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

Update: ‘On the Hyundai Santa Cruz Hybrid & Hyundai Santa Cruz EV’ and ‘Hyundai Santa Cruz sales’ sections updated.

Hyundai Motor showed the Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show that signified 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 new Tucson (the Tucson and Santa Cruz are mechanically related, if you haven’t guessed already!).

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

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.

Video Source: YouTube/Hyundai USA

Specifications

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is available with 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 highway (EPA est.), which makes the business case for a hybrid variant stronger.

Hyundai Santa Cruz ConfigurationEPA-estimated Fuel Economy
2.5L GDI FWD21 MPG city/26 MPG highway/23 MPG combined
2.5L GDI AWD21 MPG city/27 MPG highway/23 MPG combined
2.5L TGDI FWDTo Be Announced
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) which is its biggest rival.

On the Hyundai Santa Cruz Hybrid & Hyundai Santa Cruz EV

Interestingly, even before the unveiling, Hyundai’s Chief Creative Officer, Luc Donckerwolke, told Autocar UK 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. Donckerwolke didn’t mention a timetable but we expect to see the first electrified Santa Cruz by 2023.

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.

On June 16, 2021, Jose Munoz hinted to foxnews.com that the combustion engine variant was just the beginning of the Santa Cruz’s story.

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

Jose Munoz, Global Chief Operating Officer of Hyundai (brand) and the president and CEO of the company’s American and North American subsidiaries.

The Korea Economic Daily reported on September 21, 2021, that Hyundai plans to launch a Santa Cruz hybrid and also a Santa Cruz EV. It claimed that Hyundai will launch the Santa Cruz EV 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 new Hyundai Tucson on which the Santa Cruz is based is offered with a 44.2 kW electric motor and a 1.49 kWh battery pack with a 1.6-liter gas turbo engine, and the Hyundai Tucson PHEV takes this a step further with a 13.8 kWh battery pack enabling a 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 for either.

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, as well as redesigned tail lights, and bumpers.

Hyundai Santa Cruz sales

Hyundai kicked off production of the gas-powered Santa Cruz on June 22, 2021. The company manufactures the pickup 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 starts reaching U.S. dealerships in the following weeks.

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. By December 2021, in a period of six months, it sold 10,042 units of its first pickup in the country, well below the 13,258 units of the Maverick in 2021.

Hyundai sold 8,400 units of the Santa Cruz in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2022. In April 2022, the company delivered 3,150 trucks, bringing the year-to-date sales total to 11,550 units. Ford’s Maverick is way ahead, with 19,245 units sold in Q1 2022, 9,537 units in April 2022, and 28,782 in total (January-April 2022). Ford is America’s biggest truck brand, so it’s no surprise they’ve managed to convince a lot of customers to take the Maverick over the Santa Cruz.

We await details about the Hyundai Santa Cruz Hybrid, and this page will soon be updated!

Hyundai Santa Cruz FAQs

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

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is now on sale, with the hybrid variant expected within two years.

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 24,440.

Featured image: Hyundai