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The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a pretty attention-grabbing small pickup truck. While its size and general look will put many truck buyers out from the jump, those aspects bring more buyers into the truck world who might never have bought in otherwise. The Hyundai truck is cool, funky, small, efficient, and relatively affordable. And while we love having good things to say about the mold breaker, The Drive’s 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz review showed some pretty surprising flaws and quality issues. 

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz review 

The Drive recently tested the Hyundai Santa Cruz and, like most of us, had plenty of nice things to say about the strange little pickup truck. However, some unexpected issues led testers to express a sense of surprise and even disappointment. 

Design flaws and missed shots are one thing, but basic quality issues make you feel some sadness or even anger, especially when considering how expensive new vehicles are. 

The Drive calls the Hyundai Santa Cruz “novel but simple.” This is a lovely way to describe the concept of the Hyundai – a crossover SUV with an open cargo space. While it is a pickup truck, it doesn’t really feel like one. An El Camino wears a pickup truck name tag, but we don’t let the Camino into the pickup truck family reunion. It’s like that. 

Despite the feeling, The Drive’s 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz review shows a real crossover pickup truck. The tester loved many things about the truck. The design feels like something taken from a video game or film. It’s small, short, and squat, but it has a sense of density. The tester expresses this sentiment while also praising the “artful” interior. 

The mini truck comes in its base form with a small four-pot making 191 hp. The top trim comes with a turbocharged four making a zesty 281 hp. The tester says there is little to complain about there. 

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz has some surprising issues

A front view of Hyundai's compact pickup, the 2023 Santa Cruz.
Hyundai Santa Cruz | Eric Boman, MotorBiscuit

After loving so many things about the Hyundai, the tester expresses some serious quality issues with the Hyundai. After a few days of testing, The Drive writer found water on the back seats. At first, he believed the window was left open. It wasn’t. Next, after seeing some headliner moisture, he thought maybe it was a clogged sunroof drain. Seeing as the tester only had 2,00 miles at the time, that was not the issue. Upon closer inspection, the writer assumed it was a poor window seal. Hyundai says that the issue had not been found at scale. Maybe it was a one-off issue. Still, a bit frustrating on a brand-new $40,000 truck. 

He also mentioned that the sliding tonneau cover worked fine as long as temps stayed above 40 degrees. However, below freezing temp, seized the cover in the half-open position. Lastly, the writer reported that in cold, slushy weather, the Hyundai Santa Cruz sent the driver a message warning of the truck’s radar system may not function. While cold weather isn’t Hyundai’s fault, cars and trucks always drive in below-freezing weather without radar issues. 

Is the 2023 Santa Cruz a good truck? 

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz off-roading in the woods
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz review reveals a few things about this truck. One of them is that the Hyundai Santa Cruz, when properly equipped, is a surprisingly exciting vehicle to drive. Another one is the quality of the top-trim test truck was sadly lacking. However, lastly, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is a tough truck to compare to anything else we have on the market. 

While many people compare the Santa Cruz to the Ford Maverick because of their sizes, the two aren’t comparable. Others might also balk at the price. While I understand you can’t compare it to other comparably-priced mid-size pickup trucks. The Santa Cruz is just too unique for that. The best advice around this truck seems to be that if you need what the Hyundai Santa Cruz offers, then it is probably a good way to go. If you need a traditional pickup truck, the Santa Cruz is probably a little too strange to be worth the price.