Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Picks Up Traction

Santa Cruz 1 II

When Hyundai's adventurous little concept truck, the Santa Cruz, debuted at the 2015 North American International Auto Show, there was plenty of buzz about the possibility of a new vehicle straddling the fence between a traditional pickup truck and a midsize SUV.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Hyundai could be getting more serious about bringing this vehicle to market.

The idea of a segment-busting midsize pickup that has more in common with a car-based sport utility vehicle than anything else is not new. It's been seriously discussed by several truck and carmakers over the years. Remember the Dodge Rampage, Volkswagen AAC and Toyota A-BAT? But the timing was always a bit off.

With the strong resurgence of the pickup truck segment, there might be a place for a small-volume "hybrid" pickup for those who don't need all the capabilities of a traditional pickup but still want the handling dynamics of a car-based platform. After all, it wasn't that long ago when we had vehicles like the Subaru Baja, Ford Ranchero and Plymouth Scamp. And everyone knows how much the Australians love their utes.

Is it time for something like the Santa Cruz to test the waters for this segment? Our guess is as long as Hyundai doesn't need to sell a lot of them (it would have to exist on a flexible, shared platform) and it doesn't fool itself into thinking this will be its entrance into the sizable pickup market, then Hyundai will probably be just fine. But if it wants to catch the attention of potential truck folks looking for a creative solution to an unmet need, this probably won't be the vehicle that does the trick.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams

 

Santa Cruz 3 II

Santa Cruz 4 II

 

Comments

Curious how the tailgate would open.

Long live the Isuzu Amigo.

body on frame makes a truck - otherwise it's just a lifted car. NO Thank You!!!

Unless it comes with a minimum 6 ft box length and 1500 lb cargo capacity and seating for 5 I'm not interested.

Zero chance of this coming to market in NA...

Hyundai is a smart company that's been hitting home runs during the last ten years--this would be a base-on-balls at best. Even if it was a great product it's not happening.

Hyundai will not devote precious shop-floor resources to something that only incrementally adds to their huge success in this regard.

Zero chance, I repeat.

Never say 'never', PapaJim. These will sell. Granted, they'll never sell in pickup-truck numbers, but there's a lot of people wanting a true lightweight truck that can carry bulk and not worry so much about weight capacity. I for one would love to see something that could carry a sheet of plywood/drywall flat (with either support pockets on top of the wheel wells or shelf-like rails along the sides of the bed) even if it means running with the tailgate down. As a hobbyist, I don't need heavy-haul capability and I certainly don't need a rig bigger than the old 'land-yacht' sedans that weighs nearly three tons. Small but capable of true light-duty work is what I want.

I would buy this in a heartbeat. perfect for my needs

Just another piece of recycled junk on the road calling itself a truck!

I agree with papa jim on this one.

The only way this would come into the US is if it was imported.

I don't think the numbers are there for US production, as that is the only way the US could get this vehicle. We all know why....chicken tax.

I think a Holden ute sold as a Chev would probably do better.

Many here still seem to think that this is designed to compete with pickups bought for work. Its not. Its just a CUV for people that would rather not carry certain things (wet/dirty/smelly) in the cab with them, or something a little larger every once in a while.
With its styling, and near 40 mpg with the diesel, I think it stands a good chance.

I really have to hand it to the Koreans, as they, unlike the Japanese really seem to be able to design a car for not a lot of money for the asking price of admission! As a mater of fact if I were to see this "trucks" picture without any names or badges on, I would have thought this could be a Lexus! Good for you Hyundai, if you build this, I am sure you will sell many of them! World wide!

@Bahama Todd,
75% of all pickups sold in the US are sold as CUV/SUV/car alternatives.

They aren't sold as "trucks".

I very much doubt this will go anywhere. Hyundai is much more interested in pushing it's Sprinter like Van Globally. That would make a lot more money for them

Full disclosure here, I currently drive a ’02 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat with only 74K on the odometer. While I’m more interested in the dimensions, capabilities and fuel efficiency of a modern mid-size pick-up for my next purchase, there is definitely a case for a true compact pick-up. The first manufacturer to come to market with a well-executed compact will without a doubt have a hit on their hands since none currently exist in the US. Talk about filling a niche market!!! Of the few compact concepts that have popped up over the last few years (as mentioned in the above article), this is definitely the best looking and well-proportioned by a long-shot. Hyundai has done an incredible job with this concept! The Santa Cruz was one of my favorite unveilings in Detroit this past January outside of the Ford GT and 2017 Raptor.

