Opinion

Let me explain: Here’s what the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is not

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is new to the company's lineup.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz has arrived. Half a decade after the Santa Cruz concept was the belle of the ball at the North American International Auto Show, the production version of the truck has shown its face.

It's important that one thing is crystal clear. The 2022 Santa Cruz isn't designed to compete with the Ford F-150. It also isn't a Ford Ranger rival. Ford sees it as competition for its forthcoming Maverick pickup and it's not wrong. But, the Santa Cruz is also expected to compete more against the unexpected.

It's a model that likely appeals to Subaru Crosstrek and Outback owners in the same way that the Subaru Baja did back in the day. It's also one that owners of another Ford, the Bronco Sport, may have their eye on. It's adventure-ready thanks to its all-wheel drive technology and equipment, but not as off-road-ready as a Wrangler.

2021 Subaru Crosstrek The Subaru Crosstrek grew more powerful for the 2021 model year with a fresh engine option. Photo courtesy of Subaru of America Inc.

Then there's the inevitable comparisons to the Honda Ridgeline. The two have a lot in common, but they're not necessarily for the same crowd though they both have untraditional looks, a trunk in the bed, and SUV-like interiors. That's not a bad thing. SUVs are notoriously more comfortable and tech-forward than trucks, but there's a lot of utility there as well. The Ridgeline is bigger than the Santa Cruz.

Sure, it's easy to look at the Santa Cruz and immediately think that it's just a Tucson wearing a truck suit. You'd be wrong, to an extent. The only shared components between the Tucson and the Santa Cruz are in the cabin. The platform and body of the Santa Cruz has been stretch sideways and lengthened beyond the dimensions of the SUV, and its wheelbase is longer. The grille and shoulders are designed to be more aggressive.

That length is a sweet spot in the automotive market as trucks grow in size. Have you seen a GMC Sierra HD lately? Massive presence! The Santa Cruz has dimensions more like a midsize SUV meaning that it is easy to parallel park and fits into a parking garage with aplomb, which is especially important for urban dwellers and those along the California coast.

202 The GM trucks - GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Silverado - have grown substantially in the last few years, with their heavy-duty versions becoming even larger. Photo courtesy of GMC

The face of the Santa Cruz is the face of the new Tucson. That was the plan all along. The truck was never designed to be bigger or have a grille that is like the Palisade's. That plays into the whole thesis behind the truck's existence to begin with.

It's not meant for the job site, unless your job happens to be as an REI adventure guide. It's not meant to tow your 4x4s around the country, but it can take your surfboard and mountain bike on board. A tent and some luggage? Done. Easily handled.

The biggest thing that the Hyundai Santa Cruz isn't is a sacrifice. It checks many boxes, is obviously the product of a lot of customer research, and is likely to deliver a lot of bang for the buck (pricing isn't available yet).

Instead of trying to define the Santa Cruz, maybe it's time to start taking a look at redefining what it means to be a truck. The GMC Hummer EV would like a word.

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The 2021 Audi E-Tron is able to tow a modest amount.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Discussing electric vehicles (EVs) today is a funny thing, because the models people are most excited about haven't yet hit the market. That's even more true for EVs with towing capabilities, as electric pickup trucks won't start leaving factory assembly lines until mid-2021 at the absolute earliest, and most are months behind that ambitious timeline. Still, looking at what we can buy today, along with models that will soon be available, we can get a good feel for where the EV world stands on towing.

As we get closer to the end of 2021, we'll start to see even more electric vehicles with respectable towing capacities. GMC has been quiet on the capabilities of its Hummer EV, but its power numbers and size indicate that it'll be one to watch. Ford already towed a freight train with a prototype of its EV pickup, but again, no word on actual numbers. We also know that Chevrolet will roll out an electric pickup of its own, but don't count on seeing the Silverado name on the electrified model.

2022 GMC Hummer EV The 2022 GMC Hummer EV is expected to arrive late this year. Photo courtesy of GMC

It's important to remember that towing capacity is different than payload capacity, which deals with the weight of the vehicle itself, plus any fluids, passengers, and cargo. It's also good to note that most vehicles, even today's gas pickup trucks, need to be properly equipped before they're able to tow anything, trailer or otherwise. Many vehicles, such as the Tesla Model Y on our list, require a towing package, which adds a hitch and other hardware, as well as software patches to handle the strain that towing puts on the vehicle.

Don't get caught up in fancy range and torque numbers, because just like their gas counterparts, EVs will be nowhere near as efficient while pulling a trailer. There's some dispute over whether the outrageous torque claims from GMC and Tesla are real, or an engineering flim-flam meant to tempt an unknowing public.

