Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we’ll let you know. If not, we’ll recommend one – or the required options – that earns a passing grade.
It’ll have not escaped your notice that the automotive landscape is once again brimming with pickup trucks featuring truly compact proportions. Ford has introduced the Maverick, the Honda Ridgeline is performing well, and Hyundai has joined the fray with its Tucson-based Santa Cruz. If you’re looking for a vehicle with an open bed but packing dimensions smaller than the Taj Mahal, the number of options are rapidly increasing.
While customers south of the border in America can select a Santa Cruz with a naturally-aspirated engine and front-wheel drive, Hyundai has chosen to bring only turbocharged all-wheel drive variants to our dealerships. This puts the trucklet in a much higher price bracket ($38,499 to start) than in the States. Is the least-expensive Canuck Santa Cruz worth a look, then?
Essentially picking up where the American trims leave off, the Preferred trim continues the Hyundai tradition of packing in a yaffle of items generally found just on much more expensive vehicles. An integrated tonneau cover puts a thumb squarely in the eye of the aftermarket but is a great feature for customers. A front skid plate and heavy-duty cargo d-rings bring practical touches, the latter of which are placed in an LED-illuminated composite bed, while 18-inch tires and colour-keyed trim look sharp. Irritatingly, every one of the six paint shades on offer – save for the Ice White shown here – is a $200 option.
Inside, cloth seats are heated up front with height adjustments on the driver side. An 8-inch touchscreen handles infotainment duties while offering wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus the expected Bluetooth connectivity and abundance of USB ports. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, air conditioning stands ready for summer, and a push-button start means there’s no digging for keys.
An array of driver aids are included on the Preferred trim, serving up the likes of lane keeping/following, blind-spot collision avoidance, and a forward collision-avoidance assist that picks up the presence of pedestrians and cyclists. Under the hood is a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, funneled to all four wheels by way of an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
What We’d Choose
Making the $2,900 walk to a Preferred Trend trim does bring a snazzy new digital gauge cluster measuring 10.25 inches, plus dual-zone climate control and leather seats. Better audio and a sunroof are also part of the deal. A further $3400 will net customers an Ultimate model packing a 10.25-inch infotainment screen, surround view monitor, 20-inch wheels, and ventilated front seats.
The next-level Preferred Trend trim isn’t a bad value if you’re seeking leather seats and a sunroof. Also, we can tell you from professional experience that Hyundai’s 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster is very pretty to behold. However, there’s a lot to like in the base Preferred model – after all, they’re all powered by the same engine/transmission combo and have all-wheel drive. Besides, cloth seats in a pickup truck just seem right, don’t you think?