2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Powertrain and engine issues are the top complaints to the NHTSA from vehicle owners

By Brian Jones | Updated on

By Brian Jones | Updated on

Experiencing loss of power? Read our post on Hyundai Santa Cruz Loss of Power Issues.

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the automaker’s first pickup truck, so there was plenty of excitement about the launch. Hyundai claims it is “up for anything,” but a growing number of owners say the opposite is true. This pickup suffers from many problems including defective exterior lighting and loss of power issue that may be due to a malfunctioning engine and failing powertrain.

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Most Common Problems with the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

The most common problems that owners of the first ever Hyundai Santa Cruz are experiencing are loss of motive power and an inability to accelerate. Descriptions of what happens vary, but more than 40 owners have posted their complaints on the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) website about related issues.

These complaints are posted in several different NHTSA categories including Engine, Powertrain, Vehicle Speed Control, and Unknown or Other. Some are posted in more than one category, presumably because owners are super-confused about what is going wrong.

To put these complaints into perspective, there have been 60 complaints in all between January 26 and October 25, 2022. Of these, 33 are listed under Powertrain and 15 under Engine. All of these relate to loss of power issues or the vehicle not responding to the accelerator. Some mention transmission failure, either because they can’t accelerate, or in terms of not being able to get the vehicle into gear and slowing down. This makes them very difficult, if not impossible, to separate.

There are 8 complaints filed under Vehicle Speed Control, 5 of which are also filed under Powertrain. Almost all relate to loss of power or a failure to accelerate problems. While there is a recall that relates to loss of drive power, it certainly doesn’t address all the issues consumers are complaining about.

There are 6 electrical system complaints, but of these, 2 relate to loss of power and stalling, and 2 are linked to an exterior lighting issue. There are another 3 complaints about exterior lighting, bringing the total to 5.

Loss of Power Recall

The loss of power recall was published via the NHTSA on October 6, 2022. But owner notification letters will probably only be mailed December 5, 2022. It affects as many as 53,142 Hyundai vehicles, including the 2022 Santa Cruz, which are at risk of a “loss of drive power” that “increases the risk of a crash.”

The reason is that the vehicle’s “fail-safe” limited-mobility drive mode may be impaired, when prompted by a transmission oil pump malfunction. This can result in a complete loss of drive power.

Dealers have been instructed to inspect vehicles listed in the recall. If necessary, they must replace the transmission free of charge.

There is a service bulletin that addresses a misassembled check valve in the PCV system. Even so, there are zero manufacturer communications on file addressing loss of power.

Problems with the Engine & Powertrain

As a pickup truck, the Santa Cruz needs to be potent and ready to go. However, the defective engine is causing a lot of trouble. At the same time, the powertrain encompasses the engine, but relates to the transmission too. Again, this system is dysfunctional.

Loss of Motive Power

The first loss of power experience reported to the NHTSA is from a Santa Cruz owner in Arizona. “I was passing on a 2 lane road with the gas pedal to the floor.  After I passed the vehicle, still in the passing lane I let off on the gas.  At that moment I had no power.  Had to brake and get back behind the vehicle I was passing. Thank God there was no on-coming traffic, or I would not be here telling you this story.”

A complaint from an owner in New York who had children in a vehicle he’d had for only 9 months ended with it being towed.

“My vehicle started slowing down quickly even with my foot on the gas. There was no warning, no lights on the dash lit up warning me there was anything wrong with the car. The rpm’s were going up but it was like there was no power to the car. I got off the highway onto a side road as fast as I could so I wouldn’t get hit. Then I pulled off to the side of the road. I put it in park and turned it off. I tried to turn it back on and it would start. After a second attempt it turned on but was really rough and felt like it would stall. I used the blue link to call for a tow truck.”

Feedback was a possible condition with the engine control system.

It’s a common theme but with different specifics – and lots of them. They range from:

  • While driving down the road the transmission went out of gear and I lost all power to the wheels, to
  • Sometimes, when it loses motive power = The “Stop Vehicle Immediately” message is displayed.

Inability to Accelerate

One of the first complaints about the 2022 Santa Cruz was from an owner in New Mexico who highlighted an inability to accelerate. While the RPM revved up, the pickup truck wouldn’t go any faster than 25 MPH. When this happened, the driver “exited the highway and veered to the side of the road.”

The complaint states that as he turned off and restarted the vehicle, he was able to drive the vehicle with no further issues. The dealer was notified of the failure. The manufacturer was notified of the failure and a case was opened.

