THERE is much to love about the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Holden designed Buicks (see separate story) not withstanding, there is also the very very sexy Santa Cruz concept to ogle at.
To meet the specific needs of the new generation of young pickup/utility buyers, the so called Urban Adventurers, Hyundai has lifted the lid on the Santa Cruz, and it doesn’t focus on all the same attributes as traditional pickups – it’s different you see.
It’s designed to meet more of their desires for expression, efficiency and manoeuvrability. Hyundai designers created a bold design that conveys this lifestyle, with a wide, sure-footed stance and an aggressive side-profile rake.
The front view features an upright, hexagonal grille with cascading lines framing the sides, dual lens-free, honeycombed headlamp projectors, and prominent LED fog lamps. The side profile is highlighted by oversized wheels, Michelin tires with a special tread design, centre-locking hubs and yellow Brembo brake callipers.
For ease of access to the rear seats, Santa Cruz features convenient, rear-hinged rear doors which integrate seamlessly with the front door design. The wheel arches, roof, and bed rails offer convenient tie-down cleats for securing cargo of all shapes and sizes.
From the rear, the concept presents highly-contoured bed forms, and for extra utility, the expandable bed can be easily reconfigured for longer cargo, using a unique drawer-like sliding function.
Efficiency is a key attribute of its advanced powertrains, with an environmentally-friendly 2.0-litre turbo diesel powertrain delivering 142kW and 407Nm of torque. Santa Cruz also offers Hyundai’s HTRAC All-wheel drive system, so there’s no anxiety about getting those snowboarding “fresh tracks” right after a storm moves through.
The concept is purposefully compact, and although it has four doors and seating for five, its overall footprint is similar to a small Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV). These dimensions make it ideal for navigating the urban jungle or a tight parking spot that most pickup drivers often have to pass by.
It offers typical CUV driving character, but with a versatile cargo bed that provides separated storage for all they want to bring along, whether it’s a trip to the recycling centre, a surf or paddleboard session, or a couple of mountain bikes for the trails.
Whatever the day’s activity might bring – all that dirty, sweaty, wet, sandy, bulky gear remains in the back of the pickup, cleanly separated from the passenger compartment.
During the work week, gear for that early morning hike or after-work hockey game stays securely locked in the back, under an integrated, rigid tonneau cover that conveniently retracts when not needed.
It not only keeps items safe and out of sight, it also keeps the interior clean and fresh. Santa Cruz is the perfect vehicle for those that want the attributes of a CUV, but still have dirty stuff that belongs “in the back.”
Sometimes, there are those needs that call for even more cargo room; that’s why Santa Cruz also offers an innovative tailgate extension that allows the bed length to be expanded whenever those “just in case” moments arise.
The extension is perfect for everything from an epic mountain bike trip to bringing home an antique chest or classic motorcycle that’s ripe for restoration. When fully extended, Santa Cruz’s bed length is similar to a mid-size pickup, providing the ability to carry much more than its compact footprint would suggest, yet only when needed.
Santa Cruz was designed to accommodate whatever the Urban Adventurer’s lifestyle calls for, whether expected or unexpected.
So whether it’s loading up friends and firewood for a bonfire at the beach, coaching the youth soccer team, volunteering for a community restoration project, or a quick drop-off at the local recycling centre, they need a vehicle versatile enough to accommodate both passengers and gear, while being efficient enough to fit into their unique urban lifestyle.
But could it come here, to Australia, well funny you should ask that. While the Santa Cruz remains at this stage a pure concept only – no plans have yet been announced for its design and production. However, the market opportunities for a Hyundai utility vehicle globally are very real, not least in Australia.
Hyundai Motor Company Australia is very interested in selling a utility vehicle to Australians and believes the brand’s reputation for toughness and reliability will stand it in good stead if and when such a vehicle is brought to market.
“We have no doubt a tough, good-looking Hyundai ute will be popular with Australians,” said Hyundai Motor Company Australia Chief Operating Officer, John Elsworth. “But this is a concept vehicle and we do not make decisions about which cars to bring to market – those decisions are in the hands of our parent company in Korea. However we’ve made our enthusiasm for a ute very clear – it surely has enormous potential – and we look forward to seeing how things progress in the near future.”