Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup’s design team: ‘It’s not a truck’

The Hyundai HCD-15 Santa Cruz was one of the biggest hits of the North American International Auto Show back in 2015. A year later, the company promised that a production version was a matter of when, not if. Well, it’s been half a decade since then, but the Santa Cruz is finally happening.

Ahead of the Santa Cruz’s April 15 unveil, Hyundai has released a video from its design studio in California talking about the new, well, not-truck. Yes, Hyundai is adamant that “it’s not a truck,” as design manager of Hyundai North America Brad Arnold states in the video. “It’s a Santa Cruz,” he concludes. So, um, it’s a city? A skateboard brand? A school whose mascot is the banana slug?

Turns out, it was meant for the city first and foremost. “It’s meant to thrive in dense urban environments, and the open outdoors,” Arnold states, but the order here seems important. According to spy shots, it shares a lot with the Tucson, and no one would mistake that CUV for being an off-roader.

The unibody architecture with a pickup bed is what Australians would call a ute, but it’s also different than the style best embodied by the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero. Those were low to the ground and had only a bed for cargo. The Santa Cruz, however, will have “both open and closed storage,” according to Arnold.

So it’s more like a Ridgeline, then? Not quite, because if it’s based on a Tucson it’ll be one class smaller than Honda’s midsizer. Function-wise, it seems to fill the void left by the 2WD pickups of the 1970s and 80s, from companies like Toyota, Datsun, Mitsubishi and Isuzu. However, those were of body-on-frame construction, not unibody.

So perhaps the Santa Cruz really is in a class of its own. The Santa Cruz debuts April 15, and even if it’s been six years since the concept, at least Hyundai keeps its promises. Also, it’s not every day that you get to be in a segment of one. That is, until the 2022 Ford Maverick enters the market.

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