Driving by the local Hyundai dealer’s empty lot this afternoon I spied an unfamiliar shape parked out front, ooh, one of the new Santa Cruz pickups! This highly anticipated small pickup is finally starting to roll out to the public and apparently has beaten the Ford Maverick to market. While Maverick was pretty cool in Top Gun, I have to say Val Kilmer as Iceman came across as a bit tougher there so let’s see what this coincidentally Ice White example in the SEL trim level has to offer on the surface and roughly compare it to the Maverick.
The front view is pretty much that of the Hyundai Tucson, which the Santa Cruz borrows heavily from mechanically as well. Assembly is at the same factory in Alabama whereas the Ford is built in Mexico on a joint line with the Escape and Bronco Sport. Hyundai has been doing some innovative things with their front ends as regards lighting lately and I rather like the look, it’s different enough to stand out without being completely over the top. It’ll also provide a significant contrast to the more traditional front end and overall styling of the Maverick.
The DRLs and the turn signals are integrated into the grille. Having seen a Tucson at dusk, it is very distinctive and modern. I believe the actual headlights are the ones lower nearer the corners, at least they shouldn’t blind oncomers from there. The big advantage for other road users of these smaller trucks is that they are unibody and as such the suspension doesn’t really allow for full Bro-truck lifts and the resulting blinding headlight heights.
The Santa Cruz is available in four trim levels – SE, SEL, SEL Premium, and Limited. This one can be identified as a regular SEL without a lot of options due to having turn signal repeaters in the side mirrors but still having unpainted door handles. The base price of the SE is $23,990 plus a mandatory $1,185 destination fee for a total of $25,175. The pictured SEL with the addition of the $1,500 AWD option would be $29,875 including destination.
In contrast, Ford has made a huge deal about the under $20k starting price of the Maverick. Of course the required destination charge is $1,495 for a real starting total of $21,490. Still impressive but the scuttlebutt is that Ford will apparently make very few of these entry level hybrid engined value leaders available and is apparently concentrating on higher spec 4×4 turbocharged models with commensurately higher price points. Seeing this relatively lower spec Santa Cruz made me happy, Hyundai doesn’t seem to be just concentrating on higher profit models. Even this particular one at just under $30k will have automatic headlights, auto highbeams, heated mirrors, tinted windows, remote release tailgate, proximity key with push button start, storage compartments in the bed sides as well as a large lockable under bed trunk, power driver seat with power lumbar, the 8″ touchscreen, wireless AndroidAuto and Apple CarPlay, Satellite radio, Hyundai’s BlueLink, remote start, and a plethora of other stuff standard with a few other things as options. $30k is not a lot of money anymore, but it can still go a long way in the new car market if making measured choices.
This Santa Cruz features H-Trac, Hyundai’s optional AWD system. Otherwise FWD as in the regular Tucson, it’s basically a slip and grip type of system and likely just fine for inclement weather, snow, and light off-roading. It’d probably do just fine crossing the western deserts from Tonopah, NV, to Alvord Lake, OR should one of us so desire one day. The additional cost for this system as mentioned is $1,500, likely well worth it. Engine-wise there are two engines available on the Tucson, this one has the standard 2.5liter 4cylinder producing 191hp and 181lb-ft of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic.
The other engine that is available on the two upper trim levels is much more powerful at 281hp and 311lb-ft paired with a dual clutch 8-speed setup (different than the other 8-speed). Note that the Tucson is available as a hybrid so there is no reason that the SC couldn’t be so as well in the future, likely Hyundai will be watching Ford closely in this regard. 21mpg City, 27Highway, and 23Average are the published EPA fuel economy numbers for this particular AWD SEL version, well below that of a hybrid engine but better than most other pickup trucks. Then again, the Ford will for whatever reasons not be available with the hybrid and AWD in the same truck so if a customer feels they need AWD, then the hybrid is out of the running anyway and the absolute base price for the cheapest Maverick with AWD and Destination would be $24,795 compared to the cheapest Santa Fe AWD and Destination at $26,675. The killer app would seem to be for Hyundai to offer the AWD Hybrid setup from the Tucson which there starts at right around $30k.
