2016 Hyundai Santa Cruz vs. 2006 Subaru Baja
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Hyundai surprised everyone at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show by introducing their very first pickup truck. The new Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept isn’t big enough to compete in the compact pickup truck segment; it resembles a Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero more than Toyota Tacoma. This means Hyundai has entered a segment that hasn’t exactly been kind to other automakers in past. The most recent entry into this niche market was the Subaru Baja in 2003, which was discontinued after only three years.

While the Baja was based on the Subaru Outback wagon, the Santa Cruz would be built on the same platform as the Hyundai Tucson Crossover. This makes the concept look more like a pickup than a sedan with a cargo bed, which may be the key to its success. Appearance usually trumps functionality as evidenced by the versatile yet awkward and unappealing Baja. Hyundai is betting the Santa Cruz is both functional and good looking, so it’s more desirable than a crossover for the adventurous folk who take lots of outdoor gear with them.

Hyundai hasn’t confirmed whether they will turn the Santa Cruz into a production model. If they do it will be a huge gamble; but success in this niche would propel the automaker years ahead of the competition.