Car-based pickups have a colorful but minor history in the U.S., from the once-ubiquitous Chevrolet El Camino to the short-lived Dodge Rampage and niche Subaru Brat and Subaru Baja. But automakers such as Hyundai remain intrigued with the formula.
When the original Santa Cruz concept was presented at the 2015 Detroit auto show, it was embraced by an auto enthusiast community that tends to favor offbeat vehicles that never make it to production — or sell poorly when they do.
Hyundai wanted to avoid that trap.
The concept had an extended cab with doors that open backward and a very limited second row. But a fully functioning back seat was considered essential by product planners.
However, planners had to wait until the Tucson was redesigned on a bigger platform before developing the Santa Cruz alongside the crossover.
“When the concept was shown, the second row was significantly smaller than the vehicle you have before you now,” Castillo said during a product presentation last week. “And it was through our research that we identified that if we continued down that path, we were significantly compromising the volume potential.”
The base engine for the Santa Cruz is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 191 hp and 181 pound-feet of torque. The optional 2.5-liter turbo motor is estimated at 281 hp and 311 pound-feet of torque.
Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive is available with both engines. Towing capacity for the base motor with fwd is rated at 3,500 pounds. That rises to 5,000 pounds for the turbocharged engine with awd.
In styling and specifications, the Santa Cruz shares much with the Tucson and even the midsize Santa Fe. But Hyundai whipped up the best elements of its popular crossover lineup, added an open bed and created yet another crossover variant to add to its stable.
“The Santa Cruz’s unconventional style will appeal to unconventional truck buyers,” said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at CarExpert.com. “That’s a good thing because it’s not meant to convert existing truck customers.
“Instead,” he added, “Hyundai will focus on active-lifestyle consumers seeking comfortable, easy-to-drive weekday transportation before they load up their bikes or kayaks or hiking gear for a weekend outing.”