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Door still open for Hyundai utes

By Daniel Gardner, 17 Sep 2020 Car News

2016 Hyundai Creta STC concept

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Hyundai’s entry into the ultra-popular Australian ute market is still on the cards as the company’s eagerly awaited pick-up foray nears production, and the mysterious model could arrive guns blazing with a mighty straight-six diesel under its bonnet.

While the final forecourt version is yet to be revealed and detailed, the South Korean car maker has confirmed a pick up model dubbed the Santa Cruz will be offered in selected global markets including the US, but Australia is still waiting to be added to that list.

However, Hyundai head of global design SangYup Lee has offered a tantalising glimpse that a ute of some description could join the existing line-up in local showrooms.

2016 Hyundai Creta STC
2016 Hyundai Creta STC concept

Speaking to WhichCar, SangYup Lee said the car giant will be assessing the reaction to the model’s roll-out in America and considering other market regions as part of the global model strategy.

“When the car (Santa Cruz) comes out and you guys write an article saying we want this in the Australian market big-time, nothing’s actually concrete and everything’s open, so we’ll see what happens,” he said.

It’s not clear if the vehicle in question is a right-hand drive version of the model that will be launching in North America or an entirely separate entity rolling on a different platform that has been previously hinted at by Hyundai Australia - or perhaps something in between.

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz
2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

While the American Santa Cruz will be built on a more car-like monocoque, a larger ladder-frame model is understood to be under development, but Lee threw another option into the mix that was pointing directly at an Australian audience.

“I visualise the ute as having the front part as a monocoque versus a frame part at the back,” he said. “I love Australian car culture – it’s very diverse, it’s very unique, there’s V8s, and I keep it in my mind that the design also will work in Australia.”

Lee doubtlessly has an intimate understanding of Australian cars, tastes and demand having spent two years living in Melbourne while developing the previous-generation Camaro at Holden’s design centre.

2016 Hyundai Creta STC
2016 Hyundai Creta STC concept

“Santa Cruz is coming,” he said. “We are finalising the design but I always keep in my mind the ute culture that Australia has and nowhere else has. I know the car design tastes of Australian people.”

A model beyond the smaller Santa Cruz is yet to be made official, but Lee did reveal that his design team was exploring other pick up concepts and “many different possible options for the future.”

But the larger ute plot thickens. Remarks made by Hyundai global head of research and development Albert Biermann in January add fuel to the theory a one-tonne model or bigger Santa Cruz variant is in the works.

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz
2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

Speaking at the launch of the new Genesis GV80 in Seoul, Biermann told WhichCar the new luxury model’s straight-six diesel engine will certainly be finding its way into other models across the company’s lines.

“This engine, we can have so many applications,” he said. “As you know, we make also commercial vehicles so this engine will be out there for quite some time”.

If the company is designing a model to use the smooth and powerful 3.0-litre in-line six, it will have a unique ute proposition to offer to power-hungry Australians.

Genesis GV80 diesel engine
Genesis GV80 six-cylinder diesel

Read next: Ford’s iconic Barra straight six

With the end of Mercedes’ X-Class in sight, Volkswagen’s Amarok V6 will soon be the only six-cylinder diesel one-tonner in the local market, but Hyundai’s hardware would level the playing field once again.

While the Santa Cruz concept has received a significant and sustained attention since its reveal in 2015, the Creta STC which emerged a year later has avoided the same spotlight and could be the obvious hint hidden in plain sight.

It’s understood that the most recent Hyundai pick-up concept heralds a model likely destined for Indian or South American markets only, but it might also offer a closer likeness to a model Lee’s team is busy scribbling away on sketch boards in Seoul.