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If you’re in the market for a new compact truck, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is an excellent choice. This car-pickup-mix is a unique vehicle with plenty of options. Out of four different trim levels, only one exceeds $40,000. Other than the range-topping Limited model, the others are similarly named and reasonably priced. Do any of them provide enough bang for your buck? Should you buy a 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz SE, SEL, or SEL Premium?

Hyundai Santa Cruz SE base model standard features

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz. Which compact truck trim is best? SE, SEL, or SEL Premium?
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai Motor America

First, according to Edmunds, the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz SE base model comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 191 horsepower. Next, front-wheel drive is standard, with optional all-wheel drive available for all trims. In addition, the compact truck also comes with a composite cargo bed and 60/40 split rear seats.

For interior features and tech, the base model isn’t too bad. It has an eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, six speakers, forward collision mitigation, and lane-keeping assist. For the shockingly low starting price of $25,735, the Santa Cruz is well-equipped. Is the base model the most value-packed of the lineup?

Is it worth upgrading to a Santa Cruz SEL?

A 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz terrible resale value
2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz | Hyundai

Next in the lineup is the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL. As the most popular trim level, it’s no surprise it’s also the only other model under $30,000. Moreover, the SEL costs $28,935 and adds a few upgrades to the pickup. For example, heated mirrors, proximity keyless entry, push-button start, and a lockable cargo bed storage bin bolster the SEL above the SE.

That’s not all, as the lineup gets more luxurious with heated seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, blind-spot intervention, and rear cross-traffic alert. Together, these features turn the Santa Cruz into a whole new truck. However, it only costs about $3,000 more than the base model. It’s easy to see why the SEL is more popular out of the cheapest two trim levels.

Furthermore, an optional package is unlocked for the first time for the SEL trim. Titled the Activity package, it includes a few different convenience items. More specifically, a cargo bed cover, sunroof, roof rails, a sliding rear window, an in-bed outlet, LED bed lighting, a digital instrument cluster, and a wireless phone charger.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz SEL Premium: Expensive but worth it

Unfortunately, the gap in price between the Santa Cruz SEL and SEL Premium is much larger. For the third trim level, customers will have to pay at least $37,425. Moreover, that’s around an $8,500 difference. Does the new equipment introduced at this price make it worth it? Two of the most essential things, the engine and drivetrain, both received upgrades. Furthermore, the turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder makes 281 horsepower, far above the lower trims.

Next, the optional Activity package from the SEL trim is standard. In addition, LED headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and digital key capability are included. Edmunds recommends buying the SEL Premium over any other model. It reasons that it has the upgraded engine but admits the SEL will suffice if your budget does not allow for the SEL Premium.

Santa Cruz SE, SEL, or SEL Premium?

In conclusion, all three of the bottom 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz trims are well-equipped. Regardless of which one you choose, the automaker provides excellent value. We think the SEL model is the best, as it remains affordable but is a big upgrade over the base model. However, a Santa Cruz SEL Premium is the obvious choice if you must have the more powerful engine. Everything else, like all-wheel drive and the Activity package, can be purchased with the SEL trim.


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