1 of U.S. News’ Best Compact Trucks Is Also the Cheapest

Buying a compact truck has gotten more challenging recently. There are so many excellent options in the market; choosing a suitable model is a task in itself. Experts like U.S. News & World Report release lists ranking the models every model year. For 2022 and 2023, one of the best overall models is also the cheapest. It isn’t very often that something affordable is also near the top for quality and value, so the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is something worth taking advantage of.

What are U.S. News’ best compact trucks?

The best new midsize trucks include this Honda Ridgeline
The 2022 Honda Ridgeline | Honda

At the top of U.S. News‘ rankings sit three of the best compact trucks for 2022 and 2023. In third place, the 2023 Nissan Frontier ranks ahead of popular models like the Chevy Colorado and Ford Ranger. The publication likes it for its strong V6 engine, balanced ride and handling, and high-quality cabin. Unfortunately, the second row is a bit cramped for passengers. In first place is the 2023 Honda Ridgeline, which borders luxury in most trims. It has a spacious, upscale interior and a potent V6 engine. However, Honda’s truck has a high starting price compared to rivals.

The second-place model is the one we’re talking about. U.S. News ranked the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz second overall. There are many reasons to like it, but the most prominent is the starting price. Its entry-level trim is far more affordable than that of those ranked close to it, but what really sets the new Hyundai truck apart is the standard features for the low price.

How much is a 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz?

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz vs. 2023 Ford Maverick
2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

First, the most impressive thing about the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is how affordable it is. The base model costs $25,450, beaten only by the $20,000 Ford Maverick. However, compared with U.S. News’ other top-ranked models, it isn’t even close. The Frontier starts at $29,190, and the Ridgeline is a whopping $38,800. As far as the best compact trucks go, there’s a clear winner for affordability.

With the third trim level, the Santa Cruz makes a big jump in price. The SEL trim is $29,085, followed by the Night edition at $37,105. Buying the two bottom trims is much more reasonable than those higher, which are closer in price to Honda’s offering. The most significant difference is higher trims replace the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a turbocharged version, upping horsepower from 191 to 281. Surprisingly, the most affordable Santa Cruz comes well-equipped.

What are the Santa Cruz’s standard features?

RELATED: Only 2 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Trims Are Worth Buying

We’re as surprised as anyone that the most affordable compact trucks are also feature-filled. Both the Ford Maverick and 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz have a surprising number of amenities. Hyundai’s offering includes a composite cargo bed, an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, six speakers, forward collision mitigation, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot intervention, and rear cross-traffic alert. The biggest downside is the engine, which publications like U.S. News called “weak.”

Even without jumping up to the higher trims, the Santa Cruz is well-off. For just under $30,000, the SEL trim is the most popular model for a reason. It takes the base model equipment, then adds heated mirrors, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, a lockable cargo bed storage bin, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and heated front seats. There’s also an optional Activity package unlocked at this trim level. It contains a cargo bed tonneau cover, a sunroof, roof rails, a sliding rear window, a power outlet in the bed, utility LED bed lighting, a digital instrument cluster, and wireless smartphone charging.

1 of the best compact trucks is also the cheapest

In conclusion, out of U.S. News’ best compact trucks, the 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is the cheapest. It’s also cheaper than nearly every compact and midsize truck available. Only the Ford Maverick is more affordable. For the price, it’s surprising how much value the Hyundai truck offers in its base trims. Those seeking more power can opt for a more costly version, which adds a standard potent turbocharged engine.

RELATED: Does the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Have AWD?