Small Truck, Not Big Fuel Economy


The arrival of Hyundai’s funky and stylish compact pickup truck is quickly approaching, and we’re eager to get behind the wheel for a test drive. After the all-new 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz broke cover this past spring, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally released fuel economy estimates for it. So, what kind of mpg can you expect from the little Santa Cruz truck?

That depends on which of the first-ever Hyundai pickup truck’s two engine options you choose. The standard powerplant is a 2.5-liter I-4 generating a modest 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. For those buyers wanting more performance from their Santa Cruz, an optional turbocharged 2.5-liter I-4 producing 281 hp and 311 lb-ft is available. An eight-speed automatic transmission is coupled with the base engine, whereas the upgrade comes mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard; however, customers can also opt for the available HTRAC all-wheel-drive system.

Curiously, the base-engine (2.5-liter) Santa Cruz with all-wheel-drive generates the best fuel economy in the lineup with an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. Choosing the front-wheel-drive model delivers the same 21 mpg city and 23 mpg combined, but for some reason drops the highway number by 1 mpg to 26 mpg. (Typically, two-wheel-drive versions of new vehicles are more fuel efficient than their all-wheel-drive counterparts, thanks to lower weight and less driveline drag.) Normalcy returns to the fuel economy estimates when it comes to the optional turbocharged engine, which (with all-wheel drive) drops the Santa Cruz’s mpg ratings to 19 mpg city and 22 mpg combined, while somehow maintaining the base-engine’s 27-mpg highway best.

So, how does the Santa Cruz fuel economy measure up to larger midsize pickups? It is, unsurprisingly, more efficient than most of its larger alternatives. The top-selling Toyota Tacoma‘s highest EPA-estimated rating comes at 20/23/21 mpg (city/hwy/combined), and that’s with rear-wheel drive and an overburdened 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. Go for the more powerful V-6 and 4WD, and those figures drop off. The all-wheel-drive-only 2021 Honda Ridgeline and its 3.5-liter V-6 (the only powertrain option) gets an EPA-rated 18/24/21 mpg. Ford’s Ranger, which also has one engine choice, a turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, checks in closest to the Hyundai among gas-fed trucks at 21/26/23 mpg in rear-drive guise.

The Chevrolet Colorado equipped with its pricey diesel engine option and rear-wheel drive offers better highway fuel economy with its EPA-estimated 30 mpg; its 20-mpg city and 23-mpg combined ratings are still tops among trucks but match up with the Hyundai. So, to recap, the Santa Cruz offers better fuel economy than the Tacoma and Ridgeline; the Ranger is in the same ballpark, and the diesel Colorado beats it on the highway. Zoom further out, and the Santa Cruz’s 22-23 mpg combined is solid, if beaten by several (much larger) full-size rigs such as the Ford F-150 PowerBoost Hybrid (25 mpg), as well as the diesel-fed Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra (26-27 mpg). Did we expect better? Perhaps, given the Hyundai’s small size and small engines.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Fuel Economy

  • Santa Cruz 2.5L FWD: 21/26/23 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
  • Santa Cruz 2.5L AWD: 21/27/23 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
  • Santa Cruz turbo 2.5L AWD: 19/27/22 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

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