Skip to main content

It’s hard to know exactly what will make owners happy when designing a car. You can always look back on previous models, as well as the reviews for them, and use that as a blueprint. Even so, it’s not always a sure thing. Hyundai found the perfect blend of what makes owners happy with the Santa Cruz, however, and many were happy to gush to J.D. Power about it.

Front angle view of blue 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup truck
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

JD Power went straight to the owners for information

Is it a car? A truck? Or some sort of crossover? Hyundai has marketed the Santa Cruz as a Sport Adventure Vehicle, but J.D. Power ranks it in the midsize pickup category.

The review site gathered data from Santa Cruz owners as part of the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout (APEAL) Study. This was a simple way to ask what parts of the Santa Cruz owners liked most, and the study was ranked from the most favorite factor to the part which pleased owners the least. 

This study was important because the information is coming from people who own the Santa Cruz, meaning they have a vested interest in it. These aren’t just car experts who drive vehicles to and from the office for a week or two. 

These owners actually invested a lot of money into it, and they can’t switch out their Santa Cruz with something else if it turns out to be a dud. Because of this, the study has a bit more influence amongst potential owners than other studies may.

There were three factors that owners absolutely love about the Hyundai Santa Cruz

Owners were quick to rank their top three favorite parts of the Hyundai Santa Cruz as exterior styling, driving feel, and feeling of safety.

Setting up and starting came in fourth, while interior design, powertrain, and the infotainment system were next. Driving comfort, getting in and out, and fuel economy came in at the bottom of the list.

It should come as no surprise that very few owners are crazy about fuel economy. Trucks have never been great on gas, to begin with, and with so many hybrids and EVs hitting the roads, standards for good fuel economy have grown. If this review had been done 10 years ago, then fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg city, 27 mpg hwy, and 23 mpg combined would have been stellar, but alas, that is no longer the case.

Even so, there are lots of good things to praise the Santa Cruz for, such as its unique body style.

Hyundai got all the features owners crave just right

Hyundai has come a long way over the years, and a lot of that has to do with listening to the customers. In this case, Hyundai didn’t follow the tried and tested pickup truck body.

The exterior styling the Korean automaker went with makes it obvious that the Santa Cruz is a truck, and yet everyone still turns around to take a second look. It’s also a great conversation starter for those who are into cars.

The driving feel is equally important, as some people spend almost as much time in their vehicle as they do at home. Even those who aren’t constantly jumping in and out of a vehicle appreciate a car that drives well. 

A feeling of safety is also crucial. No one wants to get in a car that they don’t feel safe in, and Hyundai went above and beyond to make sure everyone is comfortable in the Santa Cruz. There are plenty of safety options, such as forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, driver-attention warning, reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, and lane-centering assistance, to name a few.

While Hyundai is not perfect by any means, it does a great job of making reliable vehicles for an affordable price, and the 2023 Santa Cruz is just another example of this.