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In the world of small trucks, you’ve got two options in 2023. The Ford Maverick and the Hyundai Santa Cruz. Of the two, the Maverick is certainly more truck-like, but the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz offers a more premium feel. And that is especially true when you climb into the higher trim levels, like the Santa Cruz Limited AWD.

How much does the Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited cost?

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited has a starting MSRP of $40,570. For that cost, you get a turbocharged engine, standard all-wheel drive, and a variety of safety features. It is the powertrain that I find the most important here. The 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 281 horsepower and 311 pound-foot of torque. That’s up nearly 100 hp from the base engine. 

A 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited AWD is parked as a small truck.
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

In the 2023 Santa Cruz Limited that I drove, I found the engine to be peppy. Doing things like passing at highway speeds is not an issue. And I have trouble believing that is the case with the base engine. It seems like one advantage of a Hyundai is that the brand is really focused on producing power plants that put out a decent amount of hp. 

Is the Santa Cruz a truck?

The Hyundai Santa Cruz does have a truck bed, and to me, that qualifies it as a truck. Sure, it’s not a large body-on-frame pickup, but it is ideal for someone who wants a mix of a crossover and a truck. After all, the 2023 Santa Cruz is basically a Hyundai Tucson with a pickup truck bed. 

A side view of the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz small truck.
Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

Even though it might have crossover looks, the Hyundai Santa Cruz can out tow the Ford Maverick by 1,000 pounds. Plus, you get a tonneau cover over the bed. And from the looks of the rubber stripping, it should be able to keep out water. 

This Hyundai truck is comfortable

Admittedly, the 2023 Santa Cruz I drove is the top trim of this small truck. So it had things like leather seating, along with heating and ventilating capabilities. But, this Hyundai pickup was able to seat four adults comfortably, so I imagine even the base models could be used as a family vehicle if needed. 

Oddly enough, the thing I appreciate most about the 2023 Santa Cruz Limited is its gear level. Instead of being a rotary dial or buttons like some new vehicles have, it’s just an old-school gear shifter. 

According to Car and Driver, when you opt for the upper trims, this component is leather-wrapped, along with the steering wheel. And that gives a premium feel to this relatively affordable small truck. 

One thing I might change about the 2023 Santa Cruz Limited AWD is the digital gauge cluster. I do like how configurable these screens have gotten, but it seems like something that could fail as the years go on. Maybe a mix of analog and digital tech could help with longevity. But it seems like folks are getting used to this tech and expect it at a certain price point.

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