Ask Nathan: What About the Hyundai Santa Cruz XRT, Fiat 500e and My Honda Pilot Overlanding Adventure

Hyundai Design: Brad Arnold

In this week’s (special) Ask Nathan:

  • How about a more off-road-worthy Hyundai Santa Cruz XRT?
  • When will the Fiat 500e get here?
  • Finishing my Honda Pilot Overland adventure.

The first question comes from an insider who says there will be something like a Hyundai Sant Cruz XRT, or equivalent.

3D Print model image: NetCarShow

Q: (Via; NathanAdlen@Twitter) Got some dirt that there will be a Hyundai Santa Cruz XRT, or a more rugged Santa Cruz coming soon!

There’s a guy I met in the Santa Cruz forums who has the inside information on what he says will be a 2025 Hyundai Santa Cruz XRT or maybe another name. Says there is work happening right now to build a more rugged Santa Cruz. I think they will use the same XRT name they used on other Hyundais. Maybe it will be more competitive with the Ford Maverick Tremor?

– Austin B from Turlock, CA

A: Funny you mention the Santa Cruz…

I just got back from the Overland Expo West (you’ll see more about it on the last post), and many up-fitters mentioned the Santa Cruz. Part of the reason I got some nifty tidbits is because of our audience knowing about my tiny pickup. As it is, I found the information interesting.

One source mentioned suspension upgrades, and possibly tire upgrades. We had a long conversation about the rear suspension, and how the Santa Cruz is unique with its self-leveling technology. They insisted that the functionality would remain the same, but ride and articulation would be improved. In addition, there would be a slight lift.

Another aftermarket supplier suggested that Hyundai is using a known-name builder to fabricate several components. This could include roof racks, bumpers, lights and underside armor.

The cool part about these discussions is exactly who I spoke to. These folks are in the trade, and not fanboys. As such, there’s a bit of meat on the bone.

A Hybrid Hyundai Santa Cruz?

Speaking of “beef,” the beefiest rumor came from a slip of the tong from an insider who noticed a test vehicle that may have had a hybrid powertrain that came right out of the Santa Fe. That means a (possible) 226 horsepower power plant, capable of over 30 mpg. It would only make sense, but I worry about the extra expense.

While we’re at it, Hyundai could beat Ford to the punch and introduce an AWD PHEV version of the Santa Cruz. Once again, if they could keep the pricing competitive, it would be a game changer.

– N

The next question comes from a Fiat 500 owner who is looking forward to seeing the upcoming Fiat 500e.

Image: Fiat

Q: (Via: Hi Nathan! Many years ago I asked you about the Fiat 500 Abarth.

After reading your response, I bought a 2019 Fiat 500 Turbo. It only went in once for a warranty repair in four years and it’s been so much fun to own! But now I am thinking about going electric since I moved to Las Vegas. I saw your videos on the Fiat 500 electric and I was wondering when it will come out? Do you think it will be competitive?

I know people seem to hate everything about Fiat, and I don’t get it. I think they are sweet and unique. Every Fiat I drove left me smiling and made me feel like I wasn’t part of the trend!

Thank you for always being funny and informative. You’re the best!

– Molly

A: I’m so happy to hear that you had a positive ownership experience!

We’re expecting a 2024 debut, possibly at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Stellantis is sincere about bringing it here, and maintaining the Fiat name in our market. At least, for now. The European version has won a bunch of awards, and is reported to be one of the most enjoyable EVs to drive – period. One the WLTP cycle, it is supposed to have a range of 199 miles, which is impressive. Normally, I subtract about 15-20-percent to come up with EPA figures when it comes to range locally.

With that in mind (if its the same size battery, with the same programming), I’m predicting a 155 – 165 mile range. If that’s the case, it will spank the current Mini Cooper SE EV. Keep in mind: lots of things can change within a year, and who knows what Fiat will change along the way.

We might also see additional all-electric Fiats hit the showroom soon. It’s possible that Fiat may try to be the value leader for EVs, which would be a good move. Just think about the marketing, and the returns. In addition, Fiat may shed some of its bad mojo for reliability, as simple EVs can be pretty reliable.

More good news: Fiat North America has a new leader, his name is Aamir Ahmed, and he’s pretty good at his job. This could help as well. Hopefully, these new things will lead Fiat in a new direction, in the United States.

We’ll know a lot more shortly!

– N

The final question comes from folks who are curious about the end of my overlanding trip in a Honda Pilot TrailSport.

Q: (General question) How did the adventure in the Honda Pilot TrailSport end?

Moab (Image: TFLcar)

In last week’s Ask Nathan, a huge chunk of the weekly post was taken up with the first half of the adventure. How does it end?

A: Fortunately, things calmed down by the time I wrapped up filming.

Sure, there were more obstacles like camping at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – amidst a lightning and hail storm. Also, getting muddy and drenched at the Overland Expo West. Still, the whole nearly-drowning-the-Pilot thing hung over my head.

While the Grand Canyon adventure was a bit water-logged, the Overland Expo was more of a Woodstock-like mud-fest. We were supposed to cover the all-new Toyota Tacoma PreRunner Friday afternoon, but the rain and goo made it nearly impossible. As such, we opted to do a walk-around of the Expo, which went swimmingly.

This was one of many Hondas on display at the 2023 Overland Expo West (Image: TFLcar)

The next day, we were able to cover the new Toyotas, and a few other things. We remained dry, and made up for some of the lost time. In doing this: TFL Truck, TFL Offroad and TFL Talk got the most coverage of any outlet regarding the new Tacoma. I’m pretty proud of that.

After finishing up three days worth of coverage, I opted to go to Santa Fe, NM to wrap up the video coverage. Sure, there was still another 400-miles to go in this adventure, but (after Santa Fe) it would all be on asphalt.

(Image: TFLcar)

After checking with onX off-road online, I found a nice ORV area near Santa Fe, NM called, “Dear Dog Road.” Despite the ominous name, Dead Dog Road was an easy, pretty dirt path. There were some spots to have fun, along with some dried riverbeds. This was the place for me to wrap up my adventure video, before heading home.

Over the course of about 1,600 miles, the Honda Pilot TrailSport averaged about 24 mpg. While that may seem excessive to some, it was better than the EPA estimates. The crossover remained drum tight, despite the serious jostling.

There were a few casualties, namely a nail in the tire, and an armrest that I must have dislodged in my sleep. Otherwise, as a road-tripping, overlanding, hotel on wheels – I was pleased with the Pilot TrailSport. Very pleased.

Stay tuned for the video!

– N