Design

How did we get here? Go behind the scenes of the development of the Hyundai Santa Cruz

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz was designed to be capable of taking owners to their next adventure.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The story of the Hyundai Santa Cruz goes back at least eight years. It was seven years ago this January that the Santa Cruz Concept was launched at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). At the time, a representative from Hyundai told PickupTrucks.com that it would "likely take at least three or four years" to bring the truck to market in the U.S., but that it would only happen if "gauged interest is strong and positive".

The good news is that reaction was positive. Now, nearly a decade after that debut the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a reality. What took so long? Hyundai broke it down this week.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz as a working clay model

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

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The Santa Cruz was always meant to be a compact truck. The Santa Cruz Concept was a little longer than a Hyundai Tucson and today the 2021 Tucson is slightly shorter than the 2022 Santa Cruz.

Hyundai noted during a Q&A session today that one of the main drivers for the truck was the public's desire to have a truck that was more fuel efficient.

The third generation of the Hyundai Tucson debuted in 2015. Its fourth generation comes to market this month as a 2021 model. In the years between, alternative fuels development went from something like, "Oh look! A Prius!" to "Audi is adding its fourth and fifth new EVs for the U.S. by the end of 2021". Today, pretty every automaker has committed to a clean emissions future, which has necessitated the innovation of new platforms and new propulsion strategies.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz design sketches

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

It wouldn't make good business sense to debut a new vehicle on an outdated platform. It also helps to streamline the manufacturing process if many products can share a production line using the same architecture. So, it was always going to be years down the road.

Hyundai's design team in California took the lead with the Santa Cruz design. Unlike some concepts that come into reality, the aesthetic of the Santa Cruz wasn't changed from spicy cinnamon into a bland vanilla to make it appeal to the masses. Hyundai kept it unique, if not a little weird, and completely unlike anything on the market today.

According to the design team, the Santa Cruz was never going to share a grille with the Palisade. While the look of the Palisade is brash, bold, and upright, the team didn't feel that it was right to transfer that look over to the Santa Cruz. The truck has ended up with a variation of the Tucson's grille, but given the muscular aesthetic of the truck, it plays differently on the forthcoming model.

Early in the design process, a Hyundai employee described the vehicle's target audience as the folks who park on the side of the road to go surfing, saying that they go from their home, down the highway, to the beach, and need something they can throw gear and boards in that also won't crowd the driveway at home and parallel parks easily.

It was with those design priorities that the 2022 Santa Cruz came to life.

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New compact pickup truck

Hyundai announces pricing for Santa Cruz pickup

It's small, but the Santa Cruz can do plenty of truck stuff like the big guys.

Hyundai

Looking at American trucks over the years, it's hard to ignore their growing size and price, but 2021 might just be the year that bucks that trend. Earlier in the year, Ford announced the compact Maverick pickup truck, and after months of rumors, Hyundai did the same. The Santa Cruz will be a small unibody pickup designed in California and built in Alabama. Today, the automaker announced pricing for the upcoming vehicle.

Pricing for the Santa Cruz starts at $23,990, which after the $1,185 destination charge comes to $25,175. That reasonable sum buys the base SE trim, which comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Hyundai estimates that the base engine produces 190 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, while the available turbocharged 2.5-liter engine makes 275 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque.

Other standard features include:


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz The Santa Cruz rides on a unibody frame, which gives it a better ride than most trucks.Hyundai


  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • LED taillights
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Rear occupant alerts
  • Driver attention warnings
  • Lane keeping assist
  • Speed limit warnings
  • Leading vehicle departure alerts

Despite its size and unibody construction, the Santa Cruz does offer traditional truck capabilities. With the base engine on board, the vehicle is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds, and with the turbocharged engine that number increases to 5,000 pounds. The unibody setup also gives the Santa Cruz a more car-like ride and handling, which improves comfort. It's a configuration that is also used by the Honda Ridgeline and the upcoming Ford Maverick pickups.


2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz The Santa Cruz has a useful bed that can be configured a few ways.Hyundai


Hyundai started building the Santa Cruz at its Montgomery, Alabama factory in June. The automaker says that its production will eventually add 1,200 jobs to the facility, and notes that the vehicle will go on sale sometime later this summer. We're heading out to drive the new Santa Cruz in early August, so stay tuned for a first-drive review in a few weeks.