But check out that back end! I think the lights on the tailgate are a mistake, they seem very vulnerable there. I tried to open it but it’s tied in to the the regular door locks. The bumper has many areas to step on and the whole thing is not particularly high off the ground, at least not as compared to most other trucks these days.
Hyundai has no compunctions about seeing a great idea on other trucks (GMs in this case) and using it themselves, namely the corner step cutout. I’ve long found this a great solution but since it wasn’t invented at the two other Detroit truck maker’s offices, it’s not available on their trucks. But the bumper also has two other height levels of step areas, both above and below this one. If you can’t get up there, there’s no hope for you. It’s rated to tow 3,500 pounds with the standard engine, and 5,000 with the higher spec one. That’s plenty of mulch.
For all the hubbub about how the Maverick is supposedly a “small” truck”, it’s only 10.8″ shorter than the current Ranger, i.e. not really small at all. The Santa Cruz is actually smaller, with a length that is four inches shorter than the Ford. It doesn’t come across as any kind of “mini”-truck though. A Hyundai Tucson isn’t Hyundai’s smallest CUV either anymore and the SC is 14″ longer than it. It fits in well with normal sized vehicles. Parked to the left from this view of it is a Hyundai Kona and to the right a previous generation Tucson, the current one is half a foot longer.
However the Maverick’s bed is a couple of inches longer, the Hyundai’s is about 4.3 feet long, measured at the base. Note how the top of the bed at the front angles back a bit, that takes a few inches out of it at that level. Supposedly a motorcycle will fit if the tailgate is lowered. Bicycles should fit if the wheel is draped over the tailgate as one does these days. Many other things will fit. Some things will not. No matter the truck, there’s always a bigger load available somewhere to dwarf it.
This is a fairly basic truck, there are various bed accessories sold and or equipped in other trim levels such as lighting, hard tonneau covers, tie-downs and all the other stuff. It’s made of a sheet-molded compound similar to the Honda Ridgeline’s, rust and wear should be non-issues. And the bed isn’t long enough for some moron foreman at the jobsite to drop a pallet of cinderblocks in it from eight feet in the air so there’s an advantage!
Standard 18″alloys come equipped with very highway oriented rubber. That’s likely a wise choice as most of these will never see any real off-road action. The payoff however will be noticed by the driver with the Santa Cruz likely driving and handling much like a Tucson, i.e. more like a regular car or CUV than any of the body on frame mid-size trucks.
Even at this fairly low-spec trim level it still seems to have cloth seats that are heated (buttons just ahead of the armrest) and a large touch screen. All trims except the top get a couple of knobs (actually thumbwheels) for volume and tuning. The HVAC is manual here. Hyundai’s interior design and plastic/material quality has become quite good in the last few years and this seems to continue in that vein. Take note that the front seat looks quite far back here, someone with a much larger inseam than me seems to have been in it.
Which might be why the back seat legroom looks meager. I think with a more normal sized person in front (such as me at 6’1″ and 32″inseam) this would be much better. But it’ll never be full-size crew cab sized.
The view through the back window gives a better idea of the center console. Pockets in the front seatbacks are handy, but air vents in the back of the console would be more welcome if given a choice. This one doesn’t have a sunroof but that’s available as well.
That California magic likely still helps sell stuff. Hyundai should really push both that and the fact that it’s actually built in the United States. Combined with the warranty that is being offered it’s pretty clear that Hyundai is an industry leader these days.
While I myself constantly debate trading my older truck in for a new one, I actually make very frequent use of the 6.5″ long bed on mine. So for now this and the Maverick would likely frustrate me. However if I ever stopped fixing up houses and/or moved to a house with less yardage to deal with I’d be extremely interested in something of this size. One trick they missed is the removable mid-gate that the Subaru Baja had (along with the larger Avalanche) in the bulkhead, in the Subaru it really made it convenient/possible to load longer items. The Santa Cruz offers an optional opening rear window (not on this truck) so perhaps that’s the way to get longer (and skinny) items in.
In fact, I can easily see Toyota, Honda, and anyone else with a CUV that’s built in North America simply adding an open bed version to the mix and joining the fray. It wouldn’t take much to add it to the assembly line, and a RAV4 Ute or CR-VU or Equin-Ute or even a new Cherokee based Comanche would possibly add volume without stealing much if any of the mid-size or full-size thunder. If nothing else, a CUV based truck has to be considered more macho than a CUV full stop if that’s what’s possibly keeping some of the gents out of the showrooms.
