Hyundai launched its Santa Cruz crossover truck concept and production Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, the company’s first PHEV at the 2015 Detroit show.

The Sonata PHEV is expected to travel up to 22 miles on electric power and can recharge in as little as two and a half hours with a 240v Level 2 charger. It will be built at the Asan, South Korea plant and will go on sale in some markets later this year.

Small truck redefined as a crossover

The Santa Cruz is claimed to be “a completely new interpretation of truck utility for a new generation of buyers, especially millennials, who represent the second-largest population of car buyers in the US”.

The Santa Cruz has rear-hinged rear doors integrated with the front door design. For extra utility, the expandable bed can be easily reconfigured for longer cargo, using a unique drawer-like sliding function.

The two litre turbodiesel delivers 190 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque, while achieving fuel economy in the high 30 mpg range. HTRAC all wheel drive is fitted.

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The concept is purposefully compact, and although it has four doors and seating for five, its overall footprint is similar to a small CUV.

Items can be securely locked in the back under an integrated rigid tonneau cover that conveniently retracts when not needed.

The Santa Cruz also has an innovative tailgate extension that allows the bed length to be expanded. When fully extended, bed length is similar to a mid-size pickup, providing the ability to carry much more than its compact footprint would suggest, yet only when needed.

The Santa Cruz, by design, isn’t an alternative to a truck, so towing, payload and ground clearance were not primary goals. Rather, it is intended to attract CUV and sedan buyers who are seeking greater utility without the compromises that traditional trucks often require.

Hyundai claims industry pickup truck share is down over 5% in the last 10 years, with the biggest shift among young adults, reflecting a need for something that more closely matches these morphing lifestyles. In the past, small trucks accounted for half of pickup sales, and they were particularly popular with younger buyers.

Today, that same young truck market is almost non-existent, and millennials under 30 represent just 7% of all pickup purchases. Women, who buy more than half of all CUVs sold, now account for only 10% of pickup sales. The Santa Cruz is intended to meet the customer needs that the current truck product offering is simply not fulfilling.


A 9.8 kWh lithium polymer battery pack, roughly five times larger than the Sonata Hybrid’s battery, is expected to give the plug-in version an all-electric range of up to 22 miles, further than any other midsize PHEV saloon.

It uses a six-speed automatic transmission with Hyundai’s Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device (TMED), a 50kW electric motor, in place of a torque converter. The 50kW motor is 32% more powerful than the motor used the in the regular hybrid and allows EV operation at higher speeds. A two-litre Nu four-cylinder GDI engine coupled with the electric motor allows the PHEV to operate just like the hybrid once the onboard battery charge is depleted. The petrol engine produces 154hp and 140lb ft of torque and the total system output is 202hp at 6,000 rpm.

The PHEV is expected to deliver 93 MPGe combined in EV mode based on internal estimates. In charge sustaining mode, it is expected to return 38mpg in the city, 43mpg on the highway and 40mpg combined based on internal testing. Recharge time ranges from two and a half hours at a 240V Level 2 charging station to five hours using a standard US 120V domestic outlet.