Another complaint from an owner in Washington said the issue seemed to happen “at random, when accelerating to a stop.

“The vehicle feels as if it’s stuck in too high of a gear and accelerates very slowly despite high RPMs. The maximum speed I could achieve was 16 MPH after keeping the gas pedal nearly floored for 3-5 seconds, which normally would have had me to nearly 60 MPH. This happened to me in rush hour city traffic on a busy street with no shoulder. The only apparent solution is to shut off the vehicle and restart it, at which time the problem resolves itself and normal operation is resumed.”

In three sentences, an owner from Georgia says, “I accelerated at 10mph, the engine rpm’s increased to 3000rpm but the vehicle speed did not increase. After I stopped at a stop sign the car accelerated normally. I did not restart the car. The car was in NORMAL mode.”

And the complaints continue.

  • After making a stop, sometimes the Santa Cruz does not want to accelerate when pressing down on the accelerator pedal.
  • While accelerating away from a stop, it seems the vehicle revs and does not accelerate, almost like it is not in gear.

Exterior Lighting Problems

Seeing clearly shouldn’t be something anyone needs to fight for, yet the 2022 Santa Cruz doesn’t come equipped the way it should if owners are driving at night. For instance, owners report that the halogen headlights are too dim, and the LED headlights create shadows that lessen visibility. There is also a complaint that water collects in the lens cover.

One NHTSA complaint from Florida reads, “My Santa Cruz headlights have a dark shadow on the driver’s side while driving at night. It is extremely distracting and it can be a danger. The blind spot is very obvious. It can lead the driver to look at the shadow instead of the road as well as a portion of the headlight projection is not illuminating the road. The 2022 Tucson has the same front headlight configuration and while searching the Hyundai forum, the same problem exists for that vehicle. This is a constant problem while driving at night.”

A Virginia owner complained to the dealership about the halogen headlights being too dim. There was no solution unless they voided the warranty. The answer was, “that if I wanted LED headlights I should have “purchased a higher trim model”. I purchased the SEL with activity package trim and you would think an almost $40,000 vehicle would have better headlights than this.”

What if your 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a lemon? Your Lemon Law Rights

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the professionals work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Hyundai pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. After all, every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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Share your story

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Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 20 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
  • Anna

    I’m looking at a 2022 Santa Cruz today with 9000 miles for sale. I love the versatility of the vehicle, would suit my life perfectly. I want this vehicle, there’s a lot of positive reviews also.
    BUT MY QUESTION IS…If I buy this vehicle and have engine problems, would I be in a better position if I had bought new vs used or if I lease? Which situation (owning new, or used, or leasing) would give me the best advantage if the vehicle has these issues? Based on percentages, it appears less than 1% of Santa Cruz sold are having problems. Is that low, high or standard?
    Thank you for your reply. Trying to make good decisions.

  • Jennifer R

    I love my 2022 Santa Cruz but continue to have issues. The engine has a ticking noise sometimes when you start it (like a lifter) dealer unable to locate. This has been going on since new. When you have the lane departure warning and auto steer set the car will sometimes take all the left and you have to pull it back to your lane. Major safety hazard. Dealer performed a transmission update at last service. Went from 27 MPG to 23 MPG. Seems to not shift correctly and if you are on an incline the vehicle will roll backwards until you apply the brake or give the transmission time to realize you have went from park to reverse. I have opened up cases with Hyundai.

  • Ana W

    2022 Santa Cruz SEL purchased new 6 months ago. Very slow to accelerate and a danger in heavy traffic. Engine control light has come on twice. Now there is a clunking noise, seemingly coming from the axles when the wheels turn. Will find out what the verdict is this week once it is serviced by the dealer but I wish I had just waited for another BMW.

  • Jim a

    Started the car ,put in reverse, foot on brake started to back up slowly steering wheel turned all the way to right. Felt like car stated to strain itself, Bam, the whole car shook, felt like some one rear ended me.
    Now I don’t want to drive it.

  • garypringle

    2020 turbo santa cruz stopped twice wouldnt move out of park or crank both times had to be towed to dealers and has beenin dealers since aug 8th i paid for 1st tow and ride home from out of town jan28 and paid ride home from aug 8th from out of town it is a leased truck want to turn in or manufacture pay lease august and sept it would cover my cost 686.96/m plus insurance i havent mentioned missed events and travel that was cancelled . Thanks for support gary

  • Philip M

    Which engine are you speaking of? There are two, the 2.5 naturally aspirated and the 2.5 Turbo

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