UPDATE, April 12: The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz pick-up truck has been teased further by the Korean automaker, appearing in a short 46-second video that explores the vehicle's design language.
Brad Arnold, Hyundai's design manager for North America, said the ethos of the pick-up from its outset was to be a unique lifestyle utility vehicle.
"We started designing the Santa Cruz with the premise that this is not a traditional truck – it's something new," Arnold said.
"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 both open and closed storage."
Arnold also explained that the design philosophy of "constructed by contrast" was employed throughout the Santa Cruz's creation.
"Constructed by contrast became our guiding principle throughout the design process," Arnold said.
"Everything, from its proportions to its lighting conveys that it's not a truck – it's a Santa Cruz."
Sadly, the avant-garde pick-up won't be coming Down Under, as it is being made in left-hand drive only.
The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz will be unveiled on April 15.
The story to here
April 1: The upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz small ute, first revealed as a concept at the Detroit motor show way back in 2015, is nearly upon us.
Well, not ‘us’ down here in Australia – but rather the US. The Santa Cruz is confirmed only for left-hand-drive production, with a sales program that focuses on the North American market.
Speaking with WhichCar today, a Hyundai Australia spokesperson confirmed the bad news.
"Santa Cruz will launch globally in left-hand-drive only, so it will not be available for the Australian market.
"We expressed interest in Santa Cruz, and believe it could carve out a niche in the Australian market, but with production coming from our Alabama plant the business case for development of right-hand-drive wasn’t practicable."
These new teaser images show an evolution of the earlier Santa Cruz concept, with the same car-like unibody idea lending the car more of a Holden Ute look rather than the familiar ladder-frame design used by conventional pickup utes.
Still, with models like the El Camino and Subaru Brat (known here as the Brumby) now long absent from markets, the Santa Cruz will be a unique offering in the US – at least until Ford’s small new Maverick ute appears to combat it. Honda’s Ridgeline could also be considered a rival.
The Santa Cruz is expected to share its platform with the Santa Fe SUV, which underscores its sporting, car-like purpose.
Key among the design changes, apart from a Tucson-like sharpening of the Santa Cruz's character lines, is the change from a 'suicide door' layout to a conventional four-door design. That change has led to a longer rear door, which likely hints at better leg room for rear passengers.
Tell us: what do you think of the new look, compared to the svelte lines of the original concept?
Is Australia forever ruled out for Santa Cruz?
Probably, but a proper big Hyundai ute of some sort is surely in the works, with design boss SangYup Lee telling WhichCar in 2020 that the Australian market’s almost freaky passion for utes – and the sales potential for such an offering – has moved the brand to stop short of outright denying us.
“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.
That’s a somewhat vague quote, however, and it’s just as likely that what we’ll get is a bigger and more capable Ranger-sized Hyundai ute – the likes of which, Hyundai Australia’s management is surely frothing at the mouth to get its hands on.
“I visualise the ute as having the front part as a monocoque versus a frame part at the back,” SangYup Lee added.
“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.”
Comments from the Australian operations boss of Hyundai's sibling Kia, Damien Meredith, suggest a proper ute is "logical" – particularly as he has been more forthcoming about plans on the Kia side of the fence.
“Work has begun," Meredith told WhichCar last year.
"We’re talking about a pick-up, dual-cab and single-cab. What we’ve requested [for Australia] is the full gambit of a ute: double-cab, dual-cab, diesel and petrol."
There's very little chance that a Kia ute will not be joined here by another with an oval-wrapped H badge.