When a body shell for the coming Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup took a spin in the sunshine, someone nearby helped themselves to a cellphone picture. The picture ended up with Motor1, giving all of us a glimpse of the detailing we'll find on the production model slated for production next year. Hyundai has a decent track record at maintaining at least the spirit of a concept through to production, but automaker lead designer SangYup Lee said last year that the pickup's look "has evolved to better fit with Hyundai's most recent models," the design now "more distinctive, with more character." This is how we get the low, heavily raked windshield, C-pillar canted toward the bed, and conspicuous wheel arches from the HCD-15 Santa Cruz concept, as well as the three character lines converging to a point on the front door, copying a facet of the 2021 Hyundai Elantra's "polyhedral appearance" and "Parametric Design."
The concept was based on the Tucson platform, but the production model adopts the larger Santa Fe architecture. The 2020 Santa Fe crossover is 1.8 inches wider and 11.4 inches longer than the 2020 Tucson, providing a fair bit more room for five occupants. We still wonder how much the Santa Cruz bed will fit. The other unibody pickup on the market right now, the Honda Ridgeline, is just 0.2 inches wider than the Santa Fe, but 22.2 inches longer. It's clear Hyundai's reworked the Santa Fe aft of the B-pillar on this Santa Cruz body shell, though — the rear door's shutline doesn't extend as far back, the fuel filler cap is on the opposite side, and the taillight cutouts don't match the Santa Fe's rear lights. The concept showed off an extending bed, which would have been a neat feature for production, but we don't expect it. A novel tailgate operation would be cool, though.
If the Santa Cruz tracks with the Santa Fe, engine choices could include the 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, and a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 235 hp and 260 lb-ft., either one shifting through an eight-speed automatic and sending power to the front axle or both axles when equipped with HTRAC all-wheel drive. The automaker could increase potency by skipping the old 2.4-liter and offering the 2.5-liter from the Sonata, the sedan also built in Alabama, that engine producing 191 hp and 181 lb-ft. The Ridgeline only comes with a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 hp and 262 lb-ft.
Due to hit the market in 2021 perhaps as a 2022MY vehicle, starting price is thought to be around $25,000, a figure that would undercut the entry-level Ridgeline Sport by $9,000 if accurate.