New Hyundai ute imagined, with Palisade bones


Hyundai USA sells the Santa Cruz ute, half a size smaller than a Ford Ranger, and based on a family SUV platform. But what if Hyundai offered something larger?


Hyundai introduced its first mass-market dual-cab ‘pick-up’ in the US last year, the Santa Cruz – underpinned by the same car-derived platform as the Tucson mid-size family SUV.

But at 4970mm long, the Santa Cruz is classified in the ‘States as a ‘compact truck’, up to 400mm shorter from nose to tail than ‘mid-size’ utes like America’s Toyota Tacoma, or Australia’s top-selling Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.

So what if Hyundai was to build something bigger? Render artist Theottle has answered that question, creating what could be dubbed the ‘Santa Clara’ – a larger ute derived from Hyundai’s flagship SUV, the three-row Palisade, with a Santa Cruz-like tray on the back.


Whereas the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger use dedicated body-on-frame (or ladder) architectures, a hypothetical Palisade ute would retain the donor SUV’s car-derived architecture, albeit larger than the one under the Santa Cruz.

Given the Santa Cruz is about 300mm longer than the Tucson it’s related to, our hypothetical Palisade ute would measure close to 5300mm, from the Palisade’s 4980mm – within spitting distance of a HiLux’s 5330mm body length.

Should it be built on the same production line as the Korean-built Palisade, the ‘Santa Clara’ would have access to the Palisade’s 217kW 3.8-litre petrol V6 or, crucially for markets like Australia, a 147kW 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine.

Above: Hyundai Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz is built on the same Alabama, USA production line as the Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs – and therefore, to streamline costs, shares their ‘N3’ front- or all-wheel-drive platform and choice of 2.5-litre non-turbo or turbo four-cylinder petrol engines.

However, that Palisade production occurs in South Korea for the entire world is what would rule out a ute version from ever reaching production, due to a policy in the US known as the ‘chicken tax’.

Introduced in 1964 in response to tariffs in France and West Germany on US-sourced chicken, the ‘chicken tax’ applies a 25 per cent tax to light-duty trucks (utes) imported to the US – the reason why (nearly) all utes and vans sold in the US are built in that market.

Above: 2023 Hyundai Palisade facelift, in US-market XRT trim.

Applying a 25 per cent import tariff would stymie any business case for a Korean-built Palisade ute – as would the lack of a Hyundai (not Kia) factory producing Palisades in the US, which would be needed to amortise costs.

While a Toyota HiLux-sized Hyundai ute on a car-derived platform might not be feasible, Hyundai and its sister brand Kia have long been rumoured to be developing HiLux and Ranger rivals on a traditional body-on-frame ute platform.

Kia recently confirmed plans to launch two new electric utes in 2026 – one of which is rumoured to be a body-on-frame, mid-size model for global markets, offering not only electric, but petrol and/or diesel power.

Hyundai and Kia executives have long expressed interest in adding utes to their model ranges – and a pair of dual-cabs could be the tickets allowing the Korean brands to, combined, overtake long-time leader Toyota on the sales charts.

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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