Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept: First Look

IMG_0751 Cruz II

In an effort to reach the more urban-oriented youth buyer — the holy grail for most marketing types — Hyundai has created a crossover utility truck called the Santa Cruz. It certainly has been a long time since we've seen a concept vehicle like this, but they usually tend to pop up when pickup sales are doing well — and just in case you've been under a rock, they are. Volkswagen, GMC, Toyota and others have explored this direction at various times, but Hyundai is officially the first we've seen in the last few years. It just debuted at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Santa Cruz is a type of extended-cab car-based platform with room for five (as long as the three in the backseat are children); the bed area is a molded plastic bucket for dirty tools or sports gear.

In an attempt to meld the strengths and benefits of the comforts of a family crossover and the practicality of a traditional pickup truck, the Santa Cruz takes a wide yet stylish stance. The oversized wheels give the Santa Cruz profile an edgy, aftermarket look, but the abbreviated bed length (just more than 4 feet long) doesn't look like it would want to carry heavier loads. However, in order to be as versatile as possible as a family activity support vehicle, the Santa Cruz bed can extended almost 2 feet when needed, like a dresser drawer, offering almost as much bed length as a regular midsize pickup.

Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel inline four-cylinder that produces 190 horsepower and 300 pounds-feet of torque. We're not exactly sure why young family buyers would be interested in a diesel, but we'll assume this is a forward-thinking concept - for when diesel fuel is actually less expensive than gas. It might be nice to see something like Hyundai's plug-in hybrid powertrain available to other models in its lineup here as well.


SC side II


Officials from Hyundai noted that even in best-case scenarios, to bring a vehicle like the Santa Cruz to the U.S. market would likely take at least three or four years, but only if gauged interest is strong and positive at the show. Our source also said this is the most researched concept vehicle Hyundai has ever shown, with a great deal of money spent on studies specifically looking at buyers searching for more dedicated storage space.

In keeping with its all-activity personality, the Santa Cruz does have all-wheel drive to provide the needed traction when traveling in snow or on a beach. As you may have guessed already, the vehicle is not for people who are looking for traditional pickup capability but for those who want as many of the storage benefits as possible.

Our guess is we'll be seeing more vehicles like this as more carmakers explore the limits of what their potential buyers might be interested in. It's good to see different companies explore what their customers might be looking for, but we've seen these types of crossover trucks before and they don't seem to do much more than blend the liabilities of two worlds. Until someone cracks this secret code, we're not likely to see too many of these overly aerodynamically compromised vehicles on the road in the near future.

To read the full press release, click here.

Manufacturer images


SC rear II

SC front II

IMG_0758 rear II




Got to admit it's a good looking vehicle.
A 2.0L diesel....that should put up some respectable mpg's.
I can see this selling in California, the rest of the country it would be a challenge.

Looks good but unless it has decent room for 2 rows of seats it would not do well in the truck market.

SOMEBODY needs to go truly compact. If Dodge won't go with the M80 or Rampage. If Toyota won't go with the A-BAT. If Jeep won't go with the Gladiator, let's see if Hyundai can get the party started with this.

I think the market is dying for someone to have the guts to tread here. Why not, Hyundai?


Great looking ,interesting concept. Too bad Toyoga didn't do up the Tacoma like this. If Hyundai brings this to market they will bury Toyota.

After the boring Toyota Tacoma Revell, this looks allot more interesting.

I really like the look, and I think it would fill a nice hole in the market, butt without 4 full doors and seating for 4 adults, I don't think it gets off the ground. Also, I think the diesel is overkill. People shopping this segment aren't terribly concerned with load hauling. An open-air trunk that will haul a 800lb payload is plenty, and Hyundai already has motors than can do that.

Looks a million times better than that little fail wheel drive (FWD) Fiat 700.

Ram 700 will start the party and then this will follow

This concept will seat 5.I watched the 20 plus minute reveal.It is a 4 dr too.

Nice clean design! Might be very popular.

"Got to admit it's a good looking vehicle.
A 2.0L diesel....that should put up some respectable mpg's.
I can see this selling in California, the rest of the country it would be a challenge."

@Southern IL man, you are very right , going by comments on quite a few websites it would be a real challenge. Hyundai does not have experience with Pickups outside the U.S. and are wary as an Asian manufacturer treading on toes and egos in this highly charged market

Good to see a compact truck from somebody. I wonder how much a production version of this would cost. I think it looks sharp but I really want to see an off-road oriented compact truck with good ground clearance and simple traditional pickup styling. I'm dying to get a compact truck to add to my arsenal but this hyundai concept isn't the answer.

This is an SUV, no?

A new small truck like this would be the ticket .Its about the size of the old ranger with the same door set up. The ford ranger was the best seller in the small truck market until ford started doing like Toyota is now just doing enough to get by.

No a small truck doesn't need 4 door because there is no bed room left on a truck this small.This truck is no chevy or yota fighter. Its a small truck that everyone is wanting.