Had something like this been available when I was right out of college (single, no kids and renting an apt.), I’d have been all over this truck. In hind sight, I guess I did own the closest thing back in those days (a ’94 Ford Ranger XLT extended cab). Back then the only payload I carried was mtn bikes, white water kayaks, camping gear, kegs of beer and schlepping friends furniture all over the place (you guys know about the truck curse). Outside of college students, I can see this meeting the needs of many outdoor enthusiast who have bulky gear that doesn’t weigh much (cyclist, water sports and hikers/backpackers to name a few). Take a look at this Santa Cruz Concept and then feast your eyes on the upcoming 2016 Tucson…. There are definitely some shared styling cues with the final production Tucson being a tad less extreme in styling. I could definitely see this coming to market on a Tucson platform with a stretched wheel base. I for one would love to see this thing built. Not everyone (myself included) needs or wants a bloated full-size truck. A great looking (assuming fuel efficient) compact truck will definitely fill a void in the overall truck market.

I was waiting for the Koreans to kick the arrogant Big 3 in the teeth with something like this. Their "just buy a $50K full-size gas guzzler" solution to weekend hauling chores is old.

The Avalanche proved the concept, but GM wouldn't follow-up. The GM Colorado is a half-step. The other big 2 are AWOL.

The A-BAT showed the path, but Toyota is scared of its own shadow these days.

If it takes the Koreans to deliver, more power to them.

@Bahama Todd,
75% of all pickups sold in the US are sold as CUV/SUV/car alternatives.

They aren't sold as "trucks".

@Big Al from Oz

They might not be sold as trucks, but they are very much marketed as trucks. The ads push a barrage of towing, hauling, and offroad specs and capabilities. Even if all someone wants is a bed, they have no other choice.
The Santa Cruz is finally an attractively styled option without all the compromises of owning a large body on frame truck. (Poor mpg, poor maneuverability, poor ride and handling, etc...)

I mentioned elsewhere that something is going on at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery. A high-school classmate who lives there told me he asked a neighbor who works at the plant the possibility of a Santa Cruz-based pickup built there, and the neighbor looked at him strangely and told him that he couldn't answer that question right now. This posting doesn't guarantee actual proof, but it is suggesting that maybe a small pickup or something is being planned.

This is exactly the type of vehicle that I would buy, if it were made. I don't need a full size truck, I don't have a boat to pull and I don't need to carry 4x8's, I just need a dependable small truck.

Another reason, they are looking at this as a concept from Australian website. I still think the Van is much more of a certainty

"The other factor in Australia’s favour in getting a compact-size Hyundai ute (rather than a US-sized pick-up) is that North America’s 25 per cent import tariff on commercial vehicles with remain until 2021 despite the Free Trade Agreement signed with South Korea in March 2012.
kia ute"

Todd, I agree that this would be ideal for many of us. It does need to maintain a fun quotient by offering a manual in upper trim levels!

@Bob

Well the manual trans was discontinued in the US market Tucson so things aren't looking positive. We can hope though.

AWD diesel manual Santa Cruz - Shutup and take my money!

The tailgate could be a game-changer.

"The entire aft section of the bed slides out like a drawer, bringing the tailgate, taillights, and rear bumper with it. (Unbelievably, this is a feature Hyundai actually is considering for production.) The bed also offers a built-in slide-out tonneau cover, as well as a plethora of tie-down hooks. In spite of what the Santa Cruz’s cab design might suggest, the truck is a genuine five-seater, making it as useful (at least on paper) for hauling people as a typical crossover." http://www.caranddriver.com/news/hyundai-santa-cruz-pickup-truck-revealed-diesel-powered-and-super-rad-news

I mentioned elsewhere that something is going on at the Hyundai plant in Montgomery. A high-school classmate who lives there told me he asked a neighbor who works at the plant the possibility of a Santa Cruz-based pickup built there, and the neighbor looked at him strangely and told him that he couldn't answer that question right now. This posting doesn't guarantee actual proof, but it is suggesting that maybe a small pickup or something is being planned.

