Our own Tim Healey recently found himself behind the wheel of Hyundai’s new trucklet, where he proclaimed it to be an all-around performer while tooling around the tony environs of Palo Alto. Whether he stopped into Tesla HQ for Elon’s take wasn’t mentioned and doesn’t matter.
What does matter is the Santa Cruz starting price, anchored at the end of a swimming pool that’s usually filled with commuter cars and small hatchbacks. Its sticker does climb to nearly 40 grand when all the option boxes are checked, however, leaving us with the question of finding the right balance of price and features
And, yes – before you get your delicate noses out of joint, we know that’s an image of a top-rung Limited at the head of this post. It’s all we have. Nevertheless, we can use it to pass judgment on the Santa Cruz styling choices, which are very similar to the expressive new Tucson with its gonzo front lighting signatures. At least it looks like nothing else on the road, a feat for which Hyundai stylists should be applauded.
Base SE models are equipped with the 2.5L four-banger making just shy of 200 horses and 181 lb-ft of torque. This permits the thing to haul 3,500 lbs of trailer, an important metric to know when buying a vehicle with a bed. This number is the same for all Santa Cruz models, save for turbo all-wheel-drive models packing a heavy-duty transmission cooler, which bumps capacity to 5,000 pounds.
Hyundai made a name for itself by including standard equipment that would often be optional on competitive vehicles. This time around, Hyundai has laid out a similar spread but there are some notable feature deletions on the base SE which makes the case that the brand was definitely working towards that attractive $23,990 sticker.
Making the $3,200 walk to an SEL trim certainly isn’t chump change but a study of the spec sheet seems to suggest it might be the right move. Niceties like heated seats and side mirrors, satellite radio, and push-button start might seem like frivolities until you’ve got a cold rear end, a hankering for Prime Country, and don’t wish to dig for your keys. Stepping up to the SEL also opens the option sheet to fit Santa Cruz with useful truck features such as a sliding rear window and a factory-installed integrated tonneau cover. Blind-spot avoidance and rear cross-traffic alerts are also handy.
Such largesse will keep your note under $30,000 while providing buyers with a vehicle that has truck-like attributes yet won’t crowd the limits of every single drive-thru attempted while in search of early morning coffee. It’d seem that, in this case, venturing beyond the base model turns up The Right Spec.
Please note the prices listed here are in United States dollars and currently accurate for base prices exclusive of any fees, taxes, or rebates. Your dealer may (and should) sell for less (obscene market conditions notwithstanding). Keep your foot down, bone up on available rebates, and bargain hard.
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