Hyundai Santa Cruz 2022 vs Subaru Outback 2022: comparison of utility vehicles

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The small Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup truck and the Subaru Outback wagon-like SUV are utility vehicles that serve as a complement to owners’ recreation and outdoor image.

Sharing a platform with the Tucson compact crossover, the Santa Cruz might look like a direct competitor to pickups like the Ford Maverick (based on the Ford Escape) or larger Honda Ridgeline (based on the SUV Pilot). These trucks take a softer, more efficient, and more urban approach to the pickup truck experience.

Until recently, the Outback met the need for buyers who don’t need a pickup but don’t want a crossover. The Santa Cruz is a modern version of the Outback-based Subaru Baja, a utility vehicle with a bed that had a short ride from 2003 to 2006 but left an indelible mark. The Baja, as well as the Chevy El Camino and Ford Explorer Sport Trac, served as a bridge between the car and the pickup truck.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

The crossover segment has taken up that bridge and expanded it in recent years with a proliferation of adjacent off-road trim lines: Subaru Wilderness, Ford Timberline, Honda Trailsport, GMC AT4, Toyota TRD to name a few. Hyundai, which made fun of the trucklet concept in 2015, could leverage the most important ingredient to success: timing.

Aside from the small but useful floor of the Santa Cruz, the two are more similar than different. Our TCC rating of 6.8 out of 10 favors the 2022 Subaru Outback, but the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruzthe incomplete score of 6.7 out of 10 will likely increase once the NHTSA completes its crash tests.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

For 2022, Subaru has rolled out the new Wilderness trim on both Outback and Forester. It puts the “addition” in the black trim, expanding Subaru’s plastic protectors upward on the bumpers to the LED headlights and taillights and halfway over the wheel arches on the fenders. The wheeled trekking boot almost makes the Hyundai Kona look shy as it has ripped the lining of the Subaru Crosstrek. It’s a bit much and the yellow accents draw even more attention to it.

The Santa Cruz embraces the Tucson’s origami charm with a stepped grille with integrated daytime running lights that cut a distinct edge day and night. Modest trim rounds on the wheel arches that accommodate 20-inch alloy wheels available, which may be too large for a vehicle of this size. At the rear, shark-fin taillights flank a giant tailgate marked “Santa Cruz” and the corner bed steps ensure easy access to the bed and its low walls.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Of course, the bed sets it apart from the Outback and other crossovers, but it also helps the Santa Cruz stand out from more traditional pickups. The bed is smaller than the Maverick, at 48.4 inches long at the top and just under 54 inches in diameter; Hyundai assures you that it can carry 4×8 sheets of plywood resting on the wheel arches and suspended over the open, adjustable gate. With the right accessories, four bikes could be stowed in the back with the front forks hanging from the gate. A trunk integrated into the floor has a drain plug so that it can also act as a refrigerator. The neat trick is the available factory-installed lockable tonneau cover that protects things like the cargo bay of a crossover.

The Santa Cruz is 4.4 inches longer and slightly wider, but the interior of the Outback is more spacious, especially for rear seat passengers. The Outback’s 39.5 inches of rear legroom is 3.0 inches more than the Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz’s rear seats don’t suffer from the vertical stiffness of traditional trucks, but the seat bottoms lack the same thigh support as the Outback. Storage space under the split 60/40 fold-down rear seat helps the Santa Cruz hold more stuff.

When it comes to comfort, the Outback and Santa Cruz are quite on par. The smooth and quiet ride quality of the Santa Cruz is impressive and the only sense of its rear bed is to look in the rearview mirror at the sliding rear window that enchants even the happiest outback doggies. The Outback’s independent suspension cushions road driving, and its wagon-like profile neutralizes 8.7 inches of ground clearance so it doesn’t lean when cornering like other taller SUVs. In fact, the ground clearance (8.6 inches on Santa Cruz) and height (66 / 66.7 inches) of both vehicles are nearly identical, as are the approach and departure angles, further suggesting that Hyundai valued the Outback and no other pickups in styling the Holy Cross.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

The Outback Wilderness gets the off-road advantage thanks to its revised bumper angles, suspension upgrades and tires. It clears 9.5 inches on rock and logs, but its all-terrain tires cause more road noise on the pavement. The same could be said for the 20-inch wheels on the Santa Cruz top. All Outbacks feature all-wheel drive, while only the updated Santa Cruz engine has standard all-wheel drive. The Santa Cruz uses a lockable center differential for balanced power distribution when off-roading uphill or through mud.

On the road, the Santa Cruz is more fun to drive than the Outback. A sport mode delays shift points on the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, and the steering is more responsive than inland. We tested only the largest 2.5-liter turbo-4 available at launch, and the 281hp and 311lb-ft output exceeds the 260hp of the Outback, the 2.4-liter turbo-4.

The Santa Cruz feels lighter on its feet and with maximum torque hitting just 1,700rpm, power always feels available thanks in part to the gearshift levers. Subaru uses gear stepping on its CVT and feels more willing to match the driver’s intentions than other variable transmissions. The CVT’s advantage comes at the pump, with the Outback turbo-4 getting 26 mpg combined compared to Santa Cruz’s turbo-4 with AWD networks just 22 mpg combined, according to the EPA.

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Subaru Outback Wilderness

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Both models come with good standard safety features and superior crash test ratings from NHTSA and IIHS. The Outback outperforms the Santa Cruz with the standard adaptive cruise control, however.

In the cabin, the Santa Cruz features a sleeker layout even though the available 10.3-inch touchscreen sits in a sea of ​​smudged glossy black panels that include tactile climate controls. It’s better than the Outback’s cluttered and cramped 11.6-inch touchscreen that didn’t become more familiar after a week of testing.

The Santa Cruz and the Outback are more alike than different, despite the bed. The best Santa Cruz Touring and Outback Wilderness trim referenced in this article cost around $ 41,000 and $ 38,000 respectively. The difference between the two is less about which is better, and more about how you feel about driving something different.

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