If you're looking for an EV and need to tow, this is a decent time to be in the market, but the longer you can wait the more selection you'll have. Be prepared to open your wallet for an electric vehicle of any type, however, because most are currently more expensive than comparable gas models. No matter where you end up with your next towing rig, gas or electric, be sure you understand your vehicle's capabilities and your own skill before hitting the road.

Tesla Model Y

Tesla Model Y

Photo courtesy of Tesla

Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
It may seem farfetched that an electric crossover could tow a trailer, but the three models on our list that you can actually walk out and buy today are crossovers. The all-wheel drive Model Y is rated at up to 3,500 pounds but must be equipped with a $1,200 tow package, which includes a high-strength steel tow bar with two-inch hitch receiver, a trailer harness with NA 7-pin standard connector, and a tow mode software package. That's on top of the Model yYs ability to carry up to seven people and blistering performance.

Hyundai Ioniq 5

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
Like its corporate cousin, Kia, Hyundai is set to debut a surprisingly capable small EV for 2022. The Ioniq 5 brings quirky forward-looking style to the table, along with a stout 3,500-pound tow rating. Hyundai says that the Ioniq 5 will sport a driving range of between 250 and 300 miles, and notes that it will be available with two powertrain options, one that can deliver 215 horsepower and a more powerful unit with 315 horsepower. The Hyundai offers a clean, futuristic cabin with two large driver-oriented screens, and will be available with semi-autonomous driving features.

Rivian R1T and R1S

Rivian R1S

Photo courtesy of Rivian

Towing Capacity: 11,000 pounds
Rivian captured everyone's attention with big investments from Ford, Amazon, and others, but it will also be one of the first companies to deliver an electric pickup truck when the first units land in late 2021. The R1T is a compelling electric truck with supercar acceleration, legitimate off-road chops, and the ability to tow up to 11,000 pounds, which puts it on par with some of the best full-size trucks available today. Making things even better for Rivian buyers, the company's R1S SUV will sport much of the same capability and a towing capacity of up to 7,700 pounds.

Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla Cybertruck Photo courtesy of Tesla

Towing Capacity: 14,000 pounds
The Cybertruck's unveiling press event was weird on a bunch of levels, from Elon Musk's theatrics to a broken window, of all things. But if any of the specs that were laid out at the event and soon after are true, the funky Tesla will be a revelation for people needing to tow heavy loads. Mixed in with a bunch of other eye-popping specs are the towing numbers. In its most basic configuration, Tesla says the traditional Cybertruck will be able to tow up to 7,500 pounds, but in its most capable configurations the truck is said to tow up to 14,000 pounds.

It's important to take a step back for a moment and note that nobody's actually driven or tested the Cybertruck and things could change drastically before it actually reaches the market.

Audi E-Tron Sportback

2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Towing Capacity: 4,000 pounds
Audi's electric offerings range from cushy premium crossovers to red-hot electric sports sedans, and some can tow an impressive amount. The E-Tron Sportback is one, and with the ability to tow up to 4,000 pounds, it can take the whole family, all of their gear, and pull a small trailer at the same time. On top of that, the Audi's interior is packed with upscale materials and useful tech.

Volvo XC40 Recharge

Volvo XC40 Recharge side plug Photo courtesy of Volvo Cars

Towing Capacity: 3,307 pounds
The funky XC40 crossover got an all-electric model a couple of years ago, and though it's small, the Recharge EV model can tow up to 3,307 pounds. The crossover's upright and slightly boxy shape give it excellent headroom inside, and the folding seats inside open up the storage area to a decent 47.39 cubic feet of cargo space. To sweeten the pot, Volvo offers the XC40 Recharge with several desirable feature, such as a panoramic sunroof, a large touchscreen infotainment system, and the latest advanced driver assistance tech.

Kia EV6

2022 Kia EV6 GT-Line Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Towing Capacity: 3,500 pounds
Despite its name being strikingly similar to a popular band from the 1990s, the Kia EV6 has some serious capability. When properly equipped, it can tow up to 3,500 pounds which is more than enough for a small boat or trailer. That's impressive for such a small vehicle, but the Kia offers more than that, with futuristic looks, an available long-range battery, and an open, airy cabin.

