Non-Existent Hyundai Santa Cruz SUV Feels Dark and Menacing Like a Muscly Crossover

Hyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonik 8 photos
Photo: kelsonik / Instagram
Hyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonikHyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonikHyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonikHyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonikHyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonikHyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonikHyundai Santa Cruz SUV rendering by kelsonik
Last year, the first seven best-selling nameplates across the US automotive market were trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. As for passenger cars, there were just five of them in the Top 25 for 2023!
As such, it is no wonder that everyone wants a piece of the action. Hyundai, for example, even dared to resuscitate the compact American pickup truck sector in a bid to take advantage of a possible niche where the Big Detroit Three or the major Japanese automakers hadn't taken over the proceeds.

Unfortunately for them, their Hyundai Santa Cruz unibody compact pickup truck took a lot of time between concept – introduced at the 2015 North American International Auto Show with the same name – and reality. That gave enough time to the corner office head honchos over at Ford Motor Company to decide that a competitor was a good idea to oppose the Tucson-based model produced in Montgomery, Alabama (HMMA).

Looking a bit more rugged in line with its bigger siblings, Ranger and F-150, the Ford Maverick was also cheaper as it is manufactured in Mexico and also comes with two excellent powertrains – hybrid and turbocharged. Hence, it is no wonder that Ford sold 94k Maverick units compared to Hyundai's 37k Santa Cruz examples. For sure, the South Korean automaker is not slouching around – our spy photographer partners have caught the 2025MY testing alongside its current sibling, and it's pretty clear the South Korean automaker will kick off manufacturing of a facelifted Santa Cruz later this year at HMMA.

But what if the company also brought a surprise and made the Santa Cruz a rugged adventure SUV? Well, that's hardly an option in the real world because of Tucson's existence and recent facelift. Alas, anything is possible across the imaginative realm of digital car content creators. Meet Nikita Chuicko, the virtual artist better known as kelsonik on social media, who thinks now is the right CGI time to play with the Santa Cruz pickup truck again.

This is not his first SUV-morphing attempt with the compact model, but it might be his best to date. Based on the Santa Cruz Night Edition, which has a $38,460 starting MSRP, the pixel master reworked its rear panels and roof, beginning with the C-pillar, into an SUV with ample storage space behind the rear bench seats. It also comes with a modern full-width taillight treatment, and the black Y-spoke aftermarket wheels are much larger than stock, lending it a muscle pickup truck appearance.

It's too bad this is merely wishful thinking, and Hyundai won't dare bring another SUV into the American lineup. On the other hand, we heard that Kia is bringing to market an old-school mid-size pickup truck that might make it to America – and perhaps there's hope for a Hyundai version, too.

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About the author: Aurel Niculescu
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Aurel has aimed high all his life (literally, at 16 he was flying gliders all by himself) so in 2006 he switched careers and got hired as a writer at his favorite magazine. Since then, his work has been published both by print and online outlets, most recently right here, on autoevolution.
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