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2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.

2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: SE vs SEL and Night, SEL Premium vs Limited

What 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz Trim Should You Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

Most vehicles fall into neat boxes. Buyers can choose to shop for a compact sedan or a giant three-row SUV and know exactly what they are going to get, more or less. There are a few vehicles, however, that seemed destined to break the mold.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz is technically a compact truck. It has a head-turning exterior design, however, and an off-beat attitude. The cargo bed has nice touches that help make hauling easier, something that should draw the attention of truck enthusiasts. The Santa Cruz debuted just last year, and it is already becoming popular with select drivers.

Hyundai makes the 2023 Santa Cruz in five distinct trim levels, each of which builds off of the last. The top trim level is significantly more expensive than the entry-level version, making proper research into the Santa Cruz important before choosing which one to bring home. Drivers are encouraged to use the following information to help them make the right choice.


Compare the Santa Cruz SE vs SEL Trims. What is the difference?

Like every 2023 Santa Cruz, the SE model is a compact crew-cab pickup with seating for five. The entry-level model gets moving with a 2.5L inline four-cylinder engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Drivers get 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque to work with as a result of this setup. Front-wheel drive is what comes standard, but even the entry-level Santa Cruz SE is available with all-wheel drive as well.

The Santa Cruz SE can tow up to 3,500 pounds when given the proper equipment. This model has attractive 18-inch alloy wheels underneath it. There are standard automatic halogen headlights, and automatic high beams are included. This model also has LED taillights, LED daytime running lights, and a roof-mounted LED cargo light.

A sheet-molded composite bed is standard for the 2023 Santa Cruz. A lockable under-bed storage compartment is also included, and drivers get heavy-duty cargo D-rings. Sidewall bed storage compartments are also included, further adding to the practicality of this truck.

The Santa Cruz SE has cloth upholstery that is both stain and odor resistant. A six-way adjustable driver's seat is included, plus an acoustic-laminated windscreen. Otherwise, the comfort features inside of the SE trim are a bit thin.

Technology features are somewhat more impressive. The Santa Cruz SE has two front USB ports and an 8-inch touchscreen display. This model has wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for a clutter-free smartphone connection. Bluetooth is also included, and drivers can enjoy HD radio in any Santa Cruz trim level they choose. The SE is equipped with a straight-forward 4.2-inch gauge cluster that conveys info without any bells of whistles.

Hyundai is a brand that puts a lot of high-tech safety features in all new vehicles, and the 2023 Santa Cruz is no exception. Lane-keeping assistance, lane-following assist, and forward-collision mitigation are all included. This compact truck also has driver attention monitoring and a rear occupant alert, which keep the whole family safer. More traditional safety features are also included, such as a vehicle stability management system and a tire pressure monitoring system with individual tire displays.

The SEL model adds a few standard features to the 2023 Santa Cruz. It keeps the same powertrain, and the exterior appearance remains the same. This model does benefit from heated side mirrors, however. It also gains proximity keyless entry and a push-button start.

Inside, the upgrades are substantial. The SEL has an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, for example. It also has heated front seats to boost comfort levels on chilly mornings. Several safety features are added as well, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and safe exit warning.

The price difference when comparing the SE and SEL trim levels of the 2023 Santa Cruz is just shy of $2,500. Many drivers will find that the SEL adds enough to justify this increase. For around $3,250, buyers can take their SEL to the next level with the Activity Package.

SEL models with the Activity Package are upgraded with a 10.25-inch digital instrument display. It also adds wireless device charging. Several exterior upgrades are also made, including the addition of a tonneau cargo bed cover. These versions of the Santa Cruz also have utility LED bed lighting, roof rails, a sunroof, and a household-style outlet in the truck bed.

Compare the Santa Cruz SEL vs Night. What is the difference?

The Santa Cruz Night is new for 2023. It has the same powertrain as the previous trim levels discussed, and it comes with all of the features added by the SEL's Activity Package. For the most part, the Santa Cruz Night is an appearance package made into its own trim level.

There are 20-inch "Night Edition" alloy wheels underneath the Santa Cruz Night. This model also shows off dark chrome accents on the front grille and bumpers. There is also a unique design for the front and rear fascias when drivers choose the Santa Cruz Night. The door handles and side mirrors are gloss black here as well.

