2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz compact pickup looks playfully appealing

Hyundai promised us a pickup and the 2022 Santa Cruz delivers, combining playful crossover styling with the practicality of larger trucks. Dubbed a "Sport Adventure Vehicle" by the automaker, it's shorter and narrower than rivals like Toyota's Tacoma and Honda's Ridgeline, but still manages to squeeze in a twin-level bed with a lockable box under the floor.

That's something we've seen – and loved – on the Ridgeline, and here Hyundai packages it into a smaller and more urban-friendly pickup. The Santa Cruz's bed is 48.4 inches long in its upper section and 52.1 inches on the lower, with built-in corner steps for easy access. It'll cope with payloads up to 660 pounds, and in addition to the under-bed box there are more built into either side of the bed.

Two engines will be offered, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque and a turbocharged version of that with 281 hp and 311 lb-ft. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with the non-turbo model, while the turbo gets an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Regardless of engine there's HTRAC all-wheel drive available, with an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch with active torque control between the front and rear axle. The non-turbo engine is rated for up to 3,500 pounds of towing, while the turbo AWD model kicks that up to 5,000 pounds.

According to Hyundai that – and the truncated but flexible bed – is just what a lot of potential pickup owners are looking for. Rather than being a work truck converted to consumer use, it's more like an SUV with open storage on the back.

The front gets a bold grille – with hidden lighting built in – plus daytime running lights and bulging hood bumps and swollen fenders. Up to 20-inch wheels are offered, while 18-inch wheels with bigger tire sidewalls designed for off-roading are also available. T-shaped rear lights are standard, and there's a lockable tonneau cover.

Inside, there's an 8-inch touchscreen as standard, with a 10-inch upgrade and 10-inch digital cluster for the driver available. A Bose audio system is available, while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. As on the 2021 Elantra, there's an oddity where the smaller infotainment display get wireless smartphone connectivity, but the larger screen doesn't. Practicality also rears its head in the cabin. There's an extra storage bin under the rear bench, for example.

Hyundai's SmartSense package is standard across the range, with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) w/ Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Lane Keeping Assist, and Driver Attention Warnings. Options include Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist and Blind-spot View Monitor, Safe Exit Assist, Surround View Monitor, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist. You can also get the automaker's Highway Drive Assist package, with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping.

From the Blue Link app, meanwhile, there's the potential to remotely start the engine on select trims, load specific driver profiles, adjust the seat heating or cooling on Santa Cruz pickups with those features, and sending routes to the optional navigation system.

The 2022 Santa Cruz will be produced at Hyundai's Montgomery, Alabama plant, kicking off this June. It'll arrive in US dealerships from the summer, with Hyundai opening reservations for the pickup later this month. Pricing and details on fuel economy will be confirmed closer to that point.