Volkswagen ID.4

2021 Volkswagen ID.4: Exterior Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Towing Capacity: 2,200 pounds
The Volkswagen ID.4 isn't the most powerful vehicle on our list, but it's got just enough capability to get the job done for folks wanting to pull a small trailer or boat. The ID.4's tow rating of 2,200 pounds may not be all that impressive, but its price tag, upscale interior, and clever features make it a compelling choice among small electric crossovers. The ID.4 also gets a slew of advanced driver aids, many of which are standard, as well as a 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation.

Polestar 2

2021 Polestar 2 Photo courtesy of Polestar

Towing Capacity: 2,000 pounds
The Polestar 2 lands just under VW ID.4 at the low end of the towing spectrum, with capability of pulling up to 2,000 pounds. Volvo's sub-brand offers plenty of other compelling features for the vehicle that more than make up for the slight lack of towing ability. Polestar says the 2 can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under five seconds, and notes that the vehicle is built with the goal of being as sustainable as possible in the areas of battery design and manufacturing.

Tesla Model X

2021 Tesla Model X Photo courtesy of Tesla Motors

Towing Capacity: 5,000 pounds
Tesla's funky gullwing-doored crossover is weird, expensive, and surprisingly capable. When properly equipped, the Model X can tow up to 5,000 pounds. It's also blazingly quick, and in some configurations can reach 60 mph from a standstill in just 2.5 seconds. Teslas are also known for their technology, and the Model X is no different. It can be equipped with advanced driver assist systems and comes with one of the largest and most functional infotainment touchscreens on the market today.

Hyundai Kona Electric

2020 Hyundai Kona Electric Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Towing Capacity: 2,800 pounds
Hyundai's EV offerings are growing in number and sophistication, and no vehicle illustrates that point better than the Kona Electric. The tiny but mighty Hyundai Kona Electric is able to tow up to 2,800 pounds when properly equipped, and with an MSRP that lands well under $40,000, it brings a healthy dose of value to the table as well. Though the Kona isn't offered with all-wheel drive, its 201-horsepower electric motor is strong enough to propel it from zero to 60 mph in a little over six seconds.

Audi E-Tron

2021 Audi E-Tron

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Towing Capacity: 4,000 pounds
Another crossover. This time from a legacy European automaker with a catalog full of premium vehicles. The E-Tron is powered by twin electric motors with up to 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. On top of that, it's got a top speed of 124 mph and a cabin packed with upscale materials. Audi also says that the E-Tron is good to tow up to 4,000 pounds, which is plenty for a small trailer or boat.

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Travel miles away from home without getting off your couch with the new National Geographic x Hyundai Outside Academy.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The world is opening back up but that doesn't mean that you have to quit exploring from the comfort of home. A new educational augmented reality experience from Hyundai Motor America and National Geographic empowers families to explore America's National Parks.

The Outside Academy is a first-of-its kind experience that allows users to discover the parks via digital, social media, and in-person immersive content from three National Parks: Zion, Yosemite, and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks.

The experience is available for three parks.Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America.

"Combining technology with creativity, we're bringing audiences immersive ways to explore some of the most awe-inspiring national parks – whether they're at home or visiting the locations in person – and seamlessly integrating Hyundai's vehicles into the experience," said Andrew Messina, Senior Vice President, Disney Advertising Sales. "We're proud to deepen our relationship with Hyundai and continue pushing the boundaries of advertising with this first-ever co-branded AR series and offering innovative solutions to engage consumers."

The Outside Academy has three main components:

  • NatGeo.com: The digital hub is an engaging destination, including 360-degree videos, interactive hotspots, video clips, custom articles and how-tos for the drivable experiences
  • Instagram: On Nat Geo's hero Instagram account, users can explore the parks in 360-degree AR
  • In-Person: Drivable, in-person experiences use AR animations, text and audio triggered by on-location items to create a more immersive experience

"Outside Academy" launched this week featuring Zion National Park with content from Yosemite National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park being released later in the year.

Hyundai isn't the first automaker to work with National Geographic. Subaru partnered with Buzzfeed to produce a three-part miniseries about the parks in early 2020. Later that same year the National Geographic channel was one of three TV stations to broadcast the premiere of the Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport. Rolls-Royce has worked with National Geographic photographer Cory Richards on a number of occasions. The media outlet also followed the journey of the 2021 Kia Sorento and filmed footage of it towing the "2021" numerals to Times Square for the annual New Year's Eve celebration there.

"Outside Academy" was developed in collaboration with National Geographic CreativeWorks, Hyundai's agency of record, INNOCEAN USA and its media agency, Canvas.

To learn more and discover the content, visit https://www.nationalgeographic.com/outside-academy/.

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