When comparing the SEL to the Night, buyers are looking at a price jump of nearly $8,000. This seems outlandish for an appearance package, but keep in mind that this trim level has all of the Activity Package features as well. When comparing the Night to the SEL with the Activity Package equipped, the difference is a somewhat more reasonable $5,000.

Compare the Santa Cruz Night vs SEL Premium Trim. What is the difference?

The next trim is the SEL Premium. It loses the styling touches made by the Night trim and instead adds luxury to the SEL model. Perhaps the most important upgrade involves what is underneath the hood. The Santa Cruz SEL Premium is the first trim level to come standard with a turbocharged 2.5L engine that generates 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive becomes standard as well.

While it loses the darker exterior look, the SEL Premium does maintain the convenience features added by the Activity Package. It is also the first model that comes with LED headlights. The SEL Premium reverts back to 18-inch alloy wheels, and it goes with body-colored side mirrors.

Multiple upgrades are made to the cabin of the Santa Cruz SEL Premium. This version gets dual-zone automatic climate control along with an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The steering wheel and shift knob are both wrapped in leather, although the upholstery remains that stain and odor-resistant cloth found in lower trim levels.

The SEL Premium trim level upgrades to a 10.25-inch touchscreen. In addition to giving drivers a larger screen, this gives the Santa Cruz onboard navigation. On the downside, however, this trim loses the wireless capability for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This model also has what Hyundai calls "dynamic voice recognition."

Smart cruise control is added by the SEL Premium trim level of the 2023 Santa Cruz. Otherwise, the safety equipment remains the same. The SEL Premium trim level costs approximately $1,500 more than the Santa Cruz Night.

Compare the Santa Cruz SEL Premium vs Limited Trim Levels. What is the difference?

If drivers are looking for features that the Santa Cruz SEL Premium is missing, the odds are good that the Limited trim has them. This version of the Hyundai truck keeps the turbocharged engine, and it also has standard all-wheel drive. The 20-inch alloy wheels underneath the Limited trim level help to set it apart.

The Santa Cruz Limited comes equipped with rain-sensing windshield wipers. It is also the only version of this truck that has the Hyundai digital key feature, making it easy to hop in and go. Further adding to the convenience of this trim level is the universal garage door opener added to the auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Rear passengers benefit from floor-mounted vents that help direct the cooler air in their direction. This trim level gets some added sophistication in the form of ambient interior LED lighting as well, and there are 64 colors to choose from. The colors are displayed on the front door pockets along with the upper center console.

Leather-trimmed upholstery is added to the Santa Cruz Limited. Interestingly, even this top trim level does not have a power-adjustable front passenger seat. That alone may have certain shoppers looking for a different vehicle entirely. The Santa Cruz Limited does benefit from ventilated front seats, however. It also gets a premium sound system from Bose, plus two rear USB ports to keep passengers' gear charged on the go.

A blind-spot monitor that displays a live camera feed on the touchscreen is gained by choosing the Limited model, further helping drivers to change lanes around town with confidence. This is also the only model of the Santa Cruz to have navigation-based adaptive cruise control, plus Hyundai's Highway Driving Assist feature. Finally, the Santa Cruz Limited adds a surround-view camera system that provides a bird's eye view of the truck.

The top trim level of the 2023 Santa Cruz has a starting price of around $40,500. For those who are keeping score at home, it is nearly $3,000 more than the SEL Premium trim level, and almost $15,000 more than the entry-level Santa Cruz SE.


Final Thoughts

It is worth noting that the entry-level 2023 Santa Cruz SE has a low starting price for its class. Those who are shopping on a budget may want to consider sticking with that base model, which comes decently well-equipped with tech features. If there is room in the budget, buyers should step up to the Santa Cruz SEL instead.

The Santa Cruz SEL adds creature comfort features, such as heated front seats and a power-adjustable driver's seat. Those features alone may be worth the extra cost. For an even better experience, buyers can opt for the Activity Package and make their truck's bed even more practical and versatile.

Considering that the Night trim level is essentially an appearance package, most drivers can likely skip it. Both the SEL Premium and Limited trim levels add a few desirable features, but they fall a bit short of justifying their price tag. A large part of the appeal of the new Santa Cruz is its value, so sticking with lower trim levels is going to be the way to go.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL is a nicely equipped compact truck, particularly if buyers spring for the Activity Package.

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Previous Year Trim Configurations:

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz Trim Levels