@imoore

That wouldn't make sense unless Hyundai is planning to do a major expansion at that plant. The plant has a rated annual capacity of 300k vehicles. They built almost 440k vehicles last year and sales are climbing this year.

The other option is the Kia plant 90 miles away in Georgia but that is also exceeding its 300k vehicle capacity. They built 370k vehicles last year.

Perfect empty-nester vehicle. Some of us old guys still like to row our own gears. I do need to haul, but light loads only. Small, maneuverable, and outdoorsy, this will be a hit. Did I mention, it must have a manual-tranny?

@Roadwhale, @Brian

The discussion is about what's going to happen, not what we prefer to happen. There is no business case for doing this. Hyundai has their US facilities running full tilt around the clock knocking out stuff that they sell in the thousands of units per WEEK.

You guys are talking about a niche product that might sell a few thousand units per YEAR.

@papa jim
"You guys are talking about a niche product that might sell a few thousand units per YEAR."
Agree I know Globally the Van is taking the spotlight. They would like to sell their new HDT Trucks in Europe band elsewhere with the new 15litre diesels, but that is going to be a rough road to hoe

@Robert Ryan

thanks for your notice to my reply...

It's hard for American's to get straight information, i.e., global news, especially about the truck models that have been available in Mexico, Brazil, Australia, etc., but not available domestically.

The US was getting the awful old Colorado/Canyon and the tired old Rangers and Dakota's back when offshore markets were getting some pretty competitive choices. Ford had the Sport Trac back then but the 4.0 V6 was tired old 1980s technology. No wonder Tacoma's and Frontiers were selling so well against competition like that.

The domestic news media for cars (i.e., Autoweek, Motor Trend) didn't cover that story at all back in 2008. Back then the Chevy Silverado still had rear drum brakes (???) and the F150 still had the old modular V8 they'd been humping for almost 20 years.

This could be the vehicle I'm looking for, however I'm not sure about the current bed configuration. It looks like the bed length is 4' but extendable by another foot. So with a 2' high tail gate down, you could have a 7 foot bed. The problem is how do you haul the occasional 4 x 8 sheets without having too much weight extend beyond the rear tires? I like the Toyota A-BAT approach better. It has a 2' midgate and a 2' tailgate so with both of these down, you can easily haul 4 x 8 sheets. Maybe Hyundai will take note and redesign their bed configuration with a midgate. That being said, I love the idea of a 2.0 liter diesel engine. If Hyundai mated it to a manual transmission, it would be my dream vehicle.

I want one so bad. I hope the production model is not much different .

@ papa Jim.... "The discussion is about what's going to happen, not what we prefer to happen". Never did I say this cool compact truck was on its way.... It's a concept! Concepts are built to gauge market interest in new product, new design languages and sometimes far-reaching radical designs. My main point was this site and many other sites have received an overwhelming positive response to the Santa Cruz. It would be filling a hole in the market with absolutely no competition and last but not least this design is not so radical that it couldn't be produced in the next 18-30 months. Size wise it's very close to the Tucson. I just applaude Hyundai for this refreshing design exercise and wish them luck if they decide it's business case is strong enough. Just my two cents.... Nothing more.

@Brian hope you did not take offense--none was intended.

I cannot imagine Hyundai making space on tight shop floor schedules for a mini-truck that would not sell big totals. Their approach is high volume.

There is one exception I'm thinking about and that's the urban hipster crowd and the Veloster.

Who knows, they might try to do the same with their small truck, but I don't imagine they're selling tons of Velosters--I never see them where I live but I see Sonata's morning noon and night.

@papa jim,
People must remember cars don't attract the chicken tax.

This vehicle will.

VW stated to make a pickup in the US and be competitive either they sell 100 000 units a year, or the chicken tax goes.

@papajim: "The discussion is about what's going to happen, not what we prefer to happen. There is no business case for doing this."

