Hyundai Motor Group is clearly feeling the rugged off-roader trend. Not so long after the introduction of the boxed-out Kia EV9, Hyundai has dramatically reworked its Santa Fe midsize SUV into a more rugged, adventure-focused all-wheeler. Santa Fe’s fifth generation was unveiled on Thursday. It featured hard squared panels with a stretched out wheelbase. A determined H-bar glow, bulging front fenders and concept accessories to transform the vehicle into an adventure-ready machine. Hyundai also promises a roomy „terrace-like living space“ inspired by camping.
For reference, here’s a look at the outgoing 2023 Santa Fe – very much a rounded, soft-edged crossover that will vanish quietly in a mall parking lot full of mom-mobiles. The all-new fifth-gen Santa Fe stands in stark contrast to that design, showing a stronger, bolder design than the larger Palisade. The first look we saw brought to mind Toyota’s refocused Land Cruiser 250, while the photo at the top reminds us more of a Land Rover Defender decked out with full-length roof rack and accessory side pod.
That top photo is actually what Hyundai is calling the Santa Fe XRT Concept, and sadly it says there’s no plans for mass production. The XRT is currently the most rugged, outdoorsy Santa Fe trim, and if we use the concept as even a loose guide, the gen-5 Santa Fe XRT trim should prove more rugged than ever.
Hyundai began the Santa Fe’s dramatic redesign in an unlikely way, starting at the oft-overlooked rear-end rather than inside or up front. The goal was to make the area more appealing for outdoor adventurers. This strategy resulted in a large, flat floor, which is similar to a campervan, something Hyundai knows well from outside North America.
The rest of the new Santa Fe’s boxy form follows the rear-end’s lead along a flat roofline angled ever-so-slightly downward, down the windshield and over a level hood supported by a vertical front end. On the sides, the powerful fender flares are joined by strong, straight belt and character lines. The 190. 2-in (483-cm) SUV should be a welcome sight for anyone missing the upright strength of old-school midsize utility vehicles.
Besides creating an area for a cup of coffee to be enjoyed in the natural surroundings, Hyundai has also lengthened and widened its interior. The company claims that this is a class-leading space. Both the second and third rows offer more legroom than the outgoing Santa Fe, and the reclining third row gains 2. 7 inches (6. 9 cm) of additional headroom courtesy of the higher, straight-shooting roof. Second row seats can be equipped with power-reclining armrests and independent seating. The front passenger’s seat is made even more comfortable with an optional leg rest.
„The all-new Santa Fe is an SUV that finds a perfect balance between city life and the great outdoors, handling everything from busy family itineraries to camping adventures,“ said SangYup Lee, Hyundai executive VP and global design center chief. „With its longer wheelbase, roomy interior and terrace-like tailgate space, the new Santa Fe leans into its SUV strengths to offer more versatility than ever before with a premium customer experience. „
In North America (and South Korea), Hyundai will offer the Santa Fe with buyer’s choice of 277-hp 2. 5-liter turbo or 178-hp 1. 6-liter hybrid powertrain. A plug-in hybrid will join the 1. 6-liter hybrid as the European options. The driver-assistance technology will include forward collision prevention, lane-following assist, navigation-based smart cruise controls, driver-attention monitoring, rear-passenger reminder, and more.
Sales of the all-new Santa Fe will start first in South Korea this month, expanding to North America and Europe in the first half of 2024.