Hyundai Will Market Version of Santa Cruz Pickup Concept in U.S.
Crossover-Style Truck Comes Amid Increasing Demand for Utilities
Hyundai confirmed it would market a pickup in the United States, speaking to Reuters. The truck will likely follow the formula written by the company’s 2015 Santa Cruz concept, a compact, unibody vehicle designed for active lifestyles, not hardcore off-roading or heavy towing.
The decision to market a crossover-style pickup in the U.S. comes as Hyundai’s sales are slipping. According to Reuters, sales of the company’s once-stalwart Sonata midsize sedan are down 30 percent through the first seven months of 2017, contributing to an overall 11 percent decline for the company’s lineup. Its aging crossover offerings could be to blame; the seven-seat Santa Fe and five-seat Santa Fe Sport were last redesigned for 2013, and the 2016-vintage Tucson is facing stiff competition from segment stalwarts like the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.
However, the new pickup (expected for the 2019 model year), the 2018 Kona subcompact crossover, and new versions of the Santa Fe, Santa Fe Sport, and Tucson (expected by 2020) will help stem the tide. Of particular interest to us is the pickup and its expected market position.
Taking cues from the Santa Cruz concept, the Hyundai pickup’s likely unibody design invites comparisons to the Honda Ridgeline, but expect the South Korean offering to slot in one size smaller than the Ridgeline and other midsize pickups. In its 2015 press release, Hyundai stated the Santa Cruz was designed for “urban adventurers,” people who frequently face clogged parking lots and narrow city streets but who would still appreciate a separate cargo box for muddy, dirty weekend adventures. As such, the Santa Cruz’s footprint is similar to that of the Santa Fe Sport, swapping in rear half-doors and a 4-foot bed in place of the SUV’s rear seat and cargo area.
One feature of the concept that Hyundai is reportedly considering for production is a bed extension that expands the cargo box to 5-plus feet (below). A drawer-style slider moves the bed’s entire rear profile—tailgate, taillights, and rear bumper—back about one foot, creating space on demand for longer cargo. If such a bed configuration makes it to production, count us among the impressed and interested.
Expect the new Hyundai pickup to come standard with front-wheel drive, with the company’s HTRAC all-wheel drive available as an option—no Wrangler-fighter here. We doubt the Santa Cruz concept’s 2.0L turbodiesel powertrain will make it to production, although with oil-burning Chevrolet Equinox and Mazda CX-5 crossovers on the way, a compact diesel pickup from South Korea might still be in the cards. Such a vehicle would likely get freeway mpg ratings in the high 30s, with reasonable performance to boot.
We’ll have to wait a little longer for official information on the production Hyundai pickup, but more options in the truck space are always a good thing. With no direct competition, the company might just have a hit on its hands if it sticks to a compact platform that prioritizes functionality, usability, and efficiency above overkill-grade towing numbers and off-road capability.