By on February 4, 2020

Hyundai santa cruz concept

As Hyundai, following a years-long deliberation process, prepares to put the Santa Cruz into production in Alabama, spy photos have emerged of a prototype undergoing cold-weather testing.

Maybe it was just playing in the snow. Regardless, the camouflaged vehicle is our best look yet at the brand’s long-awaited personal pickup.

And we don’t have the pic! What a pisser. But Motor Authority does, and it gives us a lot to look at.

As expected, the production-bound Santa Cruz dispenses with the clamshell doors seen on the concept vehicle so many years ago. Four conventional doors appear in their place, and normal-sized ones, too. Grille area will not be in short supply.

Out back, the bed is appropriately short for a compact, unibody pickup, though not quite as abbreviated as the defunct Subaru Baja. Take your best guess as to bed length. Hyundai’s aim with this vehicle is not to provide an alternative to the legions of full-sizers roaming the country’s many highways; rather, it wants to make a sporty, youthful activity vehicle capable of hauling some amount of stuff to areas where hip people do outdoorsy things. One assumes a bed extender will be standard fare, though the jury’s out on a midgate.

Do Millennials haul lumber?

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept - Image: Hyundai

Entering production at the automaker’s Montgomery facility in 2021, the Santa Cruz will likely borrow the platform of its plant mate, the Santa Fe. That model’s brace of four-cylinders — one turbocharged, one not — should find a home beneath the Santa Cruz’s hood.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Santa Cruz’s arrival, along with that of a Ford-badged product due out in the near future, lights a fire in the newly created segment.

[Images: Hyundai]

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32 Comments on “Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Takes Shape...”

  • avatar

    This is going to take a big bite out of Ridgeline sales. Honda sold 33,000 last year…

    Hyundai must be hoping that they can grow the market. Will be interesting to see how this does.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Hyundai just wants “a bite of the pie” just like Subaru did with their Brat, many of which are still running around in the Great Southwest of the US.

      “A bite of the pie” is all that the Ridgeline gets too, with most of the pie going to Tacoma.

      But at least real-world buyers will have a choice. In that category, size and class, I doubt that anything will even come close to the ride and handling characteristics of the Ridgeline. And a buyer will pay for the privilege of buying a Ridgeline.

    • 0 avatar

      This will be more compact than the Ridgeline.

      • 0 avatar

        Should also be more affordable.

        • 0 avatar

          “Should also be more affordable.”

          Let’s hope so because ‘affordable’ is a relative term usually applied to total cost of the driving experience over a predetermined number of years of ownership. (i.e. 11yrs/avg).

          For instance, Tacoma and Tundra buyers spend more to buy their vehicle, usually have less drama/maintenance/repair along the way, while keeping that vehicle longer (i.e. >11 yrs).

          I hope that the little Hyundai pick’m up will come with the excellent 10 yr warranty.

          That’ll sway a lot of fence-sitters who are in the market for a tiny utility trucklet.

          • 0 avatar

            @hdc: I can promise you the Santa Cruz is not going to be “tiny” like the pre-’00s mid-sized trucks and significantly larger than the Subie Baja especially.

            Then again, it has already grown notably by the fact that it has four full doors now instead of 2-2/2(Two and two-half) doors. That also shot down any plans I might have had of trading ‘down’ my Colorado, which at least has the right number of doors.

          • 0 avatar

            Vulpine, but that is exactly what is missing from the US line up of pick up trucks, a tiny utility like the Subie or even a Holden.

            The full-size Halfton today is way too tall, too wide and too cumbersome for many.

            The midsizers of today are about the same size of the halftons of years past.

            So we can’t blame Subie owners or Rampage owners, or even owners of ye olde LUV trucks to yearn for more compact and easy to maneuver trucklets. Many of those little compact trucks are still running around in the Great Southwest of the US.

            If not Hyundai, maybe some Chinese import, sooner rather than later.

          • 0 avatar

            Read again what I said, hdc, because I wanted what you said this would be. Unfortunately this will NOT be a “tiny pickup”; it will be as large if not larger than the Nissan Frontier, albeit probably with a shorter bed. It may not have the length, just as the first Ridgeline didn’t have the length of a full-sized truck, but like the Ridgeline, it will be pretty much as wide and as tall as a 2WD pickup… measuring most likely on the current mid-sized version as compared to the Ridgeline measuring closer to the full-sized versions.

            As someone else said earlier, it ain’t gonna be as small as a ’97 Ranger. What I wanted was an extended cab COMPACT pickup and those just simply aren’t available new.

