2022 Honda Ridgeline AWD Sport vs. 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD: Small package haul-off.

This week: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Price: $41,100. Floor mats added $195.

Conventional wisdom: Car and Driver likes the “highly versatile cargo bed, calm ride and composed handling, high-quality and high-tech interior,” but not the “underpowered base engine, top trims lack physical switchgear, [and it] can cost as much as more capable alternatives.”

Marketer’s pitch: “Our first-ever sport adventure vehicle.”

Reality: Did not quite mesh with Mr. Driver’s Seat’s adventures.

What’s new: Midsize trucks were passé for so long that it felt as if they’d never come back. However, just as straight-leg jeans, baggy clothes, and big hair have again been on the rise, this other ‘80s throwback — remember the Subaru Brat and the Ford Courier? — will be the vehicle those other trends would arrive at your party in style in — except, COVID-19, so no parties.

Meet the Santa Cruz, pegged to compete with the popular Ford Maverick, which also debuted this year, to such acclaim that Ford has stopped taking orders.

Friends and stuff: First of all, it’s important to note the Santa Cruz is even more diminutive than the Honda Ridgeline.

The Santa Cruz bed is 52 inches long at the floor, extending to 74 with the tailgate down, each about a foot shorter than Honda’s pickup. Payload maxes out just about 1,700 pounds, and towing at 5,000 with all-wheel drive, which match the Ridgeline.

» READ MORE: 2022 Honda Ridgeline vs. 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz: Changes among small haulers

Plumbing troubles led to a trip to the big-box store, first for a large auger and then for new pipe. The power auger — about the size of a pressure washer — barely fit in the bed on its side and underneath the sliding cover.

As for the 10-foot length of drainpipe, the test model fortunately featured the slide-open rear window, so I could slide the pipe through it. Because there was nowhere else it was going to fit.

Even with a locking cargo compartment under the bed, this is not my idea of a useful truck.

Passengers won’t be too uncomfortable, though. Headroom and foot room are great, while legroom is a bit snug. The seat itself was far nicer than in the Ridgeline Sport, but this is comparing the base Ridgeline and the top Santa Cruz, so it’s a little unfair. Both offer fold-up seat bottoms to create a nice cargo compartment.

Up to speed: The Santa Cruz can get rolling in pretty short order. Its 2.5-liter turbo four creates 281 horsepower and arrives at 60 mph in a whopping 6.3 seconds, according to Motor Trend.

Sport mode delivers power with the throttle full-on; Smart mode is still fairly brisk; Snow mode feathers the accelerator at a standing start to keep things from spinning. The modes display on the dash but only after you choose to change from Normal, which makes me sad. It would be nice to switch on a vehicle and have it show you which mode it is in.

A non-turbo 2.5 in lesser models creates 191 horsepower, an amount you used to think was enough.

Shifty: The 8-speed wet dual-clutch transmission doesn’t jolt at all, although I could feel it slowing the truck down on the downward grades, and occasionally there was a little chugging on pullout.

Shiftability happens with the gear selector or paddles and works well enough.

On the road: The Santa Cruz offers a nice ride on the highway, and even the curves provide some swervy fun. It took me a little while to consider pushing the Santa Cruz to its limits, but it was game for the adventure.

Driver’s Seat: The Santa Cruz Limited provides a welcoming interior, as most Hyundais do. (This is not a sentence that 11 Years Ago Mr. Driver’s Seat expected to ever type.) The dash is an attractive black with silver trim and a nicely curved series of horizontal HVAC vents, with a soft speaker face worked into it. The gauges are digital replicas of dials in attractive colors.

The seat itself is inviting and comfortable and supportive, as well.

Play some tunes: The Bose stereo equipment was par for the Hyundai premium sound course, with an ebony touch pad surrounding the touchscreen. It’s pretty and has a swell feel, but raising the volume or changing stations requires a lot of tapping.

Sound from the system is very good, about an A-.

» READ MORE: 2020 Ford Ranger offers big things in a small package

Keeping warm and cool: Ebony buttons control source, fan speed, and temperature.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 17 mpg, so the fuel economy is not the selling point here.

Where it’s built: Montgomery, Ala.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports predicts the Santa Cruz reliability to be a 2 out of 5.

In the end: The Santa Cruz is definitely the bargain of the two — its fully tricked-out Limited costs the same as the more bare-bones Ridgeline Sport.

But the practicality of the Santa Cruz makes it less of a truck and more of an awkward sedan with a big trunk. Perhaps the non-turbo four would have a fuel-savings benefit, but I doubt it would be much.

Frankly, though, I’d have to send buyers to the Ford Ranger XLT, which is a fun, versatile truck that offered 20% better fuel economy in Mr. Driver’s Seat testing. For about the same price.