The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Has Finally Been Test-Driven and It Seems Like a Promising Adventure Buddy | Autance

Is Hyundai’s new trucklet hot, or not?

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The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Has Finally Been Test-Driven and It Seems Like a Promising Adventure Buddy | Autance © The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Has Finally Been Test-Driven and It Seems Like a Promising Adventure Buddy | Autance

Hyundai’s been rumored to have something like a pickup truck in the works since I was in third grade, struggling with long division. Now, I’m cresting thirty, and the years-old speculation and rumors have come to fruition. The Santa Cruz is a car that’s kind of a truck; a la El Camino or Subaru BRAT.

So yeah, Hyundai’s got a pickup truck! Or not, most automotive journalists have commented that Hyundai’s gone out of its way not to brand the Santa Cruz as a truck. Whatever, it’s got a bed, it’s a pickup truck.

Classification aside, how is the new Hyundai Santa Cruz? First drive reviews are in, and it seems to be a good one.

Here’s the Scoop

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a new entry in what seems to be a budding segment; the crossover-based pickup truck. It’s sort of a slightly longer Hyundai Tuscon, with the back hacked off. It competes with the Honda Ridgeline, forthcoming Ford Maverick, and maybe some lower-trimmed midsize pickups like the Chevy Colorado and Ford Ranger.

On The Bed Practicality

The Santa Cruz’s bed is very short, but it’s got some super neat tricks to make the most of its small size.

Peter Holderith for The Drive “The bed is ‘just’ 4.3 feet long. One may question the utility—as I initially did—of a 4.3-foot bed, but it’s not as simple as just looking at the total length in a vacuum…..A four-foot bed isn’t great for plywood, but add a tonneau and it is great for backpacks, hiking gear, sandy stuff from the beach, you name it. With the tailgate down you can even put a reasonably sized dirt bike in the back, as Hyundai made sure to show me.”

Antuan Goodwin for CNET’s Roadshow “The bed also has underfloor storage. Like the Honda Ridgeline, the Santa Cruz’s compartment is waterproof, drainable and lockable. However, the Hyundai’s truck trunk is rather shallow, only about as deep as my 7-inch-thick large camera pack. This somewhat limits what you can haul, but there should be enough room for a wetsuit, muddy boots, hiking gear or a flat toolbox.”

James Riswick for Autoblog “ Hyundai packed in some bikes with their tires dangling over the tailgate and some awfully short surfboards poking out the back, but there’s no denying the limitations relative the beds of conventional trucks. As such, it’s best to think of the Santa Cruz as more of an alternative to compact crossovers, and specifically, its bed as an alternative gear-carrying solution than a compact crossover’s enclosed cargo area.”

On The Powertrain

The Hyundai Santa Cruz’s powertrain is very similar to what’s in the Tuscon. Power comes from either a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to an eight-speed automatic, or a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder with to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

It seems Hyundai’s press event only included the 2.5-liter turbo.

Scott Evans for MotorTrend “The optional turbocharged engine has an overabundance of midrange torque that’ll get you going in a hurry when you need it. The throttle’s tuned so you can cruise around town smoothly with just enough get up and go, but put your foot in it a bit more, and all the power is there to execute a pass or climb a hill.”

Antuan Goodwin for CNET’s Roadshow “The dual-clutch automatic makes decisive and predictable gear choices in its normal and sport modes, and there’s plenty of power for passing. It remains to be seen whether the Santa Cruz will feel as carefree when approaching its payload limits, but I reckon the little pickup will meet the needs of drivers looking for an easygoing and functional runabout.”

Jakub and Yuri for TheStraightPipes“I think for offroading, this thing rolls back and forward a lot when you put it into drive and reverse… but the transmission is really smooth, so downshifts (and upshifts) are really quick.”

About the On-Road Driving dynamics

Pickup trucks don’t have the greatest reputation for on-road driving dynamics, with bouncy, rough rides, and poor on-road handling being a typical trait of the class. Does the Santa Cruz follow suit? Initial impressions say no, it doesn’t.

Zack Klapman for Road & Track “What most impressed me was its performance in the corners. On Northern California’s famous, twisting Skyline Highway, I was shocked by the Hyundai’s ability to maintain speed through corners and its willingness to do so. I’ve never driven a vehicle that had an open bed and handled like this.”

Lyn Woodward for Kelly Blue Book “The ride quality is exactly what you’d expect, not too firm, not too sporty….if this were the three bears, we’d be very happy. On the road, you know what, you don’t even remember there’s a truck bed back there.”

Peter Holderith for The Drive “In tighter drive-thrus, it felt a little big, but it was more than manageable. I also wasn’t worried about riding up on curbs and doing any damage. This thing could handle that. On tight mountain backroads, it felt reasonably light and was tossable when you wanted it to be. In fact, in the tossability department, it exceeded my expectations and definitely didn’t feel like a truck.”

Scott Evans for MotorTrend — “On the pavement, where this small truck will spend most of its time, the uplevel Santa Cruz grips well and handles better. By both truck and SUV standards, it drives surprisingly sporty with direct steering and excellent body control.”

Sofyan Bey for Redline Reviews “This car rides and handles like an even better Tuscon….you notice how planted this vehicle feels. It has a really nice comfortable, controlled ride, it has great steering, it’s very carlike and sporty feeling.”

Travis Langness for Edmunds “The Ride quality? Not much to complain about, even with 20-inch wheels.”

About The Interior Practicality, Comfort, And Infotainment

The Santa Cruz’s interior is closely related to the very good Hyundai Tuscon. A few concessions were made to accommodate the truck bed, but does that hurt the basic layout of the interior? One thing’s certain, people aren’t convinced the touch-capacitive controls are the way to go on the upper-level trims.

Peter Holderith for The Drive “I did have one interior gripe which you cannot option away, though. There was no volume knob, just capacitive buttons instead. You could hold them down to turn the volume higher or lower rapidly, but stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A knob would’ve just been better.”

James Riswick for Autoblog “Don’t count on Tucson-like backseat comfort, though. The seat back is a tad upright and the seat bottom rather low. The specs say there’s more head- and legroom back there than in the Maverick, but we’d need to sit in the back seats of both to see if that really shakes out in person”


We wouldn’t drop a Review Roundup without a nice big photo gallery! Here are some of the images Hyundai’s released of this car in the wild.


The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a new entry into a segment that we aren’t sure will take off or not. It’s a little less truck, a bit more crossover, but that’s not a bad thing. If you’re looking for a stylish vehicle that can do a little bit more than regular Crossover, the Santa Cruz seems to be a good option.

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