Hyundai has today unveiled a concept ute, dubbed “Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Concept” at the Detroit auto show, plugging a major gap in its product lineup.
The Santa Cruz is a new interpretation of the classic ute, according to Hyundai, with the brand hoping to entice not only traditional ute buyers but also Millennials seeking urban adventurer lifestyles. It is somewhere in the middle in term of size between the top-selling Toyota HiLux and the Falcon and Commodore utes, but differs significantly in its appeal in regards to both.
“This new crossover allows them all the expandable utility they need throughout their active week, from work-life professionalism, to social interests, to a whole variety of outdoor pursuits, without the typical compromises they have come to expect from the industry’s current product offerings.” said Mark Dipko, director of corporate planning at Hyundai Motor America.
The Hyundai ute is strictly a concept for now, with production plans still unconfirmed. Nonetheless, Hyundai Australia’s chief operating officer John Elsworth says Australia will absolutely puts its hands up for a ute if and when the model is announced for production.
"We have no doubt such a tough, good-looking Hyundai ute will be popular with Australians," said Elsworth. "But we do not make decisions about which vehicles to bring to market - those decisions are in the hands of our parent company in Korea. However we've made our enthusiasm for the Santa Cruz very clear - it surely has enormous potential - and we look forward to seeing how things progress in the near future."
Based on the next-generation Hyundai ix35 platform, the Santa Cruz concept utilises a familiar 2.0-litre turbo diesel with around 140kW of power and 407Nm of torque, with power driven through an all-wheel drive system. Hyundai quotes fuel economy figures of about 6.5L/100km.
Hyundai says the Santa Cruz steps away from the same attributes as traditional utes, designed instead to appeal to those more interested in efficiency and manoeuvrability.
As such the rear seats use a rear-hinged system for easy access and the Santa Cruz offers an interesting tailgate extension system that allows the tray bed length to be extended when required.
Hyundai says this will make putting a mountain bike or other large items in the tray much easier and once fully extended, the tray will be similar in size to an American mid-size pickup.
Its wide-ranging appeal does lead to some trade-offs though, with the Ute, in concept form at least, not as concerned about traditional ute values such as ‘towing, payload and ground clearance’ which Hyundai says were not primary goals. The South Korean manufacturer claims it is more interested in attracting small SUV and sedan buyers rather than those traditional drawn to utes.
The possibility of a ute (pick-up) for the South Korean brand will add noticeable volume in Australia with Hyundai likely to easily take the number two sales spot behind Toyota.