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Future models - Hyundai - Santa Cruz Truck concept

Detroit show: Hyundai loads up Santa Cruz ute concept

Santa baby: The Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck concept features an extendible tailgate that runs the length of the bed for additional cargo space.

Hyundai's Santa Cruz Crossover Truck concept no HiLux fighter

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Hyundai logo13 Jan 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

HYUNDAI has lifted the covers off its Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept at the Detroit motor show overnight, previewing a possible new utility that could fill a gaping hole in its local line-up.

The pick-up concept was developed with the United States' market in mind, however it is smaller and more car-like than the traditional trucks American buyers favour, with the Korean car-maker calling the ute a “completely new interpretation of truck utility for a new generation of buyers”.

Hyundai said in a release that the goal for the Santa Cruz was not to build the toughest utility, but to appeal to a new, growing segment of buyers looking for practicality and a more car-like driving experience.

“Santa Cruz, by design, isn’t an alternative to a pick-up, so towing, payload and ground clearance were not primary goals,” the statement read. “Rather, Santa Cruz is intended to attract CUV (Crossover Utility Vehicles) and sedan buyers who are seeking greater utility, without the compromises that traditional pick-ups often require.”

However, it is unclear if this will become the ute that Hyundai Australia so desperately needs to compete with Toyota, should it go into production, with the car-maker's local public relations manager Bill Thomas emphasising the Santa Cruz's concept status.

“In terms of the Australian market, it is fair to say we would be more interested in a closer vehicle to something like a HiLux,” he said.

“However, if you look at it, the way SUVs have developed over the years you might not think there could be something as small as a Trax or a Captur in terms of SUVs. In theory you might say the same about a ute. You could possibly see it shifting the category a little.”

While Hyundai is yet to release dimensions, the concept is about the size of an ix35 SUV which is not far off the proportions of a HiLux.

Asked whether the concept could spin off a more rugged version for production that would be better suited to the Australian market, Mr Thomas said he could not rule anything out at this stage.

“I don’t think anything should be ruled out in that sense, but it is definitely to be seen as a concept and as a taster.” If it does spawn a production version tailored to local tastes, a utility could take on the likes of the HiLux, the Aussie developed Ford Ranger and Holden's Colorado and potentially lift Hyundai's Australian sales significantly.

Mr Thomas said the Korean car-maker has had their hand up for a utility for some time, but added the Santa Cruz concept should not be seen as a rival for the HiLux and its ilk.

“If you look at volume overall of the segment – HiLux does 30,000-40,000. Even if we did half or even less than half of what HiLux does, we are looking at a 15 per cent increase.

“So obviously it is an important segment we are not playing in. This isn’t necessarily the way to play in the segment. This is a concept and a styling exercise and something that has been well researched in America and has the potential to be a very successful vehicle but it is not to be seen as a straight HiLux rival.” Styling appears to be an evolution of the Korean giant's Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language with new touches, including an upright hexagonal grille that is likely to be seen on future production models.

The sleek concept has a tough stance and a sporty looking side profile, with oversized wheels, Michelin tyres featuring a unique tread design and yellow Brembo callipers emphasising the purposeful look of the Santa Cruz.

The sharp-looking tail end features a slim-line version of the tail-lights from the Santa Fe SUV, and houses an extendible tailgate that allows the bed of the ute to reach the length of a mid-size pick-up for extra cargo-carrying capability, according to Hyundai.

Rear-hinged doors offer ease of access to the four-door, five-seat ute, or as the company describes it as a CUV, and there are tie-down hooks on the wheel arches, roof and bed rails to help secure cargo.

Under the bonnet is a version of Hyundai's 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that sees service in the ix35, this time producing 142kW and 407Nm, and featuring the car-maker's HTRAC all-wheel drive system. No other technical details have been released.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief operating officer John Elsworth said while there was “no doubt” that a Hyundai ute would be “popular with Australians”, there was no guarantee it would get the green light for production.

“But this is a concept vehicle and we do not make decisions about which cars to bring to market - those decisions are in the hands of our parent company in Korea,” he said.

“However we've made our enthusiasm for a ute very clear - it surely has enormous potential - and we look forward to seeing how things progress in the near future."

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