Such a Tease

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz teased looking a lot like the Santa Cruz we all expected

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

If you were expecting anything other than a truck that looked similar to the Santa Cruz concept Hyundai showed off in 2015, your mind was deceiving you. The Santa Cruz concept was the belle of the ball in 2015, introducing a truck-like figure to the Hyundai concept lineup and giving brand enthusiasts something different to dream about.

After plenty of testing and a new generation of front-end design coming in vogue, Hyundai is nearly ready to bring the Santa Cruz to market.The company has begun teasing the model ahead of its expected debut in a few weeks, with plans to put it into production this summer. Deliveries will follow by the end of the year.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept
Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
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Hyundai has only provided four images of the forthcoming truck but from what we see there are a number of key differences between the two models that you'll want to be aware of.

Size

The Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept was shown off as a plus-sized midsize truck. The new truck is said to be smaller. Ford is viewing the Santa Cruz as a direct competitor for its forthcoming Maverick small truck and Honda probably sees the lifestyle-focused Santa Cruz as direct competition to the similarly themed Ridgeline.

Design

The face of the Santa Cruz is straight out of the 2022 Hyundai Tucson playbook. Early test models of the truck showed it to have the face of the Palisade. While the dimensions of the truck appear mostly unchanged from that time, the face is now the Tucson's with headlights integrated into the grille and a dynamic hood design.

Differences

There are several differences between the concept and photos of the real thing. Let's start at the wheels. Those on the rendering below are not currently a part of the Hyundai lineup. They're similar to ones offered on the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

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Side windows appear larger on the new truck than they are on the concept version. This is helped by the fact that the truck is a true four-door/crew cab whereas the concept was an extended cab model.

At the rear, the taillights and tailgate of the Santa Cruz are completely different than they were on the concept. The taillights, like the headlights, have been changed over to better fit with modern Hyundai design while the stamped model name on the tailgate fits with the current truck aesthetic as shown on Ford, Chevrolet, and Nissan truck models.

There's a shark fin antenna on the top of the production model that's not on the concept. Also, the side mirrors are closer to regulation size on the new truck.

Similarities

The trucks are also very much alike. The shape of the top of the bed is similar to the Honda Ridgeline's though the Hyundai production model has a fair amount of cladding around the bed (perfect for eating up any damage done when surf boards are thrown in the back).

There are bulging fender flares that carry over from the concept to reality, much like the belt line of the model, with the overall design more refined and production-ready.

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The Hyundai Palisade got a mild refresh for 2023.

Hyundai

Earlier this year, Hyundai announced changes to the Palisade for 2023. The list includes a new front fascia, an updated grille with new headlights and daytime running lights, a 12-inch touchscreen with navigation, and more. A new XRT trim joined the lineup as well, bringing brawny off-road styling and dar exterior trim. Today, Hyundai announced pricing for the SUV, which starts at a little more than $32,000.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeA new XRT trim adds rugged styling. Hyundai

The Palisade's powertrain carries over from 2022, which includes a 3.8-liter V6 that makes 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. Inside, the SUV got several new and updated technology features, including a more powerful wireless device charging pad, an updated digital key system, and a larger infotainment display.

As Hyundai's flagship SUV, the Palisade edges on luxury territory, with plush leather upholstery and a serene cabin that offers excellent noise cancellation and comfort. Captain's chairs and seven-passenger seating are available, but a second-row bench comes standard and brings eight-passenger capacity to the SUV.

Muscular SUVs are more popular than ever before, so Hyundai gave the posh Palisade an outdoorsy treatment with its XRT trim. The new Palisade XRT builds on the SEL trim with 20-inch wheels, a more rugged bumper and lower body cladding, a sunroof, and leatherette upholstery. To be clear, XRT is an appearance package that does not improve off-road capability to a large degree.

2023 Hyundai PalisadeTop trims border on the quality and design of some luxury brands. Hyundai

Standard safety equipment is generous, and includes forward collision warnings with avoidance, lane keep assist, lane following assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts, driver attention warnings, high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing for the base Palisade SE starts at $36,245, which includes a $1,295 destination charge. The top Calligraphy AWD model starts at $52,095 after destination. All-wheel drive is available for all trims as an added-cost option.

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The N Line forms a midpoint between the standard Kona and the Kona N.

Hyundai

Hyundai has a lot going on, with new EVs hitting the market, but the brand has been on a surprising run with performance models lately. The Veloster N is an excellent, rowdy hot hatch, and the brand followed that act with the Kona N and Elantra N. Hyundai’s Kona N takes the hot hatch formula to the next level with an incredible powertrain and useful space, but it’s too much for many people. The mid-point is Hyundai’s N Line, which borrows styling cues from the hottest N variants but lacks the all-out grunt of those vehicles.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe N Line gets aggressive styling cues from its sportier N counterpart. Hyundai

The styling works for the Kona N Line, as it does with the Kona N, but the powertrains couldn’t be more different. Where the Kona N gets a 286-horsepower four-cylinder, the N Line comes with a milder turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 195 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which adds a layer of engagement not found in the continuously variable transmission that standard Kona models get.

That modest output lends the Kona N Line modest performance, with more noise generated than expected. In motion, the powertrain feels decently responsive, but it lacks the razor sharp nerves of steel that the Kona N brings. Shifting into sport mode changes the gauge cluster to a bright red and hastens the vehicle's responses, but again, it's important to temper expectations for a milder experience here.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineThe digital gauge cluster responds to drive mode changes. Hyundai

Styling is more aggressive than the standard SUV, with 18-inch wheels and mean-looking exhaust tips. The Kona’s front-end design is still busy and will still be polarizing, but the dark trim and sporty aero bodywork help the situation. The N Line’s all-black interior gets red stitching and accents that help break up the otherwise monotonous color scheme. The seats are supportive and comfortable, but could be deeper for better body-holding during spirited driving sessions. There’s plenty of room up front and a surprising amount of space in back, aided by the Kona’s large-ish rear door openings. Parents will find an easy time loading kids, and older children can ride in relative luxury with plenty of legroom.

A 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster is standard, which offers configurable colors and legible information. It’s paired with a standard 8-inch touchscreen, but a 102.5-inch screen with navigation is available. Hyundai’s excellent infotainment software runs flawlessly on both units, and offers an intuitive and straightforward way to interact with the vehicle. A Harman Kardon eight-speaker stereo also comes standard.

2022 Hyundai Kona N LineRed accents liven what is otherwise a dark, monotone interior.Hyundai

The Kona N Line, while not as hot as the Kona N, offers a reasonable styling upgrade for people wanting a small SUV with sporty looks. Enthusiasts should look at the full-on N model for thrills, though, because the N Line should be viewed as more of an appearance package than a performance model.

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