Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept First Look
Automaker Sees Youth Market For Diesel-Powered Trucklet
Hyundai did a good job of keeping its “surprise” announcement quiet. But when VP of Product Planning Mark Dipko introduced the Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept in Detroit, there was a word that escaped the lips of many of the assembled press: “Brat.”
Now, before you start cynically guffawing and asking “why bring back a dead horse?” know this: Hyundai has done serious research -- they said it’s one of the most researched vehicles they’ve ever created -- and firmly believes there’s a market for this among millennials.
It calls these millennials “urban adventurers.” We’ll come back to that. The truck you’re looking at is powered by a 2.0-liter I-4 turbodiesel producing 190 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. Dipko said it would see mpg in the high 30s.
It’ll seat four passengers (it has two small back doors to help with entry and exit) and, we gotta say, looks much better than the Toyota A-BAT Concept that showed up in 2007.
The main sell on the Santa Cruz, which has a small bed with a ridgid, lockable tonneau cover, is that with an active lifestyle, there are inevitably things you want to haul that are either too big (furniture), too dirty (mountain bikes), or too stinky (hockey gear, wetsuits) to throw in the cabin.
Dipko said that most trucks are over-capable for what people use them for. Especially the people they think will buy the Santa Cruz. He cited these statistics:
- Only 7 percent of vehicle shoppers under 30 buy trucks.
- 80 percent of all vehicle shoppers don’t even consider today’s trucks.
- The truck market has fallen 5 percent in the last five years.
“Max towing, payload, and ground clearance don’t matter” to these potential buyers, he said. What does matter? Price. Face it: Trucks are expensive. Especially without numerious mid-size players (the Chevy Colorado/Canyon just came back). Heck, the average full-size truck purchase price was bills away from being $40,000. In 2013. That's not entry-level, and makes even less sense if you don't need the capability.
Hyundai's pitch was heavy on altruistic urban farming, rescuing and reusing furniture, and outdoor pursuits like surfing, snowboarding and going to the lake with friends. Why doesn’t anybody ever say it’ll come in handy hauling that deer carcass back from the hunt or those bags of stinky expired food from the house of your parents, the hoarders? Those are legit uses, too. Just sayin’.
Anyway, Hyundai has a point: There is a lot of utility in a compact runabout with a small, useful bed. Especially if it comes with great mileage and a non-punishing ride. So maybe we should stop thinking it’s the return of the Subaru Brat. Maybe this is the coming of the right-sized Ridgeline, which we need to remind everyone has been so successful Honda is bringing it back, redesigned, this year, after a year hiatus.
So maybe Hyundai’s “Brat” could turn out to be the class valedictorian.