January 12, 2015 – Hyundai Santa Cruz concept debuts at NAIAS

Hyundai Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 NAIAS (www.autoguide.com)

With the opening of the 2015 North American International Auto Show on this day in 2015, a number of exciting new concept and production vehicles made their debut. One model in particular stood out as a fan favorite, the Hyundai Santa Cruz. Wait, a Hyundai? In an era when small pickup trucks no longer existed, the Santa Cruz catered to a forgotten market left behind with the extinction of the small Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10 class trucks. Ultimately the compact truck that’s not really a truck, would enter production in 2022, along side competition from the Ford Maverick.

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz – By Elise240SX – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

When first introduced in 2015, Hyundai made it known that they were not attempting to attract truck buyers. The Santa Cruz was for the crossover buyer who needed something just a little different. They didn’t prioritize towing capabilities or payload, but they did illustrate how a small truck could attract the outdoorsy buyer in search of their next adventuremobile, as well as the city dweller who required a pickup bed without the pickup size.

Hyundai Santa Cruz goes to production

The production model, which grew by two full size doors, grabbed headlines in May 2021 as Hyundai’s new Sport Adventure Vehicle. When production began the next month, it shared many components of the Hyundai Tucson. Under the hood of the base model sat an inline 4 attached to an 8 speed automatic transmission. An available turbo charged version of the 2.5 liter four banger connects to a dual clutch 8 speed with paddle shifters. Buyers can also choose from the standard front-wheel-drive or upgrade to an HTRAC all-wheel-drive system.

2022 Ford Maverick. By MercurySable99 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

In the months that followed the Santa Cruz would face its competition head on, the Ford Maverick. Both vehicles suffered in terms of production due to parts availability among the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2021 Hyundai sold 10,042 Santa Cruz models in the United States, compared to 13,259 Ford Mavericks. Watch a video about the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept below.

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