We've been waiting for this one for a while. This one, of course, being the Santa Cruz pickup truck that Hyundai has been hinting and teasing at for years now. Recall that the Korean automaker unveiled a concept as far back as 2015, at the Detroit Auto Show. Six years later, the production model is about to arrive here. Interestingly, it was designed by the company's California design department.
Hyundai isn’t actually talking up the Santa Cruz as pickup, but rather as a Sport Adventure Vehicle. In fact, the company claims to have invented a new category of vehicle - a strategy that is in vogue throughout the industry. Recently, it was Kia that gave a new designation to its Carnival, which the company is reluctant to even call a minivan.
For our part, we’ll just refer to the Santa Cruz as a pickup, because, well, it has a bed! And with all due respect to Hyundai, it hasn't really invented anything here. We've already seen this type of vehicle from Chevrolet with its Avalanche, for one, and for two, the Santa Cruz will face a direct competitor on the market, the Honda Ridgeline. Like that model, the newest Hyundai benefits from a unibody structure. Moreover, the Santa Cruz outright “borrowed” some ideas from the Ridgeline, for instance the storage compartment integrated into the body, which can be transformed into a cooler for special occasions.
The Santa Cruz comes standard with a naturally aspirated 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. Hyundai claims 190 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque. The engine will work with an 8-speed automatic transmission and the automaker's HTRAC all-wheel drive system will be part of the package. With this unit, towing capacity is rated at 1,588 kg, or 3,500 lb.
As an option, buyers will be able to choose a 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 275 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque; that unit gets an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that includes steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is also standard. Here, however, the towing capacity reaches 2268 kg, or 5000 lb.
Aesthetically, the front end of the Santa Cruz follows the lines of the 2022 Tucson with daytime running lights integrated into the design of the grille. It's rather original, I must admit. Invisible when off, they stand out when on. From the side, you can see a very slanted A-pillar that gives the front end an elegant look. The C-pillar is also angled for a more dynamic look, rather than standing straight up.
The back end of the truck as mentioned includes some useful features. The bed spans 52.1 inches in length. Part of the bed lifts up to reveal a cargo area to place more-valuable items. Steps at the corner of the bumper make access to the bed easier. Hyundai also promises to offer accessories for the bed, including one that extends it. Another option is an extendable tonneau cover at the base of the cab that owners can extend and lock in place when they want to secure cargo.
On board, the Santa Cruz offers a standard 8-inch multimedia screen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps wirelessly. Buyers can upgrade to a 10-inch screen. A digital display instrument cluster will also be on the menu.
Finally, in terms of safety, the model gets the automaker’s SmartSense suite of features as standard equipment. This includes forward collision avoidance assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keeping assist and driver attention alert. As an option, buyers can add adaptive cruise control, blind spot collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a camera that shows images captured in blind spots, safe exit assistance and a surround view monitor.
Construction of the Santa Cruz begins in June at Hyundai's U.S. plant in Montgomery, Alabama. The first models should arrive at Hyundai dealerships later this summer, at which point we should have more information regarding trim levels and pricing.