Honda Ridgeline vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz
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Honda Ridgeline vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz

Consumer tastes in the auto industry are incredibly fickle. Sure-bet, slam-dunk product offerings can sometimes fall completely flat, while other mediocre choices can sell like hotcakes.

Imagine the frustration Subaru is feeling 15-years after the demise of its sales-dud Baja mini-pick-up, as both consumers and the media alike trip over themselves to praise Hyundai’s new little truck-like utility vehicle, the Santa Cruz.  

The Santa Cruz and Ford’s new Maverick suggest the market is now hungry for the tiny pick-ups that ride on car-like unibody platforms for which there was no appetite for previously. Meanwhile Honda’s Ridgeline soldiers on, also based on a unibody platform, with modest, but consistent sales.  

A buyer’s decision between the Ridgeline and Santa Cruz may come down to nothing more than the size of pick-up needed, but there are a lot of other factors to consider when comparing these two.  


  • Our Pick:  Santa Cruz
  • Why we like it:  it’s fresh, it’s new and it’s funky

The Honda Ridgeline has matured into its looks over the past several years, slowly transitioning from odd and frumpy to a machine that looks more, well, truck-like now. In the most recent styling refresh, Honda gave the Ridgeline a larger front grille and all-terrain tires to add a bit of machismo, while the top-of-the-line Black Edition eschews passé chrome trim for a Darth Vader look.

While the Honda looks tall and utilitarian, the Hyundai takes an entirely different approach, looking lower and sleeker, with sweeping body lines and squat side glass. There’s really nothing else quite like it on the market today and the aggressive front-end design with its myriad of LED lights resembles the Tucson SUV on which the Santa Cruz is largely based.  

Around back, the taillights extend into the tailgate adding to the visual width of the Santa Cruz, and the 20-inch wheels help give the profile a truly sporty look.  


  • Our Pick:  Ridgeline
  • Why we like it:  it’s a close one, but function trumps form

2022 Ridgeline interior vs 2022 Santa Cruz interior | Photo: Honda, Hyundai 

Much like the exterior styling, the Santa Cruz’s interior is sleek and contemporary with its dashboard flowing pillar to pillar through a fully digital gauge cluster and a larger infotainment display. There’s a lot of high-gloss black trim that gets smudged in a hurry, and the haptic controls for climate and audio controls might look slick, but can be tedious to operate.  

What the Ridgeline’s cabin gives up in style, it more than makes up for in usability. The HVAC controls feature proper buttons, and there’s a real audio knob that might be old-school, but it’s convenient and it works. Honda does a great job of utilizing space within the cockpit with storage bins and cubbies to put the stuff we all seem to accumulate in our vehicles. 

The Ridgeline’s larger cabin translates to greater passenger space, and the taller side glass makes for a brighter, airier cabin and notably better visibility for passengers in both the front and rear seats. For a utility vehicle, functionality is key and the Ridgeline simply does it better.  


  • Our Pick:  Santa Cruz
  • Why we like it:  Handling and power that makes the Santa Cruz feel more like a sports car than a utility vehicle

2022 Santa Cruz | Photo: Hyundai 

Pick-up trucks – even pint-sized ones like the Santa Cruz – need to be able to do real work or else they’re nothing more than a fashion statement. With a box that’s almost 400 mm (16 inches) shorter and 185 mm (7 inches) narrower than the Ridgeline, it’s easy to dismiss the Santa Cruz as nothing more than a cute styling exercise. 

Towing capacity is identical but Santa Cruz will haul significantly more

But Hyundai made the little truck surprisingly tough with a maximum payload of 732 kg (1,613 lbs) that’s surprisingly better than the Honda’s 674 kg (1,486 lbs) payload. What’s more, they’re both rated to tow up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs). Both trucks also offer weatherproof cargo holds in the floor of the box, although the Honda’s is significantly larger.  

When not towing trailers or hauling heavy cargo, many pick-ups are used as daily transport for commuting or shopping duties, and that’s when the Santa Cruz really shines. Not only do its compact dimensions make it easier to navigate tight urban spaces, but this thing is genuinely fun to drive.

The Ridgeline’s V6 offers decent thrust and it handles decently, but the Santa Cruz’s turbocharged 4-cylinder not only offers more torque, but does so at lower revs, making it feel spritely around town. And when driven with gusto, the Hyundai’s quick steering and excellent grip make it feel sportier than any other pick-up than we can recall.  Even its brakes feel sporty with strong stopping power.

2022 Ridgeline | Photo: Honda 

Verdict & specs: how much does truck size matter?

Truck buyers looking for a work horse for heavy hauling on a regular basis are likely shopping the full-size pick-up category. For the rest of us needing a truck as much for daily commuting and fun adventures as the occasional trip to the hardware store, having a compact, unibody truck like one of these makes a lot of sense, and they’re both great choices. 

Despite its smaller interior size and box dimensions, the Santa Cruz is still a very capable machine. Add to that its fresh exterior styling and fun on-road driving manners, and the Hyundai becomes our pick in this test. 

Here’s a look at all the current compact pickups on the market

And if you're in the market for a used truck, shop our inventory of used trucks here.

Specs:  2022 Honda Ridgeline vs 2022 Santa Cruz 


2022 Honda Ridgeline

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Base Price




3.5L V6

2.5L turbocharged I4


9-speed automatic

8-speed dual-clutch




Peak Horsepower

280 hp

281 hp

Peak Torque

262 lb-ft

311 lb-ft

Fuel Economy

12.8 / 9.9 / 11.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb

12.1 / 8.6 / 10.6 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb

In-Floor Cargo Space

960 L

764 L

Towing Capacity

2,268 kg

2,268 kg


674 kg

732 kg

Bed Length

1,625 mm

1,230 mm

Bed width (between wheel wells)

1,270 mm

1,085 mm

Ground clearance

194 mm

218 mm

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