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“That’s not a real truck,” my friend said while checking out my 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz press car.
“But it has a bed,” I replied.
“So does my Tacoma. It has a five-foot bed. Now that’s a real truck,” he quipped back.

I can’t blame my truck-loving friend for being loyal to his beloved Toyota Tacoma, as are most people in the Denver area. But what he failed to realize is that it’s not the size of the bed or even the type of chassis that the truck rides on that make it a truck. In my opinion, it’s the overall functionality – and the shape — of the vehicle that makes it so. Also, in my humble opinion, having driven both the Santa Cruz and the Tacoma at a good length, I prefer the former for daily driving as I found it to be more usable. Here is why.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz in black, front corner shot
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz looks like a truck and drives like a small SUV

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz rear
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

If you have done any research on the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, then you’ll know that it’s based on the Tucson. That’s right, it’s basically a Tucson with a four-foot truck bed instead of a cargo area. Are you feeling the Honda Ridgeline vibes yet? I sure did when driving it.

During the week that I spent driving the Santa Cruz, I couldn’t get over how smooth it drove. Who cares if it’s a Tucson? It handled every bump and dip with ease and its cabin was quiet on long drives. There’s also plenty of usable space and nifty storage solutions for all of your random items and groceries. As far as that small bed goes, yes, it’s only four feet long, but that’s enough to accommodate small furniture and some other items.

Besides, how often do you use the bed anyway? OK, I know that some truck drivers use it every day and need a longer bed. But in that case, buy a bigger truck like a Tacoma.

The Toyota Tacoma is an excellent truck, but it’s not that great of a daily driver

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro in green
2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro in green | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Let’s get one thing straight, I do understand that the Toyota Tacoma is a real truck. Everything from its body-on-frame chassis to its V6 engine and longer five-foot bed screams “I’m a truck!” That being said, if you need all of that utility including a 6,400-pound towing capacity, then, by all means, buy a Tacoma. It can also be modified to the gills for all of your off-roading needs.

However, if you’re in need of a vehicle that has truck-like capabilities that won’t beat you up when driving it to the store, then the Tacoma isn’t really for you. I say that because driving a Tacoma feels like you’re driving a water bed on four wheels, thanks to its sturdy chassis and trail-ready suspension. For some, that might not be a bad thing. But if you’re like me and would rather cruise down the street without any bouncy drama, then the Santa Cruz could be a better choice.

Is the Santa Cruz really a Tacoma killer?

2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro in the snow
2021 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro in the snow | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Yes, if all you need is a smallish SUV with the functionality of a truck bed. The Santa Cruz and the Tacoma are also priced similarly. But if you’re looking for good fuel efficiency, then the Santa Cruz will win every time with its turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

But the main point here is overall drivability and practicality. Yes, the Tacoma is an amazing truck, which is why it’s been around forever. But there is space for weird-looking newcomers like the Hyundai Santa Cruz. And while some may never consider it an actual truck, it at least looks the part and drives far better than one on a paved road.


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