Here’s Everything I LOVE & HATE About My New Hyundai Santa Cruz After Owning It for Almost a Year

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz - Nathan
Image: TFLtruck

After 10 months and over 11,000 miles, here’s a retrospective on my 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL.

I’m happy to say that, with my 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL, buyer’s remorse has not set in. However, I wish they would make a few improvements. Most of these issues are minor, like adding more tiedown points, or adding a locking feature to the exterior side cubbies. My biggest gripe is the dreadful plastic used inside. While it may look good, it’s a dust and fingerprint magnet.

Still, mechanically and quality-wise – I’m pretty happy. While I use it as a commuter, which travels over 80-miles per day, my wife and kid drive it often, and love it. God help the antique boutiques, thrift stores and clothing outlets when those two get their grubs on the Santa Cruz. It can easily haul over 1,600-lbs of cargo – which is a lot of crap.

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz - Nathan

Here’s a bit of history of my 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz

I ordered a Sage Gray (green) 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz in June of 2022 for about $32,000 – all in. In order to keep things inexpensive, I opted to keep things simple and got the SEL package, which included heated seats and a few additional upgrades. I did not want the rolling bed cover, as it takes up too much space. About four months after ordering it – I got my brand new Santa Cruz on Halloween 2022.

Since then, it’s been to five states, driven through (heavy) snow, rain, hail and it’s baked in the summer heat. No issues mechanically. Still, it does this odd rev in second and third from time to time, but it doesn’t affect the performance. I’ve averaged about 25.9 mpg, which includes about 75-percent highway driving. That’s a bit above the EPA ratings, which is impressive considering my neanderthal-like driving.

I’ve only towed with it once. Given it’s the 191-horsepower non-turbo, it’s rated at 3,500-lbs. I towed a 2,200-lbs trailer with no major issues. Unfortunately, based on the tow-package wiring harness recall, I can no longer tow until they replace my harness. That recall happened like six-months back, and no remedy from Hyundai. You can read more about it (here).

Why not a Ford Maverick or Honda Ridgeline?

Man, I came this close to pulling the trigger on a Ford Maverick. I love that little thing, but there were two main issues: it doesn’t have an AWD variant of the hybrid, and my wife liked driving the Santa Cruz more. Yes, the turbo is mighty good, but I wanted better economy. In addition, I don’t think I could have waited up to a year for the specific model I wanted.

I originally wanted a Ridgeline, but I promised my spouse that I would keep the price under 35K. There was no way I could find any Ridgeline anywhere near that price. In addition, I came close to getting a Nissan Frontier, but the model I wanted was about $4,000 above my budget.

With all that being said, I still value the utility, comfort, drivability and overall happy character of my Santa Cruz. I’m happy I bought it, and I intend on keeping it for a few years.