Electric or Hybrid “not far off” on the Hyundai Santa Cruz [Update]

  • Hyundai Santa Cruz likely to get at least one form of electrification by 2025
  • Electrification inevitable to beat the Ford Maverick which is doing more than 2X its sales
  • Santa Cruz EV may be one of 11 EVs Hyundai President & CEO Jaehoon Chang has confirmed
  • Gas model priced attractively from USD 26,650

Update: New, live pictures added to the ‘Design’ and ‘On the Hyundai Santa Cruz Hybrid & Hyundai Santa Cruz EV’ sections.

Hyundai Motor showed the Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, which announced the Korean carmaker’s intent to enter the pickup truck segment. Following a six-year wait, the production-spec Hyundai Santa Cruz was revealed in April 2021.

Gilbert Castillo, Hyundai North America’s vehicle strategy manager, has said that Hyundai took years to present the production model as the platform of the previous-gen Tucson led to many compromises on the truck top hat. Instead of delivering a subpar truck, Hyundai put the project on hold until the next-gen Tucson came along. With its new platform, internal targets could be met, which makes it more appealing to buyers.

Design

Hyundai says the Santa Cruz creates an all-new segment straddling SUVs and pickups owing to its SUV-inspired cabin design with an open-bed concept. The inspiration behind the design is the fourth-gen Tucson (the fourth-gen Tucson and the Santa Cruz are mechanically related if you haven’t guessed already!).

The sport pickup truck features split headlamps, horizontal bar inserts in the radiator grille, sleek mirrors, funky two-tone alloy wheels, marker light/reflector on the front fenders, sunroof, black shark-fin antenna and roof bars, horizontal tail lamps, and Hyundai branding in a dark chrome finish on the tailgate handle.

Started designing the Santa Cruz with the premise that this is not a traditional truck. Something new, it’s meant to thrive in dense urban environments and the open outdoors, small in size but big in adventure. It supports your work and play activities with open and closed storage. ‘Constructed by contrast’ became our guiding principle throughout the design process. Everything from its proportions to its lighting conveys that it’s not truck, it’s Santa Cruz.

Brad Arnold, design manager of Hyundai Design North America, on the Santa Cruz

Hyundai is working on a facelift for the Santa Cruz. The company gave the fourth-gen Tucson a facelift in November 2023, so a refresh for the pickup truck would be a logical next step.

Test mules of the facelifted Santa Cruz appeared on South Korean roads several times in 2023, revealing changes like a new radiator grille, new alloy wheels, and a new dashboard. The new dashboard is slim and could incorporate dual 12.3-inch panoramic display screens that give it an even cleaner look. Now, Hyundai is testing the facelifted Santa Cruz even in the U.S.

Specifications

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is available with a 2.5L GDI engine and a 2.5L TGDI engine, both gas-powered units. The naturally aspirated engine develops 191 hp and 181 lb.-ft. of torque, while the turbocharged engine produces 281 hp and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. The EPA estimated fuel economy figures aren’t looking good, though, especially compared to the Ford Maverick hybrid’s 42 MPG city/33 MPG highway/37 MPG combined (EPA est.), which makes the business case for a hybrid variant stronger.

Hyundai Santa Cruz ConfigurationEPA-estimated Fuel Economy
2.5L GDI FWD22 MPG city/26 MPG highway/23 MPG combined
2.5L GDI AWD21 MPG city/25 MPG highway/23 MPG combined
2.5L TGDI AWD19 MPG city/27 MPG highway/22 MPG combined
The fuel economy of the gas-engined Santa Cruz is no match to the Ford Maverick (hybrid), its biggest rival.

On the Hyundai Santa Cruz Hybrid & Hyundai Santa Cruz EV

Hyundai’s American product planner says they’re tracking consumer demand

On November 17, 2022, CarBuzz spoke about Hyundai’s future electrified models with Olabisi Boyle, the vice president of product planning and mobility strategy for Hyundai Motor North America. One of the potential future programs discussed was the Santa Cruz Hybrid, which Boyle said will be part of the company’s planning if it sees customer demand. The Santa Cruz delivers up to 23 mpg, well behind the Ford Maverick hybrid’s 37 mpg. It is quite possible that many prospective buyers would change their minds about buying the S. Korean pickup truck if it were equipped with a frugal hybrid system. The Maverick hybrid has made up about half of total Maverick sales.

Electrification for Santa Cruz not far off, says Hyundai’s top official

Interestingly, even before the unveiling, Luc Donckerwolke, President and Chief Creative Officer, Hyundai Motor Group, told Autocar that the company would apply an electric powertrain to the Santa Cruz. He said the company would have to wait a bit, but electrification was definitely on the cards for the truck.

