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The Hyundai Santa Cruz is quite a small pickup truck

Automaker counters compact size with clever design

Hyundai thinks that pickup trucks are for having fun. PHOTO FROM HYUNDAI

One of the reasons why people buy pickups is because of their size. Yes, there are some exceptions like the Datsun Sunny Truck and some kei trucks sold in Japan. But the main selling point of a pickup is that you can throw plenty of junk in the back—a fact that most automakers will only be happy to point out. But Hyundai begs to differ as it is rather proud of the compact dimensions of its new Santa Cruz truck.

You can see how both the cab and the bed are fused into one unit. PHOTOS FROM HYUNDAI

The Santa Cruz is 4,970mm long, 1,905mm wide and 1,694mm high. Hyundai is pitting it against the likes of the Toyota Tacoma, the Honda Ridgeline and the Nissan Frontier. Just for comparison to a typical pickup available locally, a Toyota Hilux is 5,325mm long, 1,900mm wide and 1,845mm high. Now, the Korean automaker says that the size is what allows the Santa Cruz to make tight turns and squeeze itself into downtown parking spaces.

We think the Santa Cruz is based on a stretched Tucson. PHOTOS FROM HYUNDAI

Arguably, the load bed is something that a lot of pickup buyers will look at. Although the Santa Cruz’s bed is significantly smaller than the competition’s, it’s a cleverly designed one. The upper portion of the bed has a pull-out tray. This acts as a shallow tub for small items. Stow that and the cargo space simply transforms into a regular bed. However, opening up the rear portion of the load floor reveals a hidden storage area. The entire bed, in effect, has three levels that can all be concealed by a built-in lockable tonneau cover.

The cargo bed has three levels of storage. Genius. PHOTOS FROM HYUNDAI

We’ve briefly discussed some of the Santa Cruz’s exterior features in a previous article. But now that these photos show the car under the sun, one thing worth pointing out is how the cab and the bed are combined into one unit. This is probably unavoidable given the vehicle’s unibody frame, which may be based on an extended Tucson platform. But the monocoque construction should benefit ride comfort and cornering performance. Another distinctive styling element is the steep rake of the C-pillar, which mimics that of the Chevrolet El Camino. Standard shoes are 20-inch wheels with all-season tires, while 18-inch alloys and high-sidewall rubber are available as an option.

This is a truck interior that really is car-like. PHOTOS FROM HYUNDAI

The same monocoque layout also benefits the Santa Cruz’s interior. Hyundai claims easy ingress and egress as the vehicle is primarily aimed at the lifestyle crowd. The infotainment screen is an eight-inch display, complemented by an optional digital instrument cluster and a Bose sound system. Speaking of in-car electronics, Hyundai’s Digital Key mobile app allows owners to leave traditional keys at home and use their devices to remotely unlock the car or start the engine.

The turbocharged 2.5-liter engine can tow up to 2,268kg. PHOTO FROM HYUNDAI

The Santa Cruz can be had with one of two 2.5-liter engines. The naturally aspirated mill has around 190hp and 244Nm, while the turbocharged version is good for 275hp and 420Nm. Both are mated to an HTRAC all-wheel-drive system. Normally operating in front-wheel drive, HTRAC makes use of a torque-split clutch to send power to the rear axle as needed. However, it will be interesting to see how the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox performs off the road as such activities as rock-crawling are said to be unsuitable for that type of transmission.

We're concerned about how the dual-clutch gearbox will behave off-road. PHOTO FROM HYUNDAI

Hyundai’s approach to the pickup solution is quite unique and rather innovative. The fact that the automaker calls the Santa Cruz a “Sport Adventure Vehicle” is a clear indication that this truck isn’t one that would be at home on a construction site. There are no prices yet, but reservations are already being taken for the vehicle, which will be built in Montgomery, Alabama. As of now, there are no signs that the Santa Cruz will be sold outside of North America.

Miggi Solidum

Miggi is an editor-at-large at VISOR. Professionally speaking, he is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He writes the 'G-Force' column.