Detroit Motor Show: Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

HEY Falcon and Holden fans, worried what you’re going to buy once the tap turns off on Australian ute production? Hyundai reckons it has the answer with this, the Santa Cruz.

Unveiled overnight in Detroit, the Santa Cruz concept is a small, car-like ute based on the ix35 small-SUV platform, and able to seat five adults.

The new, urban-friendly concept shows the ambitious Korean carmaker is keen to plug an important gap in its model line-up that includes traditional passenger cars and light commercial vehicles – but no ute.

It was developed largely in response to demand from the US, which wants a practical load-lugger in its showrooms, but also something that diverts from the usual cookie-cutter approach to pick-up truck design.

Hyundai Australia – which knew of the Santa Cruz’s arrival in Detroit but did not expect it to be passenger-car based – is more than interested in it.

John Elsworth, Hyundai Australia’s chief operating officer, told Wheels the Santa Cruz was a lifestyle vehicle that could pick up from where the Ford Falcon and Holden utes would leave off once local production ended by 2017, although it would be a niche seller.

The concept, which features suicide doors that open up to the rear seats, is aimed squarely at younger buyers aged around 30.

The idea behind it is that adventure-focused owners can cash in on the rugged, squared-off looks and limited off-tarmac ability via its soft-roading all-wheel-drive system, using the tray to carry bikes or stash muddy equipment or clothing without having to worry about bad smells or dirt.

Hyundai was coy about showing details of an extendable tailgate system that expands its length like a modular table to provide load space for longer items such as bikes. The tray also includes multiple tie-down points.

Not much has been said about what is under the bonnet, but reports from the US suggest it will feature a twin-turbo diesel.

Hyundai’s next-generation ix35, due in the next couple of years, is also expected to prepare the small SUV for hybrid and fuel-cell drivetrains.

Ironically, Hyundai’s research shows the US market is more than ready for a small ute with a lifestyle focus – something that could have saved the Holden ute from extinction.

According to Hyundai, the Santa Cruz could be in production within two years.

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  • Wake up Ford and Holden, Hyundai is plugging your RWD vacuum and now it could steel some of your ute customers. Now that the Aus dollar has taken a dive and fuel prices have plummeted (and if you know a bit about it, might not ever recover) it looks like your decision to close shop here was a little short sighted. You can always change your minds though, we won't hold it against you…actually, we will embrace you again.
  • Bloody fantastic for picking up the lattes at morning tea time, but useless for carrying the cement mixer, shovels and bags of cement. Trays too short and too ghey looking....