The speed of the introduction would depend on the acceptance of the gas-powered models and the demand for hybrid vehicles in this class. With Ford applying pressure with the launch of the highly competitive Maverick hybrid, we don’t see Hyundai waiting too long to bring out its gas-electric truck.

Hyundai’s American CEO drops a different type of hint

On June 16, 2021, José Muñoz hinted to foxnews.com that the combustion engine variant was just the beginning of the Santa Cruz’s story. Muńoz is the Global President and Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai Motor Company and the President and CEO of Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America.

So far we have announced the (Santa Cruz) ICE version, we’ll see what comes next.

José Muñoz, Global Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai Motor Company and President and CEO, Hyundai and Genesis Motor North America

S.Korean report insinuates that the Santa Cruz Hybrid & EV are a done deal!

The Korea Economic Daily reported on September 21, 2021, that Hyundai plans to launch a Santa Cruz hybrid and a Santa Cruz EV. It claimed that Hyundai will launch the Santa Cruz Electric on the same platform as the gasoline pickup and not the E-GMP dedicated EV architecture. According to its sources, the company is yet to firm up the Hyundai Santa Cruz EV release date, but several months have gone by since the report, and the Hyundai HQ has likely already put tentative dates on the calendar for future variants.

The Hyundai Tucson, on which the Santa Cruz is based, is offered in a hybrid variant with a 1.6-liter gas turbo engine, a 44.2 kW electric motor, and a 1.49 kWh battery pack. The Hyundai Tucson PHEV takes this a step further with a 66.9 kW motor and a 13.8 kWh battery pack. It has an EPA-est. pure electric range of 33 miles.

Platform supports advanced powertrains

According to a report from autoblog.com, Hyundai representatives have revealed that the platform of the Santa Cruz supports advanced powertrains. Potentially, a pure electric powertrain or a fuel cell powertrain could be fitted on a vehicle on this base, suggests the report. The representatives did not confirm plans for a Santa Cruz Electric or a Santa Cruz FCEV, but it would not be a technical challenge if demand arises.

The Santa Cruz, hybrid, EV or ICE, isn’t a workhorse like the body-on-frame Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux. Akin to the Honda Ridgeline, it’s more of a recreational or light-work truck, fit to transport motorcycles, bicycles, camping gear, and light-duty work tools and equipment.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Electric rendering
TopElectricSUV.com’s rendering shows the potential look of the Hyundai Santa Cruz Electric derived from the ICE model.

If launched in the current generation, the Hyundai Santa Cruz Electric would be a conversion of the existing ICE model, not a new truck developed from the ground up. Its overall dimensions and proportions would be similar, but it could feature an extensively modified front and rear. For example, it could have functional changes such as a closed, body-colored panel instead of a radiator grille, aerodynamic alloy wheels, and redesigned tail lights and bumpers.

Release Date

Hyundai is tight-lipped about the launch timeline of the first electrified Santa Cruz. We expect the hybrid model to debut by 2025, and more details to emerge this year. It’s likely that the company will reveal the facelifted Santa Cruz later this year, but there’s no official word on the availability of an electrified powertrain in the refresh.

Hyundai Santa Cruz sales

Hyundai kicked off production of the gas-powered Santa Cruz on June 22, 2021. The company manufactures the truck at the Montgomery (Alabama) plant in the United States. This is the first time it is making five vehicles at once at the American plant; Elantra, Tucson, Sonata, and Santa Fe are the other models built at this site. The South Korean automaker’s first open-bed vehicle for North America reached U.S. dealerships in the weeks that followed.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz front three quarters production
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) is the exclusive manufacturer of the Hyundai Santa Cruz worldwide. Image Source: Hyundai

Hyundai started selling the Santa Cruz in the U.S. in July 2021. In 2023, the company delivered 36,675 units of the Santa Cruz in the U.S. Compared to the same period in 2022, the compact pickup truck’s sales in 2023 were 1% higher.

TopElectricSUV says

Ford is America’s biggest truck brand, so it’s no surprise they’ve managed to convince many customers to take the Maverick over the Santa Cruz. Considering the Santa Cruz’s low fuel economy and the need to close the gap with competitors, it’s imperative that the powertrain strategy includes variety. In addition to lowering the Santa Cruz’s running costs, hybrid and pure-electric powertrains can add fresh appeal to the truck, and even give it the invaluable first-mover advantage in case of the latter.

Hyundai Santa Cruz FAQs

What is the release date of the Hyundai Santa Cruz truck?

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is at U.S. dealers since 2021, with the hybrid variant expected to go on sale by 2025.

Which pickup trucks are the Santa Cruz alternatives?

The Hyundai Santa Cruz challenges the Ford Maverick and the Honda Ridgeline.

What is the Hyundai Santa Cruz price?

The Hyundai Santa Cruz’s prices start at USD 26,650.