I’ve heard opinions that the Maverick will end up being the bargain and the Santa Cruz will be positioned more premium, however I don’t really see it that way. My opinion so far is that the Maverick will end up being a fairly pricey proposition when equipped as people tend to want vehicles (most people don’t want to emulate the NAPA delivery driver or the Orkin man) and the Hyundai seems very well equipped even at its lower trim levels, I think there will be far more cross-shopping going on than perhaps anticipated. But even if I’m wrong, it is always exciting to see a new segment develop, both will likely sell quite well.
While I initially thought that the Santa Cruz would remind me more of the Subaru Baja, it really didn’t although the size is somewhat similar. It doesn’t look as odd as the Baja did and kind of still does, and far more of a piece. How will it compare to the Maverick? We shall see, as of yet I have not seen one of those in the flesh.
This looks like a very nice truck. I like it.
Useless as a real truck.
But extremely useful as something that many people will be able to use for what they might actually want an open-backed vehicle for.
I’m having a hard time finding any new “real truck” that seats a small family, includes AWD/4WD, an open bed of any sort, and gets decent fuel economy at anywhere remotely near near the sub $30k price point of this and the Maverick, never mind the actual entry level price.
Of course, anything that can’t haul an 80,000 lb GCW over the Rockies and Sierras isn’t a “real” truck either. I like it, a lot, just two problems for me. No hybrid drivetrain yet (nor on the Maverick with AWD). And worse yet, there’s no Hyundai dealership here in Santa Cruz California, so I can’t buy a Santa Cruz to haul my Santa Cruz (bike) in Santa Cruz. Whereas if I were a surfer, which I’m not, I could buy a Maverick locally to haul my board to Maverick’s. Though I think it will be tidier to sling a bike over the tailgate on one of these, than to have a longboard sticking way off the back.
Yup if you can’t haul 2 tons of gravel or tow a 20k trailer than it is useless and they shouldn’t even bother making them. But then you could make that argument for the most popular pickups sold today the 1/2 ton crew cab with a 5.5′ bed.
Fact is there are a lot of uses for this and the Maverick that I’ve done with my Scout II Cab top and its 5′ bed. Lawn mower, pressure washer, vanity, toilet, washers, dryers, smaller amounts of bulk materials and on and on. The big plus for me though is the back seat, not neccessarily for carrying people but as a place to put the more valuable things like power tools that you also want to keep out of the weather.
This and the Maverick are set up for carrying 4×8 sheet goods with flat tops on the wheel wells and a tailgate that can be set at the same height. So while it might not be good for bringing home 20 sheets of whatever for the person who is buying just a couple sheets and only does so on rare occasions it will get the job done and be easier to deal with the other 364 days of the year.
I like it that they have stamped the name into the tailgate, but I don’t think I could get used to the strange black blobs at the tops of the wheel arches. It would be nice to see Toyota enter this market with a pickup using the current RAV4 drivetrains.
Those blobs are weird, like someone forgot to remove the molding tabs.
The grille is hideous. And the tail lights are silly — reminding me of the late 1970s GM cars with tail lights in the bumpers. Otherwise, it looks (as an erstwhile colleague was wont to say) “pretty OK”. 🙂
The price point, to me, is actually pretty impressive. Although, given the current vehicle situation, I presume the first round, at least, will bring in considerably more than the sticker price as buyers fight for the meagre amount of stock available.
Looks you could grate some serious cheese with that front end.
Hyundai seems to be leading the market when it comes to crass, overdone grille textures. I wonder where they can go from here? No, I don’t want to see it…..
Have you seen their new van?
Nice ute, of course not available here as far as I know and without a turbo diesel it wouldnt sell anyway.
It’s rated to tow 3,500 pounds with the standard engine, and 5,000 with the higher spec one. That’s plenty of mulch.
Yep. And the back seat is a great place to keep groceries and dogs out of the rain. My guess is that they’ll sell well if they can make enough of them, considering the chip shortage.
