Is Hyundai One Small Step Away From a Pickup?

Hyundai Santa Cruz 2 II

Hyundai Motor America looks like it will be the first "non-pickup" automaker to offer something new in the form of a pickup truck for the North American segment. And to its credit, it looks like it's going to be the segment-splitting midsize Santa Cruz, a crossover utility truck.

The Santa Cruz concept vehicle created quite a bit of buzz during its world debut at the 2015 North American International Auto Show; just a couple months later at the Chicago Auto Show Hyundai was reporting that consumer feedback was strong and positive.

The concept vehicle was loosely based on Hyundai's popular seven-passenger Santa Fe crossover but reshaped with a sleeker aero design and reimagined open bed area. There have been many reports of Hyundai officials stating they're looking into offering this new type of midsize utility crossover, but only if consumer interest supported it.

Recently a Hyundai spokesman told us that Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski is optimistic about getting the green light for proceeding with the Santa Cruz, with timing for the new product coming as soon as November. "Consumer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to have some good news for them very soon," the spokesman said.

We like the fact that a car company like Hyundai (which offers sensibly priced cars and crossovers) is seriously considering taking a risk in this new segment with a uniquely styled vehicle. There's no question other automakers will be watching closely. But this phenomenon — segment experimentation when truck sales are strong — is not unique.

Fifteen years ago Volkswagen did some experimenting with the Advanced Activity Concept vehicle at the NAIAS, testing the "crossover pickup" idea right before it came to the U.S. market with its first full-size SUV, the VW Touareg. The AAC had a monster V-10 turbo-diesel and had quite a few torque enthusiasts drooling. Unfortunately, nothing came of it other than some interesting experiments from BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the form of oddly shaped "hybrid" pickups, largely based off their full-size SUV platforms.

With all this history behind this type of car-based crossover pickup, it probably won't surprise anyone to find out the chief designer for Hyundai, Peter Schreyer, spent a long time with VW and Audi, and that chief engineer Albert Biermann came from the high-performance group at BMW. With all that knowledge about concepts similar to the Santa Cruz, it's possible that Hyundai may have a better chance of making this new segment buster work. With a shared platform, as well as new vehicle capabilities (and maybe a new turbo-diesel engine option or two?), this "midsize-light" pickup could appeal to young families or active empty-nesters just enough to start the mini-truck craze all over again.

Cars.com photos by Mark Williams; Manufacturer images; Illustration by Mark Stehrenberger

 

Hyundai-Santa-Cruz-Concept II

VW-AAC-Concept-8-lg II

BMW X5 pickup MS drawing II

 

Comments

That bed is about as big as a wheelbarrow. Mini trucks of yore had decent sized beds.

I would buy one if it could fit a family of 4.

I wouldn't mind one. Light hauling and towing that my truck is not needed for.

from the article above
" this "midsize-light" pickup could appeal to young families or active empty-nesters just enough to start the mini-truck craze all over again"

which is it to be, a mid-size or mini?.. at least it is not from the countries that tried to take us over during WW II

Give me the Toyota ABAT. Backseat and more useful. I don't understand what is keeping more of these type crossovers from being made. There is a market for a unibody vehicle with a bed that gets decent mileage.

"That bed is about as big as a wheelbarrow. Mini trucks of yore had decent sized beds."
-- Posted by: Dav | Jul 29, 2015 8:01:16 AM

Perhaps. My '97 Ranger has one 6' x 4' by roughly 15" deep. This one looks like about 4.5' x 4' x 20" deep.

"I would buy one if it could fit a family of 4."
-- Posted by: Dave | Jul 29, 2015 9:15:09 AM

I would NOT buy one if it could fit a family of 4.

"I wouldn't mind one. Light hauling and towing that my truck is not needed for."
-- Posted by: uh huh | Jul 29, 2015 10:01:56 AM

There are a lot of people who don't even have a truck that would agree with you.

"from the article above
" this "midsize-light" pickup could appeal to young families or active empty-nesters just enough to start the mini-truck craze all over again"
"(W)hich is it to be, a mid-size or mini?.. at least it is not from the countries that tried to take us over during WW II"
-- Posted by: Dave | Jul 29, 2015 11:24:16 AM

I would call it a true mid-size, as what they're calling 'mid-sized' today is more accurately old-school full-sized.

"Give me the Toyota ABAT. Backseat and more useful. I don't understand what is keeping more of these type crossovers from being made. There is a market for a unibody vehicle with a bed that gets decent mileage."
-- Posted by: Don | Jul 29, 2015 1:46:37 PM

There are highly prejudiced people like those opposed to a smaller truck right here that would say you're lying; that there's no market for them. I hope to see the Santa Cruz and others prove them wrong.

Meanwhile, I got my Stepfather's '97 Ranger and while it's not extended cab, it's everything I need in a truck and most of what I wanted. At 20,510 miles after driving it home.

