It's NOT a pickup, says Hyundai.
We don't know about you, but we grew up in a world where an off-road capable vehicle with an engine in the front, a cab in the middle, and a load bed at the back meant a pickup. However, Hyundai insists that its latest creation, despite having the above characteristics, is not a pickup. What you're looking at is the all-new Santa Cruz, which Hyundai is calling a "segment-shattering" Sport Adventure Vehicle. Whatever the automaker is calling it, the Santa Cruz looks just even better than we thought, stealing those stunning headlights from the Tucson SUV. But is there more to the Santa Cruz than just sharp styling?
For starters, the Santa Cruz makes use of unibody construction making it the second truck in the US to not be built in a traditional body-on-frame manner. However, this is much smaller than the Honda Ridgeline, and any other midsize pickup for that matter. The Santa Cruz measures 195.7 inches long and 75 inches wide, while it stands just 66.7 inches tall. The wheelbase is 118.3 inches, making it 6.9 inches shorter than that of the Honda. This makes it the first compact pickup in the US in a long time, a segment that will soon see the introduction of the Ford Maverick as its chief rival. As such, the bed is also smaller, measuring up to 52.1 inches long at its longest point. The bed itself features lockable storage, is accessible via steps in the rear bumper, and has a lockable tonneau cover.
From a styling perspective, the Santa Cruz retains the sense of style present in the concept, but an entirely new front end and more angular rear appear more rugged than the original concept did. The design was penned in California, and the taillights feature embossed "Designed in California" lettering as an homage to this.
Hyundai makes many bold claims about the Santa Cruz, saying that it is suited to both urban life and outdoor excursions, is roomy yet maneuverable and offers good towing capacity with great fuel efficiency. Two engines are being offered initially. The first is a normally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four developing at least 190 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, although the final production specs could be more. This is mated to an HTRAC all-wheel-drive system with the support of an eight-speed hydraulic automatic gearbox and is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds.
The second engine offering is a turbocharged 2.5-liter and generates 275+ hp and 310+ lb-ft of torque. It too gets AWD but the eight-speed auto paired to this engine is a dual-clutch system with steering-mounted paddle shifters. This powertrain is capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs - the same as the Honda Ridgeline. In Sport mode, the AWD system sends more power to the rear wheels for better traction.
While not a genuine 4x4 truck, Hyundai has geared the Santa Cruz for light off-roading, with available 20-inch alloys shod in all-terrain tires, while smaller 18-inch high-profile wheel/tire combinations are also available.
Inside, you get an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display as standard, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available alongside a wireless smartphone charger. You also get storage bins under the rear seats, and that rear load bed can be secured with a locking tonneau cover, so there's loads of practicality to be had with this "SAV". Optionally available is a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment display with a driver display of matching size, and you can also have a digital key connected to a smartphone app, along with an available Bose eight-speaker sound system. We quite like the look of the bigger infotainment display, which has a frameless look to it, and we approve of the changing color schemes when you change drive modes too.
As for safety, you'll find a driver attention warning, lane keep assist, and forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, cyclist and pedestrian detection, and front cross-traffic alert - all as standard. Options include a blind-spot collision avoidance system with rear cross-traffic alert and rear automatic emergency braking. You can also have a blind-spot view monitor and a surround-view camera for supreme peace of mind. Adaptive cruise control is on offer too, as is a vehicle exit warning system. Features like remote start add convenience to the overall package, and Hyundai says that buyers will be able to create profiles with different driver preferences for seat and mirror positions. Heated and ventilated seats will be offered as well.
Hyundai's addition of the Santa Cruz to its Montgomery, Alabama production facility is expected to add around 1,200 jobs to the economy when the vehicle goes into production this June. Sales are scheduled to start in the summer, but Hyundai is giving customers the opportunity to reserve one early, much like recent releases such as the Bronco.
Pricing has not yet been announced, but the Santa Cruz will ship standard with Hyundai's class-leading 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, 5-year/60,000-mile limited vehicle warranty, and complimentary maintenance for 3 years/36,000 miles.
Hyundai is truly doing its best to show that just about any body style can look good, and the specs seem impressive too. It seems then that it's not just the producers of luxury SUV that need to watch out for Hyundai, but how will the Korean automaker surprise us next?