The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe has struck a nerve, hasn’t it? While other automakers have been busy fussing around with compound curves, Hyundai broke out a ruler and styled the toughest-looking crossover since the Matra Rancho. By now, we’ve detailed those retro-Disco looks, but we recently got our hands on this new CUV in Los Angeles and are blown away by how clever it is.
First, a bit of U.S.-market exposition. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-banger putting out 277 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. Hitched to the same eight-speed wet-clutch dual-clutch transmission found in the Santa Cruz, it should prove reasonably lively. If you want more economy, a 1.6-liter turbo hybrid powertrain is available, which is quite like the one found in the outgoing Santa Fe. If you’re especially outdoorsy, there’s an XRT trim with 30-inch all terrain tires and a 1.5-inch suspension lift, and it can tow 4,500 pounds when properly-equipped. Right, boilerplate stuff out of the way, let’s get into the details.
The smart touches start on the outside with two squares on each C-pillar. They’re odd styling elements, but they actually serve a functional purpose. Open the rear door, and you’ll find a little lock in the jamb. Turn it, and now you can depress the upper C-pillar square into the body to reveal a grip for roof rack access. Since anyone who hasn’t hooped in the D-league can attest that getting up to a roof rack on a tall vehicle is a proper pain in the ass, this little touch makes expanding the Santa Fe’s practicality a whole lot easier.
Moving inside, you’ll immediately notice not one, but two wireless chargers in the center console. Using an electronic column-mounted shifter has freed up a ton of real estate, and Hyundai has put that to good use with phone heaters for both the driver and the front passenger. It’s a little bit of luxury you wouldn’t expect, and rather pragmatic luxury at that.
Speaking of carving out space, the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe features two gloveboxes and a shelf, good enough for seven pairs of gloves. The glorious upper glovebox is sorely missed in many modern crossovers, so to see Hyundai bringing it back gives me joy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good cubby.
Speaking of cubbies, let’s talk about the armrest cubby. Hyundai, in a moment of clarity, decided to make the center console lid open both ways. For most manufacturers, this means hinging the lid on either side to permit easy access for the driver and front passenger. For Hyundai, this means hinging the lid on the leading and rearward edges, allowing everyone in the first two rows use of the armrest storage compartment. In all my years in the industry, I’ve never seen a lid like this before, and it’s about damn time someone made one.
Moving into the second row, it’s hard to not notice that the seatback pockets are made of plastic. In fact, they’re just plastic panels held in with massive elastic bands, a move that sounds relatively cheap but will immediately make sense to parents. If children aren’t shoving things under the seats, they’re shoving things into the seatback pockets. Fabric and elastic mesh both stretch out and get fugly over time, and any soft material is susceptible to wear from kicking. Hard plastic? Well, it’s hardwearing and doesn’t stretch. Another bright idea from Hyundai.
If there’s one sacrifice on the Santa Fe, it’s cargo space behind the third row, because there just isn’t any. Floor space is only about deep enough for a few exceptionally slim backpacks, and the tilt of the seatbacks limits vertical space. Still, if you need all three rows all the time, you’d probably lean more towards the Hyundai Palisade, as it’s genuinely much bigger.
With a whizz-bang 2.5-liter turbocharged four-banger or a 1.6-liter turbocharged hybrid setup, a roomy three-row form, and rugged good looks, the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe could be a real winner. Needless to say, I can’t wait to drive it next year, given its on-sale date in March.
(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal)
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