This Hyundai Santa Cruz Test Mule Gives Us Hope That Hyundai Will Finally Sell A Small Pickup

Illustration for article titled This Hyundai Santa Cruz Test Mule Gives Us Hope That Hyundai Will Finally Sell A Small Pickup
Image: Ethan Fass

This weekend, 18-year-old Jalopnik reader Ethan Fass from Colorado sent Jalopnik photos of a camouflaged pickup truck parked alongside a number of new Hyundais. Let’s have a close look at what has to be the unibody Hyundai Santa Cruz that we’ve been waiting for since the beginning of time.

Advertisement

“I’m a huge car nut, 18 years old, working at keystone ski resort,” Fass began his email. “I was pulling into my hotel and noticed two new crossovers I’d never seen before and something in camo. I think they’re out here testing a truck.” Attached was a short video of what looks like a pickup truck-ified Hyundai Santa Fe or Tucson:

What we’re seeing here is almost certainly a Hyundai Santa Cruz that engineers from Michigan’s Hyundai America Technical Center have taken “out west” for high-altitude winter testing.

Fass points out a flatbed cover that he could see through the car’s mesh, and he mentions the “really weird roofline,” describing a sail pillar (a sail pillar—found on the first-generation Honda Ridgeline and Chevy Avalanche—is there to provide additional body stiffness for a unibody vehicle whose rear section lacks the support of a roof and body-side-outer panels).

undefined
Image: Ethan Fass

The world has been waiting for the Santa Cruz since the concept showed its sheet metal at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. You’ll see in our news post from the time how excited Jason Torchinsky was about the awesome truck:

undefined
Image: Hyundai
Advertisement

Things got exciting when Hyundai’s then-CEO Dave Zuchowski said in July of 2015 that the small pickup was headed to market soon.

undefined
Image: Hyundai
Advertisement

Two years later, we received more confirmation that the Santa Cruz was coming:

undefined
Image: Hyundai
Advertisement

Then there was this in 2018:

undefined
Image: Hyundai
Advertisement

In 2019, car lovers’ hope continued to swell after Hyundai reaffirmed plans to build a small truck:

undefined
Image: Hyundai
Advertisement

Then later in 2019, just as many of us had resolved that our dream of a Hyundai truck was dead, we finally saw some numbers — specifically, the number of dollars the brand says it planned to invest in its Montgomery, Alabama plant, which currently builds the Santa Fe, Elantra, and Sonata. (Note that it isn’t clear if the Santa Cruz will share more with the Santa Fe or the South Korea-built Tucson, though I’d lean toward the former due to the shared plant.) With a plant chosen, and tooling financials disclosed, the whole Hyundai truck-thing seemed promising once again.

undefined
Image: Hyundai
Advertisement

Now it’s 2021 — six years after the Santa Cruz concept initially debuted — and the only unibody pickup truck on the U.S. market remains the widely-praised Honda Ridgeline. While that may have you discouraged, take solace in the fact that Santa Cruz test mules only began hitting public roads in the last year or so based on my cursory internet search.

And while test mules don’t guarantee production, I’d say there’s a good chance the Santa Cruz is coming. After all, building a unibody pickup is a complex operation. I’m not sure Hyundai would do it, and go through loads of testing, without real production intent. At least, that’s what I’ll repeat to myself as a way to make my six-year streak of longing-filled sleepless nights finally come to an end.

Sr. Tech Editor, Jalopnik. Owner of far too many Jeeps (Including a Jeep Comanche). Follow my instagram (@davidntracy). Always interested in hearing from engineers—email me.

DISCUSSION

maxiq
MaxiQ

David! Haven’t you seen this?

The Santa Cruz in all it’s naked glory. Even yahoo! had the story:

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/hyundai-santa-cruz-pickup-bare-020209650.html