Hyundai's first ute revealed: Meet the Santa Cruz

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Words: Matthew Hansen
16 Apr 2021

After plenty of teasers and rumours, Hyundai has finally whipped the covers completely off its new double-cab pick-up, the Santa Cruz. This is the Korean marque’s first ute, coming at a time when the segment is experiencing a global boom.

As previously discussed, the Santa Cruz isn’t necessarily like other utes in that it utilises a car-like unibody architecture underneath instead of a body-on-frame structure like most other utes. This puts it in a similar class to the American-market Honda Ridgeline.

While it looks like its Tucson sibling up front, the Santa Cruz is different in a few critical ways. Its wheelbase is much longer, some 248mm longer to be precise, and it’s 315mm longer overall. In other words, it’s more than a Tucson with its rear end rearranged.

Its bed is 1323mm long, placing it surprisingly close to the likes of the Nissan Navara and other larger utes. Hyundai has clearly tried to blend a smaller footprint with clever packaging to make the Santa Cruz more ‘useful’ than it appears on first glance. Two versions have been detailed thus far, capable of towing 1587kg and 2267kg, respectively.

These figures are directly linked to Hyundai’s two engine options. The first is a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four producing an admittedly wheezy 141kW/244Nm paired to an 8-speed auto. The second is the same engine coupled with a turbocharger, producing a more respectable 205kW/420Nm and paired to a DCT. FWD and AWD will be offered.

The power and torque numbers don’t appear to be finalised, with Hyundai quoting each as being the minimum amount each model is set to develop. A curious loose end to tie up later, then.

In its release about the Santa Cruz, Hyundai seemed to want to have its cake and eat it too. While it frequently positioned the new ute as a “Sport Adventure Vehicle” and not a tradie workhorse, it also drew comparisons with other pick-ups and emphasised its towing prowess.

Inside, the new utility follows some of Hyundai’s recent tech trends, but not all of them. It gets a 10-inch primary touchscreen, and an optional 10-inch digital driver cluster. Bose audio is also an option. Leather upholstery and a comprehensive safety suite also feature.

Production (which will take place in Hyundai’s Alabama plant) is set to kick off in mid-2021, with the first examples hitting American dealerships by the third quarter. It’s unclear whether the new model will be destined for other markets outside of the USA, including New Zealand.

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