A cut above the rest. A hybrid. A step into the future. A real handful! Any of these descriptions may well apply to Hyundai’s Santa Cruz pickup truck, a cutting-edge vehicle with the styling of a luxury car and the convenience and utility of a small truck.

The Santa Cruz is expected to take a prominent place in the small truck market that is steadily gaining in popularity. Let’s look at how the Santa Cruz finally rolled into the picture for this Korean-based car manufacturer, some of the features of the model, and the possible future production of this unusual pickup.

It Begins

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept

A prototype of the Santa Cruz made a splash at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Encouraged by the positive buzz, the powers that be at Hyundai USA began work to have the revolutionary pickup green lighted, and much of the background work, including an engineering feasibility study, was completed by December of 2015. The styling and design were undertaken by Hyundai-Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer. The Santa Cruz Concept was popular at other shows of the season as well as with the press, which led to rumors that the unusual truck model would be put into production. Customer surveys later showed that the Santa Cruz could be popular in all states with the predictable exception of Texas, where the full-sized truck has always reigned supreme. The truck prototype can be seen in a video of the Santa Cruz Concept presentation at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.


One thing that has taken the automotive world by storm is the styling of the Hyundai Santa Cruz. Traditionally, trucks have been functional rather than luxurious, with their styling strictly utilitarian for the most part. The Santa Cruz pickup changes all that. The styling includes many unusual and modern touches. Even though this SUV-based model is capacious and useful, with a seating capacity of five, extendable truck bed and light towing capability, it dazzles the eye with its hexagonal grille, honeycomb headlights and large fog lights. The Santa Cruz would not have the hauling capacity of larger trucks, and is based on a monocoque platform rather than a body-on-frame construction, which makes it more similar to a crossover than a traditional pickup and limits the model’s hauling capacity to a degree. However, the truck is versatile in many ways, and is seen as being a stylish yet useful choice for young adults on the go, SUV owners who want more storage and hauling capacity, and fans of full-sized sedans who would like increased utility. According to CarBuzz, Brembo brakes will be standard on this model. All-wheel drive is available (although the standard will be front-wheel drive) and allows the Hyundai truck to travel on many terrains and in many conditions. The bed is lined in heavy plastic for durability.

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The word from Hyundai USA CEO Dave Zuchowski is that the Santa Cruz is definitely slated for production, but some details have not been finalized so far. Most noteworthy is that the Santa Cruz could possibly be the first model with a diesel engine produced in the United States by the Hyundai Corporation. It is possible that a second powertrain option will be offered, and the company is considering the inclusion of a suicide-door configuration.

Other concerns include whether or not to ship the model to non-US areas, and the timing of the official announcement from the Hyundai Corporation. This decision must be taken by executives at the Hyundai Motor Company headquarters in Korea, and thus far, there has been little information given by the head office. It has been said that the company may have the vehicle constructed at the Alabama Hyundai factory, and may have the underpinnings of the truck produced in Tucson, Arizona. Some have compared the new vehicle to the popular Honda Ridgeline, but competition is somewhat unlikely due to the smaller size and price tag of the Santa Cruz, and it is expected to occupy a unique place in the small truck market.


Time will surely tell whether Tucson will make parts, whether the engine is diesel and when the official announcement will come. In the meantime, the excitement continues to mount as the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept marches inexorably forward into the production phase. With luck, this unique model will soon be a prominent presence on the roads, highways and byways of the United States.