Kez Casey | Jan 14, 2016

The green-light for a production version of the Hyundai Santa Cruz lifestyle ute is just an official announcement away, according to Hyundai’s North American chief executive, Dave Zuchowski.

Approval for the SUV-based ute, first shown as a concept at last year’s Detroit Auto Show, isn’t the problem according to Zuchowski - the announcement from Hyundai’s Korean head office is the final formality.

Beyond that the reach of the Santa Cruz is yet to be established, and a right hand drive version isn’t a certainty, meaning the Santa Cruz may only be offered as a North American offering.

The production location for the Santa Cruz is also yet to be announced, but with the new pick-up aimed squarely at the North American market, and the US government’s ‘Chicken Tax’ import tariff on imported trucks, the new ute is most likely to hail from the United States.

Hyundai Australia’s public relations manager, Bill Thomas, has said that while the company is interested in bringing the Santa Cruz to Australia, details about its production location, and the availability of right hand drive may affect the ute’s chances of arriving here.

Positioning could also pose a problem for the Santa Cruz. Unlike Aussie favourites like the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux, the Santa Cruz concept is based on the platform of a ‘small crossover’, most likely the Tucson.

That means that the rugged workhorse capabilities of traditional ladder-chassis utes has been sidelined in favour of a more car-like driving experience, but it also narrows the potential pricing window for the Santa Cruz so as not to encroach on those larger utes.

The demise of locally-built Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon-based utes could be the Santa Cruz’s saving grace.

Beyond 2017 the Hyundai load-lugger could have the sub-workhorse market to itself, and while those two vehicles barely match the sales of larger diesel utes, it presents an opportunity that Hyundai Australia is sure to be closely analysing.

MORE: Hyundai News and Reviews

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