, the Santa Cruz can carry much more than a normal SUV. Owners utilizing the tie-down points could stack items even higher and still keep them secure in the bed.
The Santa Cruz comes standard with a lockable tonneau cover that is easy to slide back and forth. The designers have even incorporated a strap to assist you when pulling the cover back to the rear of the bed, an addition we used every time we opened the bed.
Like the Honda, the designers have incorporated a lockable bin in the rear of the bed where tools or even drinks can be stored. It can also be filled with ice to keep drinks cold and comes with a drainage plug for releasing the water after the ice has melted.
The length of the Cruz’s bed is right at 48 inches. For perspective, competitors in the small truck arena start at 59 inches in the Frontier and go up to 63 inches in the Ridgeline.
Hyundai has made the Cruz about 10 inches shorter and 4 inches lower than its nearest competitor along with giving it a wheelbase that is 8 inches shorter. After our week driving it, we were very impressed with the way the Santa Cruz handled; it was nothing like the small trucks that we have tested.
There are two different engine choices with the Santa Cruz. Both are a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine, but a turbo charger can be added to the mix. Standard is 190 horsepower and 180 foot-pounds of torque with the turbo taking that to 275 horsepower and 310 foot-pounds of torque.
Our test drive came with the turbo, and we would highly recommend it as our week was filled with a “zippiness” in the truck that we did not expect. All-wheel drive is available with either setup. The turbo will also tow up to 5,000 pounds — not bad for a small, 2.5-liter engine.
Getting a small camping trailer or a couple of four-wheelers or jet skis out for the weekend would not be a problem. The Santa Cruz would also make a trip to the hardware store with a flatbed trailer easy, and it would handle most any weekend project Dad may have.
Inside, the Santa Cruz was very upscale and felt much more like a sedan than a truck. It featured a fully digital dashboard with the Limited trim level that was customizable in different drive modes or just for how the driver felt that day. Our test ride also came with an upgraded 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen front and center that was easy to use and understand.
The seats were leather-clad and both heated and cooled up front. They kept us very comfortable wherever our journey took us during our week. We loved the wireless Apple CarPlay and included a wireless charging pad that kept our phones charged all the time.
On the safety side, Hyundai has hit it out of the park and included everything we could have imagined. One thing that really caught our eye was the Safe Exit Assist, which let a passenger know that there was an approaching vehicle from the rear on their side while they were exiting the vehicle. It can also lock the back door if set in child mode to keep a child from exiting if there is another vehicle approaching from the rear.
The blind spot monitor, and a blind spot camera that would project the blind spot into the digital dashboard when the turn signal was applied, was a great addition. Lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control will keep the urban warrior in the lane and also the right distance behind the lead car in high-traffic environments, making that long drive or commute so much better.
We would have to agree that this new small urban warrior will be a disruptor in the marketplace. It may be the future for those who want the ability to get out into nearly any environment and have a great weekend experience without having to commit to a full-sized truck.
Base price per Hyundai website: $39,720
Destination charge: $1,225
Price as driven per Hyundai website: $41,140