For those in Aotearoa who smacked their lips this morning at the sight of Hyundai’s new compact Santa Cruz — a Sport Adventure Vehicle take on the ute segment — I have some sad news.
A spokesperson from Hyundai New Zealand has confirmed that the model is exclusively left-hand drive, and so will not be making its way to our shores. “The Santa Cruz is currently only available in LHD so not an option yet for our market,” they said in brief.
The use of “currently” in the short statement may get some people excited, but it’s worth reading what Hyundai Australia has said before getting your counter-attack hopes up.
In a statement to CarAdvice, the Korean firm’s Australian arm acknowledged that it thought a ute would be a compelling addition to its line-up given the success of the genre in Australia, only for the finances to not make sense for right-hand drive production.
“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,” said the Hyundai Australia statement.
The ongoing lack of a ute product in this part of the world keeps Hyundai out of the fierce double-cab ute game.
Out of the mainstream distributors offered in New Zealand (not including premium marques), Hyundai, Kia, Citroen, Seat, Cupra, Haval, Honda, MG, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Subaru, and Suzuki don’t sell a ute locally. It’s worth noting that Seat and Cupra’s parent company, Volkswagen, sells the Amarok, and Haval’s sister firm GWM sells the Cannon. Honda, MG, Peugeot, and Renault offer utes in other markets.
As reported earlier today, the Santa Cruz follows the Honda Ridgeline playbook in being based on a unibody platform instead of a ladder chassis. This will likely make it more ‘car-like’ from behind the wheel than other utes, a thought aided by the all-petrol engine line-up.
Two powertrains will be offered; a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four and the same 2.5-litre but with a turbocharger strapped on. The former produces 141kW/244Nm and is paired to an 8-speed auto, while the latter makes 205kW/420Nm mated to a DCT. FWD and AWD will be offered, too.
Its bed is 1323mm long, placing it surprisingly close to some 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.
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.