Obviously there must be SOME business case for doing this, otherwise they wouldn't be feeling out the market. Considering how much commentary these little trucks are getting every time they are mentioned, they obviously believe there's enough interest to at least consider them.

However, you seem to assume that they intend this little rig to compete with bigger trucks, despite the very clear statements--several times--that if they're developed, they'll be aimed at the mid-size and compact SUV market, NOT the American Pickup Truck market; this is an area that is saturated with closed-bed offerings but absolutely untouched by open-bed choices. As such, you simply cannot say that there's no market for them as you simply do not know if there is one or not. Meanwhile, I definitely know there IS a market for them--IF they're significantly smaller in overall size than what we now call "mid-sized" pickup trucks.

This is a cool little trucklet concept but as Honda found out the hard way, it needs to be more conventional to stand a chance of selling in any numbers to make it worth while.

Roadwhale and 11 other disciples are going to have to wait a real long time for their Rapture.

@Papa Jim,
No offense taken… Just adults talking trucks in a civilized manner (we’re good). RoadWhale pretty much summed up my thoughts with his last reply (this well received concept is to feel out the market). As for Hyundai’s US manufacturing being tapped out? I believe you are correct in that there is no room to add this to the current factory floor(s), but that wouldn’t stop one or more NA plants from expanding. One safe bet is this would have to share a platform with one of Hyundai’s small CUV’s (I would think the same platform that the new 2016 Tucson will be built on). If the Santa Cruz gets the greenlight, I would assume at least one plant to be expanded. It happens all the time… I work at a half million sq./ft. manufacturing facility that builds large steam turbines, generators and stators. In 2010/11 the company added almost 400,000 more sq./ft. to begin gas turbine production.

Also, it’s my opinion the Santa Cruz would capture more of the compact and small CUV market than the mid-size truck market. With that said, it would make it a vehicle of one in its class (in NA). No competition would certainly remove some additional risk in its business case.

"This is a cool little trucklet concept but as Honda found out the hard way, it needs to be more conventional to stand a chance of selling in any numbers to make it worth while." -- Posted by: Richard Passwater | Mar 4, 2015 10:11:47 PM

Trying to compare the Honda Ridgeline to this is a fallacy. When you look at the original size of the Ridgeline, you're looking at a "trucklet" that is significantly larger even than the Nissan Frontier in overall dimensions. By appearances, this would be enough smaller to actually attract the attention of those who truly want smaller; the people who want this think even the Tacoma and Frontier are too darned big. These are also people who don't visit sites like this simply because pickup trucks are Too Darned Big. So the few who actually do comment here are the mere visible portion of an iceberg like that which sank the Titanic. And like the Titanic, if the regular pickup truck market doesn't address its weaknesses, it may get sunk more quickly than ever imagined.

If you want to see how small the Santa Cruz really is, I did a photo overlay with an extended cab Colorado. Both vehicles have 30" tall tires so that was used for the scaling.

The Santa Cruz is based on the Tucson so it is about the same size. That would make it a good 3 feet shorter in length than the Colorado.

Post #4:
http://www.santacruzforums.com/forum/introductions/833-if.html

Found it, Bahama Todd. That comparison means it's almost exactly the size I'm looking for and in viewing YouTube videos of the Tuscon's off-road capabilities, it should fairly well meet my AWD needs, though I could ask for better.

Hyundai bringing this into the States might be just the incentive for GM and FCA to bring their similarly-sized rigs in as well, and they have better off-road capabilities overall.

I am nearing retirement and this Santa Cruz might be all I need especially if it got better mpgs. I like having the utility of an open bed but I don't really need a large bed.

I love it! Everything I need in a car with small truck capabilities for occasional hauling. And... it looks VERY cool! Good mpg too. I want one!

Looks like Hyundai might be expanding US production after all... http://www.autoblog.com/2015/03/12/hyundai-expanding-us-plant-capacity-suv-production/

Now, the only questions will be if its for the new Tucson and/or the Santa Cruz???

ooooooo! I've got a 1994 Ford Ranger Pickup I swear I'll never give up. But I do like this pickup. Just the right size

Market it to the females!!! Most car companies ignore women and don't realize girls buy cars and TRUCKS!



The comments to this entry are closed.