@ Road Whale: You scored bigtime on that,congrats.

Ew.. No thanks. I'd much rather drive a Honda ridgeline.

I won't buy a Hyundai anything. I used to work at a Hyundai dealer and we (the mechanics) would call them throw away cars. They will run a while but have allot of problems that get annoying.

BREAKING NEWS FORD CAUGHT WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN!

Looks like the wheel blockers do make a big difference in crash testing!

"Comparing the two models, the SuperCrew received a top rating of “good” on every crash test it was subjected to by IIHS.

The SuperCab, however, earned a “poor” rating on structure and “acceptable” ratings on restraints and kinematics, as well as hip and thigh and lower leg and foot dummy injury measurements.

The results all together earned the SuperCab an overall safety rating of “marginal,” one mark above “poor” on IIHS’s four-grade scale.

The SuperCrew’s occupant compartment remained intact, IIHS said, and the crash-test dummy had a low probability of injury thanks to the pickup’s structural and in-cabin safety equipment."

Story is on automotive new it won't let me post the link.

I would buy one so my truck would have something to play with.

They need to put a gate in the back that has a fold out bed extender that will allow a race bike for motocross or even a street bike hangout the rear while traveling down the road. Then i will own one. my jack russells will love the small back seat for trips and i can cheaply bring a race bike to the track. perfect! imagine a getting 45mpg with a little diesel!

They would be better served making an actual Midsize, rather than a Mini

It needs a manual transmission.

Looks about same size as a Subaru Brat. Just needs a seat in the bed.

@johnny doe boy, who cares?? This is not a Ford article so just as usual, shut your ignorant pie hole!!

@Mark Williams- I have a hard time with your lead-in- Honda was the first "non-truck maker" with something new- almost a decade ago. Then again, the Subaru Baja was the first with a car-based trucklett with a back seat.
As fueleconomy requirements force traditional trucks to become more expensive, there may well be room for some car based trucks in the market. OTOH, the Ridgeline showed that car based (transverse, unibody) doesn't necessarily make it cheaper to buy or feed.

"awww it's so cute"

Build it, they will sell a few. Unfortunately, Vulpine already has his new/old truck, Hyundai won't be selling him one. Since it has less than 25k miles on the clock he won't be needing a new truck for at least five years.

I have a 2011 Kia Optima (basically the same vehicle as a Hyundai Sonata) Based on my experience with the Kia I would have no issues buying a Hyundai pickup but I need something at least as big as my 1984 Nissan pickup. This just looks too small to be useful to me. On the other hand, sales of side by side 4 wheelers have taken off. This probably would not cost much more and would be road legal. If it is decent off road it would appeal to some people.

@papa him,
Niche product at best. Mini Pickups are pretty dead outside of Mexico and Brazil

Subaru tried with the Baja, no go.

Wife likes it....the style. She drives 5/6 days a week approx. 20minutes each way and often needs to carry a lot in her trunk and back seat...she says if she can get a cover for it she would certainly consider it...after seeing it of course. She often has to drive the grandson to baseball practice and thinks this would be ideal...throw his bags and such in the back

Truckcrazy Nice real nice! Common Ford owner the only thing that runs good on a Ford is the owners mouth LOL!

Guess you must be really butt hurt, as Ford sales keep falling, and Ford keeps cheaping out and misleading people with some BS marketing. Just think a few 58 dollar crash bars could of save them the embarrassment.

"Looks about same size as a Subaru Brat. Just needs a seat in the bed."
-- Posted by: supercrew02 | Jul 29, 2015 11:34:34 PM

Based on reference photos matching the tire and wheel size to the Colorado with the same reported tire and wheel size, the Hyundai is significantly larger than the Brat in nearly every dimension. It rises to more along the old 80s-vintage Ranger, S-10 sizes, though as a short-bed model.

Will sell just as many as the Subaru version did.....

@Road Whale--Most of those commenting about a smaller bed size would say the same thing about any truck smaller than a crew cab F-150. Most buyers of full size trucks will not buy a compact or midsize truck and most likely would never buy a car or crossover that isn't at least a midsize but more likely full size. Those of us who want a smaller truck are not very likely to buy a full size truck unless we wanted or need one. For me I like this Santa Cruz and most likely will be a customer for one. I like Hyundai and Kia and put them quality wise in the same category as Toyota and Honda. Not too long ago I would have never considered a Hyundai or Kia but their quality is much better. Even Consumer Reports has rated them as up to the quality of a Toyota or Honda.

The VW in the photo above has a bit of butch styling that helps it. If the Hyundai is released with the current crossover aerodynamic feminine swoopyness, it will fail. Make it a bit edgy, throw in a manual, and a man might drive it for light-haul utility use (e.g. dirtbikes and Home Depot/Lowes runs).

@Jeff S: "Most of those commenting about a smaller bed size would say the same thing about any truck smaller than a crew cab F-150. ..."