Middle Aged Suburban Dad here and I totally understand the appeal. Let me begin by saying that I dislike the way fullsize pickups ride and drive for daily use. I will “pay more for less” to have something that is a pleasure to commute in.
What I like about these utes (Santa Cruz/Maverick) is the bed is useful and the towing capacity means that it is easy to utilize a trailer for those handful of times per year that you need a “real truck”.
My problem is that I like the Hyundai better but want it in a trim level + engine combo that they don’t build. I want a plain SEL with the turbo and AWD. When it comes down to it I’d end up with a Maverick XLT Ecoboost AWD tow package for that reason.
Count me in with those liking this (and quite likely the Maverick). I can really see the appeal.
I’ve been rather attracted to the Ridgeline but it’s a bit pricier.
Thanks for this look at it as I’ve not really educated myself on it yet. I’m convinced this will be a growing segment. How big is hard to say but as you said, it’s going to make CUVs a lot more palatable to men.
These platforms have become the basic “car” and a ute version makes gobs of sense. It will be interesting to see how this segment does in the coming years.
So what’s with those “peel here” tabs on the tops of those not-fender flares?
Just checked the Canadian pricing – only two models, Preferred and Ultimate.
Pricing: Preferred $40,454, Ultimate $46,754. That’s in cdn funds with $1825 freight included.
Jesus, those prices are nosebleedy.
It seems you don’t get our two lower trims (including the one pictured) or the non-turbo engine. Your base model is our third from the bottom with turbo power, the dual clutch tranny and the tonneau cover etc as standard.
It’s the perfect truck for those who don’t really need a truck!
I looked at one in the showroom last week when I was getting my “free oil change” at the Hyundai dealer on my 2021 Tuscon. The SC is quite nice in person.
If I had not purchased the 2021 Tuscon last year, and this was available, I would have bought one.
This one will be a winner. Don’t care for the ugly front, good thing is it will likely tend to wake up sleepy drivers it approaches. Too bad no manual transmission. Otherwise, I might be interested.
I love, love, love the grille/headlight treatment. A couple of months ago I passed an oncoming Tuscon in the neighborhood and was shocked by the integrated look- I had not yet seen one in photos. First time in at least a decade that I had seen something really new in design.
If I needed a pickup, this and the Maverick would be on my short list- only ones that would really fit in my garage. Otherwise, I’m not too crazy about putting my groceries in a back seat. Even my Buick’s tiny enclosed storage area is sufficient.
There is a 1959 Buick vibe in the front end styling. I would expect that this will do well in the market. This looks to be a practical vehicle for many.
I was thinking that too. Amazing that a late fifties Buick would be more tasteful than a new car/truck/thingy.
I like the idea, but it’s a bit overstyled. I guess Hyundai is aiming to be the “expressive design” manufacturer! This is like the new Explorer Sport Trac. I can see the market for this. These are much easier to load bikes in as compared to putting them in the back of a small SUV. You can also put dirty stuff in there as opposed to putting it in your nice clean SUV. I used to stuff all kind of nasty stuff in the back of my old ’96 Explorer that I’ll never put in my fancy newer Flex!I have a truck with an 8 ft. bed, but it’s not a quad cab, it works for me and the Wife, but even three abreast is too cramped for anything more than a short trip. I’m sure that this will fit the needs of a lot of small families. A full size crew cab is really nice, but the fuel economy is too low for commuting, and they are now so expensive.
I really like this. Unfortunately, even though its perfectly sized for our roads, it isn’t coming to the UK. A shame as it would make a nice urban alternative to the Rangers and D-Max’s that seem to be everywhere, usually driven by DBs….
Nice approximation of a “Salt Flat” style wheel.
Immediate impression: hideous. If I really needed a standard small truck I’d go early 90s Toyota, Nissan, or Mazda manual. Those are trucks I can use and this is I don’t know what. My Parklane has a bigger trunk than that has for a bed in the back. No manual is a death sentence for me. I have always been an outlier…
Cab & a half available??? Regular cab available??? I don’t want 4 doors on a truck. To me It’s a car with an open trunk… Why does everyone think we need 4 door pick-ups???
Dogs. Over half of US households have at least one.
