2021 Hyundai Santa Cruz Preview – This Auto Show Star is Headed to the Showroom

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Hyundai offers a wide range of cars and crossovers, from the small Accent to the three-row Palisade. So why doesn’t it build trucks? Well, Hyundai does make a lineup of light, medium, and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, topping out with the Xcient, a 40-ton tractor (below) that recently demonstrated autonomous driving technology with a platooning trial in Korea.

While Hyundai commercial trucks, vans and buses aren’t offered in America (for now), the automaker announced today that it will soon be building a pickup here.

The new Hyundai Santa Cruz compact utility vehicle is scheduled to go into production at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) in 2021. While we don’t know the exact form the new model will take, Hyundai offered plenty of clues with the Santa Cruz concept that made the auto show circuit four years ago (shown above at the Chicago Auto Show).

As we can see in this time-lapse video, the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept attracted plenty of attention from show-goers at the Chicago Auto Show, following its debut in Detroit. (video: Chicago Auto Show)

Since HMMA already builds the Santa Fe two-row crossover, we imagine that the production Santa Cruz, like the concept, is likely to be a unit-body vehicle, instead of body-on-frame, like a traditional pickup. That would make the Honda Ridgeline its closest competitor.

Hyundai says that Santa Cruz will be designed for those who “want all the traditional attributes of a compact utility vehicle, but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed.”

The concept featured a wide stance and an aggressive side profile. Up front is an upright hexagonal grille with cascading lines framing the sides, flanked by dual honeycomb headlights.

It rides on big wheels wrapped with Michelin® tires featuring a special tread design, while Brembo® brakes sport yellow calipers. Hyundai envisioned the Santa Cruz concept would be powered by a turbo engine and employ HTRAC® all-wheel drive.

One aspect of the concept that’s likely to be changed is the clamshell door design. The majority of pickups these days sport four traditional swing-out doors, and we would expect the Santa Cruz to follow suit.

The concept’s expandable cargo bed could offer a preview of what’s to come: A tailgate extension with drawer-like sliding function. Hyundai said that the design, when fully extended, offered a bed length “similar to a midsize pickup, providing the ability to carry more than its compact footprint would suggest.”

At the conclusion of the auto show season, the Santa Cruz concept was recognized for its design and market appeal when it was named “2015 Concept Truck of the Year,” at the 14th annual North American Concept Vehicle of the Year (NACVOTY) Awards at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, Mich.

Note: Features, specifications and launch dates for future production vehicles mentioned in this story are subject to change without notice

News source and photos (as noted) courtesy Hyundai Motor America. Additional photos courtesy Newspress. Video courtesy Chicago Auto Show.

Story (text) © 2019 CarNichiWa.com