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The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder arrives on dealer lots this summer.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder doesn't have to be capable of rock crawling or deep water fording. What it has to do is service the needs of families in their daily life and give them the opportunity to competently go off-roading on rocky trails should they desire. The new, fifth-generation models does just that and adds in enough nifty features to make it among the most compelling choices for three-row SUV buyers.

The 2022 Pathfinder is thoroughly modern though not the boxy off-roader it once was. The SUV's styling harkens back to that time with a tilted, darkened C-pillar and a return to a more muscular body style. That styling makes straightforward visibility good but for shorter drivers seeing what is immediately in front of the grille is a challenge that necessitates using surround view camera technology (available only in upper trim levels) when navigating challenging terrain.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can easily handle the roads less traveled.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 that offers up 291 horsepower and torque - plenty to do the job without complaint. The SUV's nine-speed automatic transmission replaces the continuously variable transmission (CVT) from the previous generation and delivers smooth shifts. Though low-end torque isn't as robust as I like it to be, once up over 35 mph, the Pathfinder's powertrain delivers smooth, powerful sailing.

The redesigned architecture and components underpinning the Pathfinder make it stable on the road and don't allow it to wallow on winding roads. Even off-road, the suspension provides the right blend of stability while the drive dynamics allowing the driver to feel engaged with their surroundings whether on freshly paved roads, city streets, or muddy trails.

Nissan has given the Pathfinder a 6,000-pound towing capacity and even when maxed out the engine's functionality is strong as ever. The transmission can get held up in a gear mid-range when performing this function, however, with 5,000-6,000 rpms registering on the tachometer but a quick release of the gas pedal recalibrates the offering bringing it down to a more traditional 2,000 rpm range.

The eight-seater Pathfinder clearly has the Toyota Highlander in its sights, with good reason. It's the top-selling three-row SUV in the country. Nissan boasts that three adults can fit across the rear bench seat of the Pathfinder and, as long as they're average size or smaller, the marketing talking point holds up. There is gobs more room back there than there is in the Highlander.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder Nissan has given the Pathfinder ample cargo space.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Getting in and out of the third row is easy thanks to one-touch buttons on the outboard side of the second-row chairs that move the SUV's captain's seats forward creating enough room to get through to the back. Smartly, Nissan's engineers have put duplicates of these buttons on the back side of the same seats allowing third-row passengers to simply press the button to move the seat up.

The third row can also be accessed via a split between the captain's chairs as well, a space traditionally occupied by a center stowage bin/cup holders/arm rest. Owners can quickly remove the center console by opening a panel on the front and pulling the release mechanism. The one-handed operation takes seconds and the console can be easily stored in the under-floor trunk space behind the third row seat for ease.

Speaking of cargo space... The Pathfinder is one of the most spacious midsize SUVs on the market today for both passengers and cargo. There is a substantial amount of room behind the third-row seat and the under-floor storage area is nearly twice the size of the one in the Highlander. Plus, it has a feature that allows the area cover to be automatically propped up when pushed up by a user. This is especially help when carrying groceries or plants home and keeps them from being crushed.

The first- and second-row seats are suitably comfortable, even for extended periods of time and standard trig-zone climate control makes finding the right in-cabin mix easy. Bottle holders in the pockets of the front doors are exceptionally large, fitting even bulky water bottles.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder's front row seats are comfortable.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In front of the driver is a standard tachometer, speedometer, and 7.0-inch driver information display. Buyers can upgrade to a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster and head-up display but they're not reason enough to upgrade to the top-tier Pathfinder Platinum on their own.

Nissan packs the new Pathfinder with a host of desirable features that make living with the Pathfinder easier including one-touch auto up/down windows, a wireless phone charger, grocery hooks in the rear cargo area, USB ports in all three rows, second-row sunshades, rear door keyless entry, wireless Apple CarPlay, and a motion-activated lift gate.

The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is priced to start at $33,410 for the two-wheel drive S base model and $35,310 for the four-wheel drive S base model. The model tops out around $50,000 with destination and delivery included, which seems fair when comparing the Pathfinder to other vehicles in the market.

2022 Nissan Pathfinder The Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If you're thinking of purchasing a Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, or Highlander, do yourself a favor and schedule a test drive of the new Pathfinder when it arrives at a dealer lot near you. You may just be surprised how seamlessly it fits into your daily life compared to the competition.

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