No dogs ride in my cab. They ride in the bed or they don’t ride at all. Maybe that’s why I don’t one one. 🙂
All in the family:
Because 4-door models make up 90%+ of pickup sales. If you’re gonna take the time and money to make variants of a unibody chassis, there has to be a strong business case for them.
Depending on how these and the Mavericks sell, I’m sure Toyota, Honda and Nissan are ready to jump in. No reason as to why Subaru isn’t already there.
Not crazy about the front end design, but on the other hand Hyundai makes a good quality vehicle so I doubt design will hold sales back. They need to integrate a trailer hitch.
Personally I’m looking forward to the Maverick, mainly because of the hybrid setup.
Interesting comment about the bumper step. It’s a brilliant idea; I know the X-terra had them too. Remember when Chevy made fun of Ford for the built-in foldout tailgate step?
I like the towing capacity, that would be enough for any camping trailer I’d want. I can put my camping gear in the bed and still carry four people. It’s not a lifted brodozer that I need a stepladder to get into the drivers seat or the bed. It likely rides okay and is pleasing to drive on the highway. It gets half again the mileage of a Denali while being 2/3 the price.
This one will be a hit for Hyundai
I still prefer the Maverick for its more conventional trucky styling, but the 5K towing capacity of the SC would come in handy. Too bad neither has a pass-through/midgate like the Baja or Avalanche did. Will definitely be looking at either one of these compact CUV pickups (or any others that might jump into the pool) in a few years.
I’m probably the only one here who googled to see who Santa Cruz was. First missionary among the Guarani people of Paraguay, huh? And now he has a truckoid vehicle named after him!
It’s more likely named after Santa Cruz, the city in CA. That would go with Santa Fe (NM), Tucson (AZ), Palisade (either Palisade, Colorado or Pacific Palisades in CA), and Kona (HI),
I am late here, but this looks interesting. I drive past a Hyundai dealer 2x/day but have not seen any of these yet.
If history is any guide, Ford may build a high percentage of loaded-up versions at intro time. I think this is always the goal with a new model, and if they sell, then all is good. And if not, they can always chunk out the low-trim models later to sell to the price-conscious. Given the current market with the chip shortage, I would guess that Ford will have better luck than normal building and selling a lower number of high-spec trucks.
I have wondered how the chip shortage is distributed. It would seem that the company that lost capacity would be a problem for those manufactures who contracted with it, while those who contracted with the others might be less affected (at least until contracts have been fulfilled). In my area it seems that the Hyundai/Kia dealers have a much more plentiful supply than either Mercedes or GM (at least by my little unscientific survey of all the dealerships that surround my office.)
When I saw this car there were several other dealers around the same area, I drove through all the lots, here’s what I found:
Hyundai – about 40% as many cars as normal, but still an okay selection of most but not all models. No Palisade or Venue, a number of Tucson and Kona and Elantra, a few Sonatas.
Chevrolet – Maybe 15-20 cars where there are normally well over a hundred. A minimal number of trucks and SUVs. But one Bolt!
Subaru – Very meager selection, usually close to 200 cars, now maybe a dozen or 20. They are taking the opportunity to remodel and expand the showroom square footage.
Mercedes – Well under half (maybe a third at most) of the number of cars than normal. A decent selection of 4×4 Sprinters and a couple Metris now that #Vanlife has morphed into #Getbackintotheofficenow
Mini – Four cars. Usually well over 100. Never thought I’d see the day that they sold everything…
GMC/Buick – About 12-20 trucks and SUVs and couple of random Buicks.
Ford – Maybe 15-20 vehicles in total, including a brand new Bronco 4door demo. The back parking area which usually holds over 200 vehicles had four.
BMW – About 30 cars, usually a couple of hundred.
Every dealer has gotten very skilled at making each car take up as much real estate as possible though!
I mostly like the looks of the SC, but those wheels are just awful, and the color choices are a joke. I don’t usually like white, but it’s by far the best choice out of the awful color palate offered.
If I still had dogs, I wouldn’t mind having an SC for a winter driver. Too expensive, especially for the only ones I would consider buying. I just can’t tolerate gutless vehicles.
Love mine practicality. Fun to drive easy on gas.not a massive chunk of metal like full size truck that is wasted every time ur behind driving it ..95% never are hauling anything except a tank full of gas