The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a new entry into the pantheon of small unibody trucks where the mighty Honda Ridgeline and the bushwacking Subaru Baja live. Never truly accepted as “real” trucks, these guys are in a class of their own and they deserve comparison by their peers. Since our colleagues over at The Drive already did a Santa Cruz verses Ridgeline comparison, we at Car Bibles feel the need to remind everyone that the Subaru Baja is still relevant!
Here are the numbers as they stand:
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
- Price: TBA
- Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four (2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-four offered as standard)
- Power: 275+ horsepower | 310+ lb-ft of torque (190+ horsepower | 180+ lb-ft of torque)
- Dimensions: 195.7 inches long x 75 inches wide x 66.7 inches high
- Wheelbase: 118.3
- Bed Length: 52.1 inches
- Max Towing: 5,000 pounds (3,500 with 2.5-liter naturally aspirated inline-four)
- Curb Weight: TBA
- Fuel Economy: TBA
2006 Subaru Baja
- Price: $22,495 (base), $29,555 adjusted for inflation
- Engine: 2.5-liter naturally aspirated flat-four boxer (2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four boxer optional) [Both rumble, bonus points]
- Power: 173 horsepower | 166 lb-ft of torque (230 horsepower | 235 lb-ft of torque) [this is many horses]
- Dimensions: 193.1 inches long x 70.1 inches wide x 65.1 inches high (small is good)
- Wheelbase: 104.3 inches (shorter is gooder)
- Bed Length: 41 inches closed, 60 inches with Switchback panel open and bed closed, 75 inches with Switchback panel open to the end of open tailgate (hah! longer!)
- Max Towing: 2,400 pounds (that’s totally enough)
- Curb Weight: 3,485 pounds (Sport), 3,670 pounds (Turbo) [seems light for a trock!]
- Fuel Economy: 21 city / 27 highway (Sport), 19 city / 25 highway (Turbo) [OK, not its strongest area.]
The real bummer here is that we don’t know what the Hyundai will cost. I’ll give a good guess at the low-mid $30,000 range for a base model, which isn’t too far off from the Baja’s adjusted-for-inflation base price of $29,555. We also have zero clue what the new Santa Cruz’s mpgs will look like, but a high-20s and low-30s highway mileage is feasible.
Most importantly, both actually share some crucial points: both have standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, both have optional 2.5-liter turbo fours, both are funky, fun, and great looking compact pickup tru- sorry, “Sport Adventure Vehicles” and both serve similar purposes for their buyer. Reported fuel economy for the Baja may seem startling for the time, but it’s because they were (probably) totally bullshitting the EPA, and real world economy on any Subaru boxer is usually 20 percent worse than reported. But for your trouble, the Baja has an optional five-speed manual and turbocharged EJ255 engine, which basically ends the conversation for me.
Technically speaking, very technically speaking in fact, the Baja has the Santa Cruz soundly beat on bed-space. Truth is, the 41-inch figure is what you’ll be using. The Switchback panel isn’t full bed width or height, and you need to fold the rear seats down to use it, so its use case is much narrower than an actual longer bed. It is useful for carrying some extra long and thin objects like wood, but generally you’re gonna struggle to fit a dirt bike in the bed with or without a bed extender.
The Santa Cruz doesn’t have a feature like that, so it doesn’t have the absolute edge in bed usability, but the extra 10 inches that the Santa Cruz has over the Baja will be noticed in practical activities. Especially in hauling oversized blocks of wood.
What does the Santa Cruz and Baja have that the Ridgeline doesn’t? Fun! The Ridgeline is so serious and boring, it looks like a pilot with the back half sawn off, the interior and exterior has a lot of Pilot carryover, and it doesn’t exude or evoke any sort of passion or whimsy.
The Baja was reported to have been inspired by Dakar race trucks, and came pre-wired for a full brace of rally lights on the roof. The Santa Cruz looks like the light truck of the future, with genuinely great detailing and design, and a face like Boba Fett.
The Ridgeline? It’s a Pilot with a lobotomy. I say that the new Santa Cruz is the closest successor to the Baja, where it knows to have some fun with design. But if it were my money, I’d go out and buy an old Baja Turbo with a five-speed manual. It’s a damn rally car!