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The Hyundai Santa Cruz is a bit of an unexpected player in the truck segment. Still, it has helped revive the once defunct compact pickup class where it competes alongside the Ford Maverick with the Chevy Montana, Toyota Stout, and Ram Dakota set to eventually join the fray. So, which trim level of the 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz is best? Below are all its standout features, which trim consumers like most, and which model automotive experts suggest.

The 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz is available in 5 trims, starting at $26,650

The 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz is offered in five trims, starting at $26,650 and topping out at $42,405 MSRP for the Limited model.

The SE and SEL models are equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels with available all-wheel drive. Night, XRT, and Limited models get an upgraded engine, a 2.5-liter turbo-four cranking out 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque, with standard all-wheel drive.  

The 2024 Santa Cruz lineup has been revised, with the upper-range SEL Premium trim replaced by the XRT. Other updates to the lineup include standard Bi-LED projector headlights across the range, synthetic leather upholstery is now standard in Night and XRT trims, and dual-zone automatic climate control is standard on all but the base model. A 10.25-inch touchscreen that was previously only available in the top two trims is now standard in the upper three trims or with the optional Activity Package for the SEL model.

As standard, the SE model has an 8-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a six-speaker sound system, and a composite cargo bed. Driver’s aids include forward automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot intervention, and rear cross-traffic alert.

Upgrading to the SEL ($30,735) adds keyless entry with push-button start, heated exterior mirrors, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a lockable cargo bed storage bin.

The Night trim ($39,945) comes with a notable price hike, but it includes the more powerful turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive. Additionally, the Night model has the same features as the SEL with the Activity Package plus 20-inch wheels, side step rails, and a black exterior trim and grille.

The new XRT trim ($41,185) adds synthetic leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear selector, smart cruise control with stop and go, wide fender flares, bed rails, and unique badging.

The Limited model tops the Santa Cruz range at $42,405. It includes more upscale amenities like genuine leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a Bose speaker system, a surround-view monitor, and lane-keep assist.

The Santa Cruz SEL is most appealing to buyers

According to Edmunds, the most popular 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz among consumers is the SEL model. Buyers are apparently inclined to dish out about $3,000 more than the base model for its conveniences like keyless entry, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a lockable cargo bed, and heated seats. The SEL also opens the door to additional desirable features in the SEL Activity Package — a sunroof, roof rails, a sliding rear window, a tonneau cover, LED bed lighting, a digital instrument cluster, and a wireless charging pad.

What Hyundai Santa Cruz model do automotive experts suggest?

Automotive experts have a relative consensus that 2024 Hyundai Santa Cruz buyers should pony up for a turbocharged mode, specifically the XRT model.

Autotrader says the XRT is the strongest value in the lineup with its “potent turbocharged engine,” long list of amenities, and 5,000-lb towing capability. MotorTrend and Car and Driver also concur, recommending the XRT trim due to its upgraded engine in addition to its exterior style upgrades.

The XRT costs about $2,000 more than the now-defunct SEL Premium trim. However, it includes steering wheel haptic feedback for driver’s aids and synthetic leather upholstery, which weren’t available in the SEL Premium. The Santa Cruz lineup is also slightly more expensive across the range than the 2023 model, so the upgrades could seem worth the added price among some buyers.

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