- Hyundai is entering the U.S. pickup market with the Santa Cruz, a small SUV-like vehicle that’s scheduled to go on sale this summer.
- Hyundai is calling the 2022 Santa Cruz a “Sport Adventure Vehicle” because it has the characteristics of an SUV or crossover, but the bed of a pickup truck.
- It’s a vehicle style that has produced mixed results in the American automotive industry.
Hyundai Motor is entering the U.S. pickup market with the Santa Cruz, a small SUV-like vehicle that’s scheduled to go on sale this summer.
Hyundai is calling the 2022 Santa Cruz a “Sport Adventure Vehicle.” It has many characteristics of a compact SUV or crossover, but the bed of a pickup truck. That type of vehicle style has come and gone several times throughout the American auto industry. Most notably, the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino starting in the 1950s and 1960s, and, more recently, the Subaru Baja from the 2000s.
The Santa Cruz is expected to lure car or crossover buyers more than those who have owned a larger, more traditional pickup, according to industry analysts. They say specifically buyers from outdoor-oriented brands such as Jeep and Subaru.
“I think it could do really well,” said Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader. “It feels like the research from automakers is indicating that people are wanting more and more types of vehicles that can take you off-road.”
Hyundai said pricing for the Santa Cruz will be announced closer to its arrival in dealer showrooms in the summer. Moody said pricing of the vehicle is going to be important because it needs to cheaper than the starting price of a midsize pickup such as a Toyota Tacoma, which starts at about $27,000.
The Santa Cruz shares design elements, including the front grille and headlights, of the recently redesigned Hyundai Tucson SUV. It’s also produced on the same vehicle platform, or base, of the SUV.
The inside of the vehicle includes an eight- or 10-inch center infotainment touch screen as well as an optional 10-inch digital driver cluster screen instead of traditional physical gauges. It also offers a suite of safety and convenience features that have become commonplace for new vehicles.
“Santa Cruz, with its bold styling, breaks open all new segment territory, both for Hyundai and the industry as a whole,” Jose Munoz, Hyundai Motor North America CEO, said in a statement.
Smaller vehicles with pickup beds haven’t typically fared too well in the U.S., where large full-size pickups have been the bestselling vehicles for decades. Most recently, the Subaru Baja was only sold for about four years before being discontinued. Even larger models such as a version of the Ford Explorer SUV called the “Sport Trac” only lasted a decade.
“It’s definitely a bit of a gamble and because this segment has been tried over the years and I don’t think anyone really achieved much success,” Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, said. “But I do think that it’s definitely probably the best time to try considering how hot trucks are now.”
Caldwell said such vehicles are “quite practical and useful” but also “quirky” and a niche segment in the U.S. auto industry.
The Santa Cruz will be assembled through a process the auto industry calls “unibody” construction. The process, which is how cars are produced, is where the frame/body of the vehicle are one. That compares to “body-on-frame” construction for most pickups and some vans and SUVs, which combines the body and frame of the vehicles toward the end of production.
The most notable unibody pickup currently on the market is the Honda Ridgeline. Such construction typically allows for a smoother ride, however less capability than trucks such as the Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado that are body on frame. The Jeep Gladiator, a Wrangler SUV-based midsize pickup, also is body on frame.