Hyundai Santa Cruz 2023 experience

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a curvy pickup truck of its kind, combining the efficiency and drivability of a compact crossover with the utility of a pickup truck. Just because you want a full-size truck doesn’t mean you need a full-size truck, and for a large number of pickup buyers, the Santa Cruz is the right-sized, affordable solution.

Why does it look like a Hyundai Tucson?

Because it’s pretty much the Hyundai Tucson. From the B-pillar forward, the Santa Cruz shares the majority of its design with Hyundai’s compact crossover, and the bulk of the interior is shared between those two teammates as well. Do you like the way the delicious triangular Tucson looks? Great, you’ll dig Santa Cruz. Furthermore, what other pickup truck has that kind of front-end LED square footage?

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What are the engine options?

The base powertrain is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine making 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This engine is, in a word, anemic. It’s slow and boring, and you have to accelerate the car – especially when accelerating on the highway. At least the accompanying eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth.

On the other hand, the 2.5-liter turbo I4 is a better fit for the Santa Cruz. With 281 hp and 311 lb-ft, there’s more usable power – both off the line and while you’re hustling it at speed – and the 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers quick, smooth shifts. This setup is really nice, and will be appreciated if you’re towing a load or taking advantage of the truck’s max tow rating of 5,000 pounds.

Wait, no hybrid?

No, Nada, which is strange, as Hyundai offers the Tucson with regular and hybrid options. Can these engines fit the Santa Cruz? probably. But until the Santa Cruz starts flying out of dealer shops like hotcakes, it doesn’t make sense for Hyundai to overcomplicate the build. Then again, Ford can barely keep up with demand for the hybrid powertrain in its similarly sized Maverick pickup. Hmm.

Can Santa Cruz do muscle truck stuff?

Yes kind of. Keep in mind that this is not a traditional body-on-frame truck, so if towing and hauling are your priorities, you’ll need something a little more powerful.

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That doesn’t mean Santa Cruz can’t handle some big jobs. The truck can haul 1,411 pounds of payload in its bed, and with the turbo engine and all-wheel drive, the Santa Cruz can tow 5,000 pounds. Moreover, the bed has a sliding cover that makes it easy to cover and carry things without the risk of damage (or theft), and you can choose all kinds of bed organizers. Ingenuity to win.

Is the Santa Cruz off-road?

Again, sort of. All Santa Cruz models have 8.6 inches of ground clearance, which isn’t bad, but you can’t specify all-terrain tires or any kind of adaptive off-road driving mode. Even the mid-range XRT model, which feels solid and powerful, is all show and no go. You get side steps, wider wheel arches, and some extra door garnish, but that’s about it. If you really want to take a Santa Cruz off-roader, you’d better spend a few bucks on a proper outfitter first.

How much does this guy cost tonight?

You’ll need at least $27,985 to get to the Santa Cruz base, including the $1,335 destination fee. All-wheel drive costs $29,485, and if you want the turbo engine (you do), it costs much more: $39,545. The most expensive Santa Cruz Limited comes in at $42,405. Not terrible, all things considered.

Does Santa Cruz have any competitors?

Only one: Ford Maverick. The biggest advantage of Maverick is that it is much less expensive to get started, priced under $25,000. It also offers the option of a super-efficient and super-smooth hybrid powertrain, though it can only be paired with front-wheel drive. The Maverick doesn’t have many fancy interior trims or tech, but fully loaded, it doesn’t even come close to touching $40,000. I’m just saying.

What is the ruling?

Great for driving and multi-functional, the Santa Cruz is a hard case for downsizing your pickup truck needs

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is the perfect pickup for people who don’t need the massive capabilities of a cumbersome full-size truck. The Santa Cruz is great to drive, wonderfully equipped, very practical, and looks great too.

Plus, it’s competitively priced, undercutting the lower ends of traditional midsize trucks. The Santa Cruz starts at under $30,000, and is very affordable. However, the best versions of this truck cost a lot more, so if you can afford to spend a large sum, you’ll get a much nicer pickup truck – one you’ll love to live with in the long term.

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