Volkswagen's Tarok Pickup Should Give Hyundai Food for Thought

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

A new Volkswagen pickup for Brazil? Yawn. As much as small, cheap pickups turns this writer’s crank, the image that came to mind upon hearing news of this week’s São Paulo unveiling was a weird amalgam of the late Ford Courier and VW Fox.

Then I looked at pictures of the VW Tarok concept, which is said to almost exactly mirror the production vehicle bound for that market. My, my — what a fetching little truck. Sporting pretty much the exact same wheelbase of the Atlas and bearing a bed that extends in both directions, the MQB-platform vehicle is a versatile and stylish little unibody runabout.

Isn’t this pretty much what Hyundai has in mind for North America, assuming it pulls the trigger on the Santa Cruz?

Hyundai’s waffled on that decision since early 2015, and, while initial R&D work is ongoing, it’s still not certain that we’ll ever see it come to fruition. The earliest we’d see production start on the Santa Cruz — described as a four-seat unibody pickup with an extendable bed, positioned below today’s midsize offerings — is in two years.

The Santa Cruz is a ghost, but the Tarok is real. With Hyundai unable to provide us with any images of their vision, we’re left with the Tarok to gaze upon, wondering whether there’s room in the North American market for a vehicle of this size and layout.

Being of Latin American intent, the Tarok makes do with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder plucked directly from the Jetta. The 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap (a six-speed automatic is standard, as is all-wheel drive) is hardly Ford Raptor territory, though VW plans to outfit the production model with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel. Other markets, should VW choose to venture there, could see different powerplants. Perhaps the Atlas’ base turbo 2.0L gas engine would be of use. Still, that’s only a hypothetical for now. Latin America is the model’s home, and VW plans to gauge interest before deciding whether to expand the Tarok’s availability to other regions.

One thing’s for sure — you’ll never see it here. The automaker confirmed to Motor Authority that the Tarok will never be sold in the U.S., even if its reach expands. That means if Hyundai ever comes to a decision on its Santa Cruz, it will have the niche to itself.

Let’s take a closer look at the Tarok. While the VW Tanoak concept revealed in New York this spring boasts greater distance its wheels hubs than the Atlas, the Tarok’s underpinnings are essentially unchanged from the three-row crossover. Despite the car-based architecture, both trucks boast a ground clearance of just shy of 10 inches. The smaller Tarok’s bed measures a scant 3.96 feet; good for cordwood, but not for lumber. However, a full-width folding partition allows owners to repurpose cabin space once they’ve folded down (or removed) the rear seats.

Give those rear seats a flip, open the partition, and objects 6.11 feet in length can lie flat in the bed, tailgate up. Lower the gate, and there’s 8.36 feet of bed length. Remove the rear seats, the total bed length expands to 9.1 feet, though you’d certainly want a bed extender to keep items from turning into road debris. Careful of the rear glass when you’re shoving rebar and God knows what else back there.

Besides the versatility, the Tarok looks good in spite its blunt profile. The high character line reduces bloat, and the dark-colored A- and B-pillars allow the rakish, metallic finish baskethandle C-pillar to literally and figuratively shine. It’s enough to make you think about just much truck you really need to own. I have to wonder if it’s making Hyundai think, too.

[Images: Volkswagen Group]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Nov 08, 2018

    Pretty soon VW will have this Turok thing plus a rebadged Ford Ranger to play with.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Nov 08, 2018

    "does the Tarok or the Santa Cruz concept appeal to you in any meaningful way?" No. But I'm not the target market. This strikes me as more of an effort to create world cars that can use a few US sales to amortize their costs. The primary markets are probably Asia for Hyundai and Latin America for VW; since they want to sell in those markets, they may as well include us. It seems that more and more decisions are being made based upon global tastes, rather than regional demand. Hence, a US-oriented Mustang being adjusted so that it can also serve a few Europeans, while Americans get Ecosports that weren't really envisioned with the US being the primary market. In the past, the major automakers avoided this sort of thing before because it wasn't usually possible to use the same car to please everyone. But they seem to be having a change of heart.

  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.
  • Lou_BC "That’s expensive for a midsize pickup" All of the "offroad" midsize trucks fall in that 65k USD range. The ZR2 is probably the cheapest ( without Bison option).
  • Lou_BC There are a few in my town. They come out on sunny days. I'd rather spend $29k on a square body Chevy
  • Lou_BC I had a 2010 Ford F150 and 2010 Toyota Sienna. The F150 went through 3 sets of brakes and Sienna 2 sets. Similar mileage and 10 year span.4 sets tires on F150. Truck needed a set of rear shocks and front axle seals. The solenoid in the T-case was replaced under warranty. I replaced a "blend door motor" on heater. Sienna needed a water pump and heater blower both on warranty. One TSB then recall on spare tire cable. Has a limp mode due to an engine sensor failure. At 11 years old I had to replace clutch pack in rear diff F150. My ZR2 diesel at 55,000 km. Needs new tires. Duratrac's worn and chewed up. Needed front end alignment (1st time ever on any truck I've owned).Rear brakes worn out. Left pads were to metal. Chevy rear brakes don't like offroad. Weird "inside out" dents in a few spots rear fenders. Typically GM can't really build an offroad truck issue. They won't warranty. Has fender-well liners. Tore off one rear shock protector. Was cheaper to order from GM warehouse through parts supplier than through Chevy dealer. Lots of squeaks and rattles. Infotainment has crashed a few times. Seat heater modual was on recall. One of those post sale retrofit.Local dealer is horrific. If my son can't service or repair it, I'll drive 120 km to the next town. 1st and last Chevy. Love the drivetrain and suspension. Fit and finish mediocre. Dealer sucks.
  • MaintenanceCosts You expect everything on Amazon and eBay to be fake, but it's a shame to see fake stuff on Summit Racing. Glad they pulled it.