Like I said before ford needs a small truck just like this but off of a fiesta platform with front wheel drive and optional all wheel drive.The small ecoboost as the starter engine and the new 2.7 in the upper one's base models should be no carpet roll up windows am/fm/disk and two door speakers with a blue tooth connection and cloth seats. Two bed lenths 5 ft and 6 ft with a trunk in the bed like the ridge had and ford could sell those things like the beetle did yrs ago.

Hyundai and Kia always had a reputation as a throw-a-way car after 100K miles
Move along people, nothing to see here.

Looks great.

I would offer it with a "single cab" option as well to give the bed another couple of feet of length.

I'd suspect the diesel will give near on 40mpg on the highway.

Even if it can only tow a couple thousand pound on a utility trailer it would be a handy vehicle for many people.

Can you please provide a link stating that the Hyundai/Kia vehicles are throwaways at 100k?

That is quite an inane comment from someone who thinks he's smart.

Memo to Hyundai leadership: Big waste of time. Call Subaru! They tried this.

Hyundai is not a brand that "creates" new markets. Whenever utilitarian firms like Honda, Acura, Hyundai try to "create" a market they end up with a dog. Urban hipsters do not identify with pickup trucks, Asian or otherwise.

We can all remember what happened with Honda's forays into this area. Ridgeline sales were good for one year, two maybe. Ditto the Subaru compact pickup.

Hyundai should build a zoomy little car like a Pontiac Fiero or a Toyota MR2. Hotcakes. Waiting lists. MSRP.

This pickup, especially if the only engine is a pricey diesel that they'd have to source from some 3rd party, is a doggie from day one.

This is what happens when you let car designers build a truck. Going forward, our trucks are going to ride more and more like cars because everyone wants a car ride feel. This is slowly deluding away what a truck should be. Halftons are the first to fall in to this phase. Some already are. Don't blame the manufacture, blame the 90%of the people who don't need a truck but bought it a a style then demand for a better ride.

I want a "hands on" look at this thing. Make sure they bring it to the Philadelphia Auto Show in February so I can see it for myself.

"This is an SUV, no?
Posted by: HEMI MONSTER | Jan 12, 2015 11:33:32 PM"

No. It's a Sport Utility Truck -- SUT

"Looks good but unless it has decent room for 2 rows of seats it would not do well in the truck market.
Posted by: Lou_BC | Jan 12, 2015 5:57:45 PM"

It's not intended for the truck market according to the Hyundai spokesman at NAIAS; it's intended to make a dent in the CUV market.

Not enough bed for me, but it would end up stuffed with options that a bare-bones guy like me won't need Diesel would be a plus. I'll just flog the old dog to death and then get a contractor special to beat up on the farm.

No room for passengers.
No room for cargo.
So-so ground clearance.
Street racing tires.

Makes a lot of sense.
Where can I get one?

The headlights look cool, but everything else.... meh.

Big Al, why would one have to have a link to determine the Korean labels (Hyundai/Kia) are 100K throwaways? It amazes me that some have to have a Web Link to validate anything. Well, Google-worshipers, all one has to do is browse your local used car lot, or if you prefer, AutoTrader/Ebay and see how many 150K mile (not km) used Korean cars are still drivable. It is few compared to Japanese/American examples, not to mention the 60K timing belt change interval.

Unlike the mid sized trucks which are simply too big to be cheap/efficient and too small to do real work this is perfect for the person who thinks they "NEED" a truck for the 3 times a year they pick up something large at Home Depot. With its size, lightness, engine size, and aerodynamics a mileage return in the mid to high 20s (possibly even closing in on 30 in some situations) is REALISTIC (not some imaginary pipe dream). Its AWD is adequate for the 95+% of the time these trucks never go off road and the occasional snow storm to get to work. The sad thing is its been done before and always seems to end in failure (Subaru Brat and Baja). I wish Hyundai all the luck but the sad fact is the single men with money to burn and the old men that are scared by car names that don't sound American will not buy it.

Innovation, whether it satisfies an individual's needs or not, is good for the truck industry as a whole.

Nobody seems to have told my wife's Sorento...200K miles and still runs great.

enter it in the heavy duty shootout

You just described most full size 1/2 ton pickup use.

This would be a game changer and I would stand in line IF:

Traditional pickup truck features:
Bench front seat for 3 (no floor console or back seats)

Unique Storage:
Deep storage behind seats (Ram)
Hideaway secure/dry bed storage (ala Ridgeline)
Full rear window rolldown (ala tundra)

Towing, HP and MPG:
3k towing, 200+ HP and 22mpg city.

Price Point:
<$20k for base model with automatic transmission and power windows standard.

This is it for me. Right size, right mix of qualities. Just add 5 or 6 speed Manual stick shift, V-6, Air, wide tires, 3 spoke steering wheel. I am ready to buy. Others need 7000 pounds of truck; that is fine for them; Not for me. Hyundai has nailed it. I am ready for a test drive.

Hey i dig it... it seems to be everything im looking for in a truck.
Sign me up for one.

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