How true, Jeff. Up until my stepfather passed and I inherited his Ranger, I was very definitely in the market for the Santa Cruz and may yet consider it in the future if someone were to make me the right offer for the Ranger.

On the other hand, as long as I keep the Ranger, my plan to trade my Wrangler has become more focused on replacing it with a Renegade to keep 4x4 capability with open tops and interior storage on longer trips. The truck did well driving from Tennessee to Maryland at 24mpg (highway speed, not hyper-miling) but with a standard cab I wouldn't be able to carry the dog inside and all the luggage would have to lie in the bed. I still don't need 4 doors, but they don't make a 2-door version of the Renegade.

So now I have what I need and want--a true mid-sized pickup with enough, but not too much, bed and decent economy (despite all the complainers who said they couldn't do it.) Maybe it didn't make the rated 27mpg on that trip, but that trip also included a lot of relatively steep grades that forced me to downshift out of OD to maintain speed. I'm thinking on the flat or even running up to the in-Laws I could achieve the rated mileage by holding my speed at the speed limits of the roads I use.

Methinks I will be pulling the plastic bed liner out, though. It holds water too well and is extremely slippery for the loads it has carried so far, making cargo management difficult. Ah well, more things to learn and adjust to make it better fit its new purpose. It's one thing to load up and drive 35mph with cargo loose in the bed, it's another to carry that same load at 45 and higher over hills and around curves.

@Road Whale--Sorry to hear about your step father. Both my parents are dead and my wife's mother is in a nursing home in Walnut Creek, CA. We visited her in early July for her 98th birthday--she is physically strong but she is mentally somewhere else. I will probably keep the vehicles I have for now and then see what I need as I downsize and possibly move. I might have the S-10 gone over next spring and get another 4 or 5 years out of it.

I would assume a pickup or more correcty a coupe utility should be a two seater.

A two seater version would sell in far greater numbers to kids, old farts, etc as a first time vehicle or a second vehicle for the old farts.

From an engineering perspective this might be hard. If one looks at how the rear pillar is part of this four seater ute comes down over the rear axle for strength.

It could be engineered to be a single cab, but how much weight and cost would there be.

@Big Al--In 17 years I have used the rear seats in my extended cab S-10 maybe 5 times. I like having an extended cab for shopping and I keep bungee cords, charger cables, miniature air compressor, and several other things. I like having an extended cab to keep things out of the weather and to keep things locked up. I guess you could call me an old fart, but old farts have been buying a lot of new vehicles recently. I just as soon have no seats in the back of the extended cab and have the extra space. I do like that the base Colorado has a seat delete. Also I have a CRV and a crew cab Isuzu if I need to use the back seat for extra passengers. Most of the time I drive alone.

@Big Al: I'm in agreement with Jeff S here; the extended cab to me is more for interior storage of cargo management, tools and yes, shopping purchases while the open bed is for things too large to fit in most SUV/CUVs or too dirty or aromatic to WANT to carry them inside the cabin. The old-style jump seats of the 80s models were perfect part-time shelves when you wanted something up off the floor but would ordinarily never be used. The more current types such as in the Colorado/Canyon in my case would be flat removed, only to be reinstalled IF I intended to carry people. Same goes for that hideous plastic tray used as a seat support which breaks up the more necessary flat floor. Whoever thought owners would want such a compartmentalized boondoggle must have been a designer for those kids wooden puzzles.

There's an old rule that OEMs on average seem to have forgotten. KISS. Keep It Simple and Stupid. My '97 Ranger has a comfortable split-bench seat that allows for a tall and a short driver and passenger at the same time, a basic five-speed shifter (four-speed plus OD) a relatively simple four-cylinder engine and a simple open bed without all the gimmicks and gegaws found in the majority of today's trucks. It's almost impossible to hack remotely even with a decent entertainment unit into which I can plug my mp3 player. It's relatively light weight so gets surprising gas mileage for its age (still matching or exceeding the majority of modern full-sized trucks) and yes, it effectively serves as a "coupe-utility" even if it doesn't have the fancy body.

Here's the thing. Whether it's a car or a truck, I have never once purchased a sedan or a four-door with the exception of my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and my previous Saturn Vue. Those two are or were used mostly with the back seats folded down, giving a six-foot load bed almost perfect for carrying flat-pack furniture, most garden tools and bagged supplies. Where they don't excel is in carrying loose materials like bricks, paving stones, trees, bushes and assembled lawn mowers, bicycles, etc.

There has been and always will be a need for a compact version of the pickup truck for those people who want a truck but don't want the SIZE of the modern American or now even 'global' pickup truck. This Hyundai is very likely to be the precursor of a new mini-truck invasion where FCA and GM already have a player in the global markets. I think these OEMs will all be surprised at who the real buyers of these trucks will be.

Junk.

I saw a photo of the 2016 Santa Cruz concept and it looks like sh**. You can check it out on youtube under 2016 Santa Cruz Concept.



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