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2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz one of the brand's 'biggest-ever' research projects - what does that mean for its chances in Australia?

The Santa Cruz was the result of Hyundai's 'biggest-ever' research project - but many factors still rule it out for Australia.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz has launched to quite some fanfare in America, quickly rising to the top of the market’s fastest-selling models.

The monocoque ute is based on the Tucson SUV, and while it would make an intriguing option in Australia, it has thus far been ruled out because it is only built in left-hand drive.

But will this new model’s success overseas alter its chances for an Australian launch? We’ve speculated before, but the launch of the Ioniq 5 in Australia gave us a chance to ask Hyundai’s local executives for more context. After all, the brand has gone to lengths before to bring left-hand-drive models like the Korean-sourced Veloster and US-sourced Palisade Down Under.

“There are a lot of factors behind the scenes,” said Hyundai Australia PR boss Bill Thomas. “At this stage, it’s still America only. There’s high demand there and low supply, but we’re constantly evaluating for a model like that. It’s always on the radar.”

When asked if Hyundai thinks a monocoque pick-up like the Santa Cruz would fill a market gap in Australia, which has been left void of similar international players like the Ford Maverick and Honda Ridgeline, Mr Thomas had more to say.

“The Americans [Hyundai Motor America] did a big research project on that vehicle – one of the biggest ever undertaken – and they identified a strong market niche [for a monocoque pickup]. Those ‘niches’, obviously, are a lot bigger in the US.”

It's more than just supply and demand holding the Santa Cruz back from an Australian launch. It's more than just supply and demand holding the Santa Cruz back from an Australian launch.

Hyundai Australia’s spokespeople wouldn’t offer anything further on whether they thought such a niche exists in Australia, let alone if it would be big enough to justify the right-hand-drive production of the Santa Cruz, although have told CarsGuide in the past: “It looks like it would be a capable car here.”

One thing we do know is the brand considers the US-sourced Palisade a success in Australia, with its price up to $75,000 before on-road costs. It amasses several hundred units a month, but only attracts 2.8 per cent of the Large SUV market share, less than half that of its main Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger rivals.

If demand abates for the Santa Cruz in the coming years in the USA, could we see the chance for a limited production? If so, it wouldn’t be cheap, with our numbers suggesting a mid-to-late $30k minimum starting price.

A small tray, lack of low-range, and petrol engine options could hold the Santa Cruz back if it came to Australia. A small tray, lack of low-range, and petrol engine options could hold the Santa Cruz back if it came to Australia.

Prices would likely be higher the smaller the production number, as seen with the Ioniq 5 which is only available as a single highly-specified variant, and the now-discontinued Veloster, which carried high prices across its range despite its mechanical similarity to the mainstream i30 hatch.

When asked similar questions on the chances of a monocoque pickup recently (specifically, a Kia-branded version), Kia Australia was not as keen, saying it would rather ask its Korean HQ for something on a ladder-frame chassis, even if a Kia version of the Santa Cruz existed, citing limited potential right-hand-drive production slots.