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Hyundai Confirms Santa Cruz Pickup for 2021

Mid-size pickups are enjoying a resurgence in the US. The Ford Ranger has a higher payload than some full-size pickups, and the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and Jeep Gladiator serve as excellent off-roaders. And now, Hyundai wants in on the action. In 2015, the Korean automaker had shown off the Santa Cruz Concept to an extremely positive reaction. Hyundai had previously announced plans to produce the compact utility vehicle, but nothing concrete had emerged. Until now. In a recent press release, Hyundai has confirmed the Santa Cruz pickup will be coming for 2021.

Santa Cruz Pickup: What We Know So Far

Although Hyundai may call the Santa Cruz a CUV, it’s really more of a “ute” pickup. Nevertheless, Hyundai is positioning the pickup less as an off-roader than an “urban explorer.” The company calls it the kind of vehicle for people who want something small, but “need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed.” The original concept seated five and rode on an all-wheel drive platform

Production Location and Timeline

Hyundai didn’t confirm any details about the Santa Cruz’s platform or powertrain. However, the company did reveal where the pickup would be produced, and when.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Side
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Side | Hyundai

Hyundai is investing $410 million in its Montgomery, Alabama factory to produce the Santa Cruz. The plant already manufactures the Santa Fe SUV, as well as the Elantra and Sonata sedans. The Santa Cruz would join the production line in 2021. The investment would cover additional stamping, welding, and processing areas, and add 200 jobs directly to Hyundai.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept | Hyundai

Hyundai didn’t reveal anything else about the upcoming Santa Cruz. But perhaps, what wasn’t said is just as telling as what was.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz Might Not Be Body-On-Frame

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Rear
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Rear | Hyundai

We previously believed the production Santa Cruz would ride on a unibody platform, like the Honda Ridgeline. However, based on an interview WhichCar held with Hyundai Australia CEO John Kett, we reported that the Santa Cruz could feature a body-on-frame design. In the same interview, Kett also mused about the possibility of two-wheel drive versions of the pickup.

Interestingly, The Drive spotted something interesting about Hyundai’s press release. The word ‘pickup’ is never used to refer to the Santa Cruz. Hyundai only refers to it as a ‘crossover’ or ‘compact utility vehicle’. Then there’s the choice of manufacturing location.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Rear
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Rear | Hyundai

As we’ve reported, Hyundai would have to make the Santa Cruz in the US to avoid the 25% import tariff. Montgomery is its only manufacturing site, so the Santa Cruz had to be made there. But the Montgomery plant doesn’t make any body-on-frame vehicles. The Santa FE SUV is unibody. So, unless that $410 million investment covers the necessary additions to make a body-on-frame design, the Santa Cruz will likely be unibody after all. Which makes Hyundai’s choice of words make sense. Avoiding the use of ‘pickup’ may avoid turning off potential customers used to more ‘traditional’ pickup truck design.

At the moment, this is still speculation. Though hopefully, Hyundai releases some clarifying information soon.