Is the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Just an SUV?

As a unibody pickup, some people have rated the 2023 Santa Cruz as not being a true truck. But this pickup truck that shares its platform with the Hyundai Tucson isn’t just a bed SUV. It can do legitimate truck things, though it doesn’t look like a traditional pickup truck.

Although not as popular as the Ford Maverick, Santa Cruz proves to be a hot item. Although it has a small bed, the driving characteristics are more like a car than a truck. And for people who want something convenient and practical, this makes a good mix.

It almost feels impossible now.

Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

The Santa Cruz’s standard engine is a four-cylinder with 191 hp. But, it might be worth upgrading to the variant. Both engines offer the ability to come with all-wheel drive, which is an advantage over the Ford pickup. If you want a Maverick with AWD, you can’t have that with the hybrid.

2023 Ford Maverick Tremor in front of a moving truck house
2023 Ford Maverick Tremor | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Another thing worth noting is the 5,000-pound towing capacity of this mini pickup. This number also gives Santa Cruz an advantage. Despite this, I haven’t had a chance to see how this Hyundai handles drag.

Is Hyundai’s pickup truck worth it?

According to the 2023 SEL Premium, the Santa Cruz is a good value. Now, this package will bring this minivan closer to $40,000 in cost, but it will bring very little to the table.

You get standard AWD and a turbo engine with the Santa Cruz SEL Premium. Plus, convenience features like dual-zone climate control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel are likely to impress.

Hyundai's pickup truck, the 2023 Santa Cruz on a dirt road.
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai
2023 Ford Maverick vs. Hyundai Santa Cruz: A True Pickup Comparison

Perhaps the lack of off-road trim is where the Hyundai pickup truck falls short. With the 2023 Ford Maverick, you can get the FX4 package or the new Tremor option. In Santa Cruz, there isn’t really any off-road gear on offer.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think the Santa Cruz lends itself to being a city truck. With that in mind, it might be great to see some kind of performance package in the future. Hyundai hasn’t been shy about using “N” badges on other vehicles, including the Kona. Imagine how awesome that would be or an N-line. You’ll get the utility of a truck, plus some upgrades to improve performance on the road.

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