Ask Nathan: Electric Hyundai Santa Cruz, Chinese Cars in the USA & Off-Road Honda SUV Misinformation?

2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz
Will we see an electric Hyundai Santa Cruz? (image: TFLcar)

In this week’s Ask Nathan:

  • Rumor has it that there will be a electric Hyundai Santa Cruz.
  • We keep hearing about Chinese cars in the USA, but where are they?
  • You are providing misinformation about the Honda Passport off-road.

The first question comes from a reader who hears that there may be an electric Hyundai Santa Cruz.

Q: (via Twitter @NathanAdlen) Saw a post that HMA will build a electric Hyundai Santa Cruz.

I think Ford took Hyundai by surprise with their hybrid Maverick and I saw a report about a electric Hyundai Santa Cruz coming soon. You like both trucks right? I could see the sincerity of your back and forth. I think Hyundai needs to buckle down and build more innovative and maybe a cheaper version.

  • Groovis

A: Yea, I can see something like this happening – but I think a hybrid (or PHEV) will come first.

I’ll tell ya, it’s a hell of a little platform. The Hyundai-Kia N platform underpins everything from the Sonata, K5, Santa Fe – and more. This same platform underpins the Santa Cruz, which means that powertrain sharing is possible. That means: it could use a similar setup to the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). Many of the internal components on the Hyundai Santa Cruz are shared with the Tucson – so a move towards a small PHEV pickup seems logical.

If Hyundai could pull this off, at a reasonable price, they would undercut many automakers. No one is producing a PHEV pickup truck of any size – yet.

Now, Hyundai certainly builds (and will be building) several all-electric vehicles. I feel that they have the bandwidth to build EV, PHEV and non-electrified versions of most of their vehicles. Still, I think that a dedicated electric Hyundai Santa Cruz may take time.

Here’s a quote from an insider about what could power an electric Hyundai Santa Cruz

“The top Korean automaker will use the existing Santa Cruz platform with batteries added to manufacture the pickup’s electric version, instead of using Hyundai’s dedicated EV platform, E-GMP, the sources said.”

Check out that story here.

I truly like the Santa Cruz, and I am looking forward to testing the lower-level model – which will (hopefully) be soon!

— N

The next question revolves around China – which many of us were expecting to sell cars in the U.S. by now. Will they ever?

Detroit Debuts - Preview of the 2018 NAIAS
Could new tariffs against China affect Chinese companies looking to launch new models in the U.S.? [Photo: GAC]

Q: Hi Nathan! I sent you a message back in 2018 about Chines cars in the United States and you answered it! Thank you!

I know you spent some time in China and that you still think about people who don’t have a ton of money to spend on cars, Unlike many of the people you guys work with. I am thankful for guys like you who look out for the guys who don’t make six digits and still want a new car.

Nathan. I am so sick of people telling me to get a used car every time I ask about a cheap car like the Toyota Yaris or Mitsubishi Mirage. I own a 2017 Mirage and it has given me ZERO problems. Tommy may make fun of Mitsubishi but I have had nothing but good experiences. Yes I know they are a little rough and cheap for folks who are used to driving expensive cars. But mine is solid with over 70 thousand miles!

Anyway I wanted to know if you still think we will see Chinese cars coming to the United States? I wonder if they will offer a less expensive electric car if they do come? I’m so sick of American dealers and car builders screwing hard working guys with over priced cars! Even if they build a cheap car. So many dealers crank up the prices it’s impossible to buy!

I hope the Chinese come and sell inexpensive electric cars so people like me who only make $40,000 per year can afford one! As I said. I am grateful that guys like you are looking out for people like me who are not in a position to get expensive cars. Thanks Nathan!

  • BillyJo

A: Thanks amigo!

In Tommy’s defense, he was disgruntled about the quality of the Outlander Sport, given its price point. Other inexpensive crossovers in its class tend to be higher quality. Still, I am thrilled you’re happy with your little Mirage!

As for the Chinese entering our market; I believe it is still happening, but in a less obvious way. Some Chinese companies are still investigating direct sales here. Others, like Geely, may use their connections to other automakers to sell their products here.

Keep in mind: many products sold in the United States already have a ton of Chinese components in them. Others, like Volvo, are owned by Geely – but maintain their own identity. Geely, which is one of the biggest automakers in China, is still eyeballing the U.S. with their own products. A recent insider rumor (reported by Carscoops) points at Geely considering a joint venture with Renault.

Chinese goods are getting hammered by various penalties during this lengthy trade battle. Simply selling a car in our market would be problematic. In the past, Chinese automakers (among others) were hopeful that our trade policies would ease a bit. That hasn’t happened. As such, potential exporters have had to find unique solutions.

Renault is still a partner of Nissan, which could surreptitiously incorporate platforms and drivetrains from Geely. A more likely avenue may South Korea’s free-trade agreement with the United States. If Geely/Renault produced vehicles there, they could sell them here without the “chicken tax” and other penalties.

I still say that any product brought here that forces automakers to build/sell less expensive vehicles, is a welcome sight. Competition forces everyone to “up” their game, and it’s beneficial to the consumer.

— N

The last question/statements comes from a few viewers who were displeased with our coverage of the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport.

Image: TFLcar

(Paraphrased – via: YouTube) Does anyone actually buy into this Honda Passport fake excitement? These are not dirt-worthy. Come on Nathan, your TFL fans are not stupid, stop acting like we are. – Randy S

  • How much did Honda pay you to say this thing isn’t a total piece of junk? Is it better than a 4Runner? Yea I think not! – Bob B
  • Trail worthy…oh please! – CEBEDH
  • What Honda needs is a proper body on frame SUV/Truck. Toyota, Nissan has plenty of options. Why can’t Honda do the same? – Vadim
  • Saying this thing can go off road is a huge pile of misinformation guys! My Camry can drive these trails better! It (the Passport) barely can move through a parking lot covered in gravel! – Tim
Image: TFLcar

A: First: a huge majority of viewers were pleased with the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport’s performance.

I stand by everything I said, both good and bad. Check out our detailed off-road review. In terms of these and a few other comments, let me point out a few things:

  • Fake excitement? Nope – I had a great time in the dirt with this crossover. It went up every trail I attempted, despite mediocre tires and ride-height. I told my viewers exactly what I was thinking and feeling – I always do.
  • Honda paid for transportation, food and lodging. As for my testimony? Why would I complain about features if an automaker paid me? Every time I say an automaker did something well, a fanboy (of another brand) will say something snarky like “how much did —– pay you?” If that were the case, I would be a millionaire by now. I’m not.
  • A Honda with a truck frame? No way, Honda isn’t aiming at the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner. Not even close. Honda is simply saying that a comfy commuter/family hauler can do light off-roading. A Wrangler or 4Runner would destroy most crossovers like the Passport in the rough. Still, on the street – where most people spend 95% of their time, the Honda Passport is a much more logical day-to-day ride.
  • I would LOVE to see a video of your Camry drive off-road in Borrego Springs. Aside from the dirt trails in the area, I highly recommend Truckhaven 4×4 Training Area in Ocotillo Wells, California. We did a bunch of testing there, and I can’t wait to see your Camry take on these trails and obstacles. Yep, send your video to us when you’re finished. I’m sure it will be entertaining.


All in all, I was pleased with the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport’s overall capability. Sure, it needs some additions to make it more off-road-worthy, but it’s a pretty damn good compromise.



— N