Hyundai Santa Cruz – From Concept to Production – Design Evolution

Hyundai Santa Cruz – From Concept to Production – Design Evolution


It was in 2015 when Hyundai first presented the Santa Cruz concept at the Detroit Auto Show. Although we had to wait quite a while – six years to be precise – the production version as the Santa Cruz pickup 2022 is finally here. In those six years, Hyundai’s design philosophy has changed massively, as has the design of the Santa Cruz from concept to production. At the time the concept debuted, project leader John Krsteski, manager at Hyundai Design America, said a production version “could be based on something like a Tucson”. That may be the only piece that stayed true.

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It was in 2015 when Hyundai first presented the Santa Cruz concept at the Detroit Auto Show. Although we had to wait quite a while – six years to be precise – the production version as the Santa Cruz pickup 2022 is finally here. In those six years, Hyundai’s design philosophy has changed massively, as has the design of the Santa Cruz from concept to production. At the time the concept debuted, project leader John Krsteski, manager at Hyundai Design America, said a production version “could be based on something like a Tucson”. That may be the only piece that stayed true.

The design of the original Hyundai Santa Cruz concept was in line with the brand’s then design philosophy and had a fairly generic face that was not carried over from any existing Hyundai model. Since the split LED headlight design wasn’t a trend back then, the headlights of the concept look pretty generic and the fog lights are in the bumper below. The grille features Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grille design from that time. Fast forward to 2021, the production specification Hyundai Santa Cruz is heavily inspired by the New generation Tucson, complete with the neat integration of the LED lights and the cascading grille design with the main headlight group housed in the front bumper.

Hyundai Santra Cruz Concept versus Production 1While the concept included a generic Hyundai design from that era, the Santa Cruz production spec is heavily inspired by the new Tucson.

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It is in the profile where the Santa Cruz perhs production specification bears the maximum resemblance to the original concept. Some styling elements like the C-pillar treatment, the kick-up in the back of the window line, the styling of the lower body, the extension of the overhangs, and even the sleek round wheel arches have a remarkable resemblance to the concept. That said, there is one crucial difference. While the concept included long front doors with half-sized, rear-hinged rear doors, Hyundai has adopted a traditional four-door crew cab design for the production version. The former was obviously in vogue back then, but has recently gone out of style. The latter is also much more practical.

Hyundai Santra Cruz Concept versus Production 2It is in the profile where the Santa Cruz perhs production specification bears the maximum resemblance to the original concept.

In the rear, the styling of the standard equipment Santa Cruz is again a major departure from the concept. The former adopts the conventional truck aesthetic with a less rounded design and an angular, separate bumper. The concept’s integrated exhaust outlets have been swapped out for chunky steps built into the ends of the bumper. The central Hyundai logo has also disappeared and has been replaced by the brand name embossed on the tailgate handle. In the typical pick-up convention, the SANTA CRUZ is embossed with large, bold lettering on the tailgate. The tailgate surface is much flatter and the LED taillights have also been completely redesigned.

Hyundai Santra Cruz Concept versus Production 3The rear of the Santa Cruz standard equipment adopts the conventional truck aesthetic with a less rounded design and a separate, angular bumper.

While Hyundai never revealed the dimensions of the concept’s loading area, it’s no larger than that of the production car, which is just over 4 feet long. The concept even brought the idea of ​​a drawer-like bed extension onto the market, but the standard equipment of Santa Cruz relies on a conventional tailgate. Even so, the Santa Cruz has evolved significantly from concept to production over those six years, but the changes that have been made have not fundamentally changed the appearance of the vehicle. It’s commendable that the Hyundai designers were able to keep the spirit of the concept even after six years, and yet it looks like a thoroughly modern Hyundai.

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