With the announcement today of the Hyundai Ute concept, ute-loving Australian buyers are no doubt keen to know what, when and how this hugely significant announcement will impact them.
Firstly, it’s important to emphasise that the Hyundai Santa Cruz Pick Up (to give its full name), is purely a concept at this stage, but considering the significant of the utility segment, it’s likely the Santa Cruz will find its way to showrooms in the near future.
That said, even if the concept was to be approved for production almost immediately, it would be at least two to three years away, meaning a 2018 release is the most likely timeframe, though that may stretch into 2019.
Hyundai Australia’s official statement on the matter reads: “The Santa Cruz remains at this stage a pure concept only – no plans have yet been announced for its design and production. However, the market opportunities for the vehicle globally are very real, not least in Australia.”
Hyundai is not a newcomer to light commercial vehicles, having successfully marketed the iLoad and iMax range of vans for a number of years, so it stands to reason that buyers will take to a Hyundai ute without too much convincing.
In terms of its position in the ute segment, the Hyundai Santa Cruz ute is in a mid of a midway point, it will likely be smaller than the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 but slightly larger than the Commodore and Falcon Utes, occupying an interesting space once the locally manufactured duo end production.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the Detroit Auto Show today, Hyundai Australia’s chief operating officer John Elsworth said the brand is confident the ute will appeal to local buyers
“I don’t see any reason why not,” Elsworth said in regards to the ute’s local appeal. “We don’t have any problem attracting customers in any segment that we go into. I think the iLoad gives us a lot of confidence that there’s plenty of tradesmen out there that have a Hyundai ute on their shopping list.”
The Hyundai Ute concept is based on the next-generation ix35 SUV platform, which will mean availability in all-wheel drive, but whether the ute will also be available in rear-wheel drive remains to be seen.
In terms of powertrains, the Hyundai Ute concept is powered by a similar 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as that found in the ix35, delivering around 142kW of power and 407Nm of torque.
It’s likely that the 2.0-litre diesel will be joined by either the company’s four-cylinder 2.4-litre or a 2.0-litre petrol turbo. There’s also the possibility of a new-generation of engines we are yet to see.
Although the official Hyundai press release about the Ute concept says the company hasn’t prioritised towing capacity and ground clearance, both of those will be instrumental to the vehicle’s success in Australia.
It’s not yet known where the Ute will be made, but Elsworth believes it will be irrelevant in today’s global production market.
“The production origins of cars don’t really matter. It can be made in North America, no real impediment for shipping cars from USA to Australia, we wouldn’t be pioneers in developing the shipping plans. Thailand would be more beneficial with the free trade agreement and it’s closer, but no production capacity in Thailand at this stage.”
The concept name, Santa Cruz, is also unlikely to follow to the production model, at least for Australia. Hyundai’s naming convention sees the ‘i’ badge used for European-centric vehicles and actual names for North American cars, so it’s likely the ute will also carry an actual name rather than an ‘i’ designation, though that remains to be confirmed.