            Nor is there likely to be, considering what Hyundai has done to this thing.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Other than dumping a scoop of mulch into the bed, I can’t think of a single reason to buy this over a Santa Fe. Hyundai must have been similarly confused, and that’s why it took so long for them to commit to build it.

    We’ll see how many internet fans actually buy this thing. I predict a 5-year run, with peak sales in Year 1.

    • 0 avatar

      Considering I bent the leaf springs on my 99 Frontier (w/ 4 cylinder leafs FWIW) from dropping either half a yard of gravel or a full yard of mulch I can’t imagine a unibody ute faring as well under the same conditions.

      Of all the pet projects an auto company can take on this seems as bad as the SSR.

      • 0 avatar

        I expect this will take weight a touch better than a Santa Fe, but not as well as a Canyon or Ranger. The big appeal over the Santa Fe would be an advantage in hauling dirty or mis-shapen things and (hopefully) better styling than a CUV or Ridgeline.

        This is definitely a “lifestyle vehicle” and isn’t going to be a substitute for people wanting 1/2 ton+ capability but it does fill a niche. We’ll see how big the niche actually is.

        My biggest issue right now is the apparent lack of the 3.3 or 3.8 V6.

    • 0 avatar

      Was going to take as long as it did – as the Santa Cruz is based on the next gen Tucson platform (an extended version) and not the Santa Fe’s.

      Hence, the timetable of both the new Tucson and the Santa Cruz entering production at the Montgomery plant at about the same time (Hyundai also had to prep the Alabama factory for increased production, such as expanding their engine manufacturing unit).

      And not much longer thereafter, Hyundai (and Kia) will also be getting into production a 1/2 ton BoF/ladder-frame pick-up.

      Up in the air as to whether the US market will get one (or both), but that would require tooling a plant for production in NA.

  • avatar

    Its bed is no bigger/longer than the Baja’s. Santa Cruz wheel-wells encroach less into the rear doors, but the Baja has more rear overhang.

    Basically the front and rear axles (footprint) are shifted backwards (on similar bodies, as viewed from overhead), vs the Baja, but over all it’s the same thing.

  • avatar

    I sorta like it don’t hate it would look at it if I needed a new vehicle but probably wouldn’t buy it but I’m happy Hyundai is making it.


  • avatar

    I think this concept would do better as a Kia than a Hyundai.

  • avatar

    It’s like the Subaru Baja reborn.

    I sort of like it.

  • avatar

    I like it. I still miss my first generation Ridgeline. It was no beauty that’s for sure, but the current generation is hideous and overpriced. I had to sell it because my commute was 100 miles/day and 17 mpg the Ridgeline was giving me was not feasible . Now that my commute is 14 miles per day, I am looking for something like this. No, I don’t need to tow anything, not going mud swimming, rock hopping and don’t need 4×4. I am not a big fan of SUVs although I see their usefulness. I want something like the Ridgeline but without its hideous looks and $36,000 starting price. No, I am not expecting the Hyundai to start at $19,000 but don’t make it $36,000 like the Ridgeline. I won’t buy it first year, since I like to see all the bugs ironed out, but I am really interested.

  • avatar

    Here will be the real test if the Small Truck Mafia is serious about wanting a vehicle like this, or if they really just want to b!tch than they can’t buy a brand new ’97 Ranger extended cab anymore.

  • avatar

    Gotta stay away from that TruCoat.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen the picture. I very probably will NOT be buying one because of it.

  • avatar

    We had a funny experience buying a VW Golf TDi in 2011 in Pennsylvania after returning from overseas. We negotiated everything by a newly created email address and Google voice number (to keep dealers at arms reach) and as they had the right car and a good rating on an enthusiast site for TDis paid a fair price. We were cash buyers but when the finance guy said if we had that much cash on us (we did) he would have to “call the police”….I said fine…we will write a check for 1/2 of the purchase amount and they could verify funds with the bank. I turned to my wife and said….”you do have a check on you don’t you?” and after digging thru her purse found a well traveled check that had probably gotten wet at one time and was folded up…looked rough. Anyhow they reluctantly accepted this and off we went across the USA. It did require a couple phone calls to finally get the title FedExed to us. Great car but sadly sold it before the buyback so we could take a 1.5 year motorcycle trip to S America.

  • avatar

    Price and features are what it’s all about along with a modicum of towing capacity (hey if a Terrain can tow 3500 lbs this sucker should too.)

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