How Does the Hyundai Santa Cruz Compare to Utes of the Past?

If you are an American interested in a ute, outside of the small trucks currently offered, you are probably out of luck. In the United States, auto manufacturers don’t seem interested in selling these interesting vehicles. But, recently, a couple of brands have started offering compact pickups. The Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick are essentially modern-day utes for Americans. So, how does the Santa Cruz stand up to utes of the past?

Are there American utes?

In the past, some American brands have ventured into the world of utes. First, there was the Ford Ranchero. The Ranchero first went on sale in 1957, and production lasted until 1979. It was based on a station wagon platform, but instead of extra seats in the back, it had an open bed. Allowing folks more room for bulkier items. Oh, and to meet the standard of a ute, it also only came with two doors. 

Once General Motors saw the success of the Ranchero, it decided to build its own ute. And this one is probably more iconic. The Chevy El Camino was built until 1987, and honestly, by then, it resembled a muscle car despite being classified as a pickup. Other brands like Subaru have also explored this segment, but overall, utes never really took off in the states. 

Is the Hyundai Santa Cruz a ute?

In the traditional sense, the Hyundai Santa Cruz is not a ute. But that has not stopped folks from making the ute connection. In an article by CNET, it is even referred to as such. Although the 2022 Santa Cruz is based on the Hyundai Tucson, making it a car-based truck, it lacks some key ute features. 

A 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz with AWD parked in the woods. Does this pickup truck have all-wheel drive?
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

It boasts four doors, and the bed is separate from the passenger cab. At the same time, it is a compact pickup. And it is probably the closest thing that we will get to a ute unless something major changes in the automotive industry. 

Is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz a good pickup?

In terms of being a small truck, the 2022 Santa Cruz does fairly well for itself. It has a starting MSRP of $24,440 and has the ability to generate up to 281 horsepower. Plus, you can even get it with all-wheel drive. And although the Santa Cruz may lack the traditional truck styling that the Ford Maverick has, it does offer a towing capacity of 1,000 pounds more with a rating of 5,000 lbs. 

A 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz compact truck parked on a beach. DOes it have AWD?
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

Really the only place the Santa Cruz truly falls short is off-road ability. But, most folks interested in one probably aren’t going rock crawling every weekend. And after all, this is a unibody truck. Hyundai’s pickup is currently available in four different trim levels, allowing you to pick the right amount of vehicle for your specific needs. 

Better yet, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a small truck that comes with a number of standard features. And that is something even more attractive about this pickup, even if it is not technically a ute.

RELATED: Why Doesn’t the U.S. Have Sedan Pickups Anymore?