The beach town of Santa Cruz, Calif., is known for world-class surfing spots such as Steamer Lane and the picturesque mountains that separate it from Silicon Valley to the north. Biking and hiking are a way of life, as are long commutes "over the hill" to San Jose and beyond.
Hyundai's attempt to distill that moderately rugged lifestyle into a crossover-based pickup also carries the Santa Cruz name. It goes on sale this summer as a compact four-door with a smaller footprint and presumed price advantage over midsize pickups that have grown larger and more plush.
Car-based pickups have rarely spelled big sales. But Hyundai hopes to capture the growing market for light trucks that has heated up after a year of pandemic sheltering. Hyundai's plan is not so much to take on the pickup market as to lean into its crossover success.
"Especially now, as we're entering a post-pandemic phase, people really want to go out — back to nature, camping, biking," said Gilbert Castillo, Hyundai Motor North America's senior group manager of advanced vehicle strategy. He likened the Santa Cruz to a dual-personality vehicle that can excel at both weekday commuting and weekend-warrior duty with wet, dirty cargo.
"There are a lot of people, young and old, who don't necessarily want the full capability of a pickup truck and all the baggage that comes with it, in terms of rough ride, big size, gas guzzler," Castillo said. They also don't want the $30,000-plus price for most pickup models, he added.