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The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a strange, exciting, and confusing little truck. It has a 4-ft bed, a four-cylinder engine, and unibody chassis. This doesn’t sound like a pickup truck to most of us, yet it is. Despite its popularity, many drivers are confused about what the Santa Cruz is and how to use it. The question everyone wants to ask is, can the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup be as practical as it looks? 

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup specs 

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is an intriguing truck. The cabin has all the comfort and feel of a crossover, yet the rear end is a small pickup truck. It reminds us of something like the creation of hybrid animal monsters from the movie The Island of Dr. Moreau. Like hybrid, human/animal mashups, the result is pretty strange, maybe even upsetting, but you’d have to admit, there are some advantages. Ok, I think I have taken this simile as far as it can go. 

The point is the Hyundai Santa Cruz is strange but useful. The Hyundai truck is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 191 hp in its base configuration. This small truck gets an average of 24 mpg. However, there is also a turbocharged version of the same engine that makes 281 hp. This version can also tow up to 5,000 lbs. That is the same as the Honda Ridgeline and not far off from the Toyota Tacoma’s max tow rating. Both versions also come with an optional AWD driveline. 

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is an adult adventure machine

The fact is, the Hyundai truck is never going to be the adventure rig a Subaru or kitted-out Tacoma might be. However, for the average person who might need to travel a dirt road or two to get to a hiking trailhead or go kayaking, the Santa Cruz is perfect. The unibody construction will likely keep it from doing any proper off-roading, but it keeps the truck friendly on the road. However, with AWD and a taller stance, the Santa Cruz will cover most terrain for the average recreational outdoors person. 

The small truck bed in the back is perfect for moving outdoor gear. SUVs are great for these activities, but you have to keep most of the gear in the car with you. The little bed is just right for storing wet camping gear, the spoils of a successful hunt, muddy clothes, and other gear or materials you may not want in the car with you. Granted, the bed isn’t big enough for many typical truck things. This is a blessing. You get to drive a truck without the fear of being asked to help friends move every weekend. Plus, the starting Santa Cruz price is pretty enticing.

How much is the Hyundai Santa Cruz? 

MSRP for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz starts at $25,700. However, J.D. Power reports that people are paying slightly less for the base model. The top-trim Limited model starts at $39,367 and runs up to a Santa Cruz price topping out at $42,324. 

Is the Santa Cruz worth it? 

The Hyundai Santa Cruz has many aspects that make it an exciting vehicle. The strange crossover/pickup truck mashup makes it a dynamic and inspiring thing to drive. Drivers of the Santa Cruz have options. However, those options are figurative. More literally, there aren’t many options Hyundai offers. This feels like one of the truck’s biggest flaws. A vehicle this dynamic should have a slew of factory options and bolt-on gear. Where’s the rally light package, Hyundai? 

Utility and versatility are the Santa Cruz’s strongest elements. As the model matures and changes, something tells me its versatility will only become more pronounced. Its sheer lack of ‘truckish-ness’ leaves the doors of opportunity wide open for this practical pickup pioneer.