Home » The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Looks Way Bolder, Way Tougher, And Way Nicer

The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Looks Way Bolder, Way Tougher, And Way Nicer

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If you’re like most people, a shockingly tiny percentage of your mental awareness has been devoted to the Hyundai Santa Fe. That’s understandable; for the past 23 years or so, the Santa Fe has been a reasonable if not terribly interesting family-hauler SUV option. It appears Hyundai has done some self-reflection and decided it’s time for a change, because the new Santa Fe has just been revealed, and it feels pretty radically different. Gone is the old smooth, rounded river stone/suppository look and in its place is something boxy, angular, and butch, something that feels a bit like the result of mating a Land Rover Discovery with Robocop.

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Hyundai’s press release states that the

“All-New Santa Fe Boasts Bold New Design Optimized for Effortless Outdoor Lifestyles”

…and no, I’m not really sure what “effortless outdoor lifestyles” unless that just means people who don’t mind doing things outside as long as they don’t have to, you know, do anything to be there.

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Look at it in that picture up there; it looks a bit shy. Come on out, fella! It’s okay!

They also have an interesting bulleted list that gives hints as to what Hyundai feels is important and will resonate with SUV buyers now:

  • The all-new midsize SUV’s exterior and interior display a radical transformation made possible by a lifestyle-based design typology that maximizes rear cargo capacity

  • The new concept connects city and nature in a seamless way offering ‘expansion of experiences’ in the everyday life

  • Robust exterior design with fine details makes a powerful statement; H-lights harmonize Santa Fe’s front and rear, creating a differentiated presence on the road

  • Large tailgate and spacious interior offer best-in-class terrace-like space that’s great for urban life and even better for the outdoors

  • Interior and exterior feature unique H-shaped design cues and eco-friendly materials

Man, there is so much absurd PR-speak in there. “Lifestyle-based design typology?” The hell does that mean? And the alleged connection of city and nature for “expansion of experiences?” Excuse me a moment while I WD-40 my eye sockets to facilitate more effective rolling.

The lighting graphics front and rear do clearly show that H-based design theme, and they look quite good. In fact, I think the whole thing looks pretty great, with those 45° angle wheelarches and crisp flat surfaces and sharp detailing. It does feel capable and rugged and modern, all at once.

Though now that I look at it closer I see the wheelarches are actually round, they’re just black and inset into the angled outer wheelarch, which is an interesting bit of visual trickery.

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I mean, just look at the progression of the Santa Fe from its 2000 introduction to now:

Tehnnow

That’s a pretty dramatic evolution of character right there. It’s like going to your high school reunion and seeing that the doughy kid who occasionally peed uncontrollably in the gym showers is now a cybernetically-enhanced security guard. Not exactly a soldier, mind you, but still a shocking transformation.

The rear end treatment I think is especially interesting, with the low-set horizontal taillights. It’s funny, but the rear end really reminds me of another car that I can almost certainly say was not on Hyundai designers’ mood board:

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Antafe Typ4

That tailgate/taillight setup really reminds me of the Volkswagen Type 4 wagon. Also, I wonder if the indicators are in that long strip inset into the bumper, as has been Hyundai’s recent practice that nobody likes. I hope not.

This tailgate setup is quite deliberate, because that large and wide rear hatch seems to be a big feature of the SUV, with Hyundai describing it in pretty breathless terms:

The more accommodating tailgate creates a spacious interior with a terrace-like feel at the rear when open. The fully foldable second- and third-row seats provide class-leading interior space. All of these attributes make it possible for users to enjoy the outdoors in the easiest way possible.

This feature also makes the all-new Santa Fe a scene stealer in urban settings, allowing young families to use the rear area for a wide variety of purposes, such as grocery shopping, home improvement projects, sports and recreation, gardening, family outings and pet transportation.

And, yeah, it does make for a nice little sitting area back there, as those seats fold to make a nice flat floor:

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Those little string lights are a nice touch, too.

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It’s not clear if that roof tent or the little dining set there or even that wicker teepee thing will be official options or accessories, but that is a pretty nice camping setup for a daily-drivable SUV.

Other interior features appear to be equally well-designed. For example, this dash shot shows a really useful thing, side-by-side wireless phone charging pads in a little walled enclosure that will keep them from sliding off into the unknowable depths of the Realm Between And Under The Seats:

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Also, that is a handy place to keep wet naps up there.

The instrument cluster and center stack displays are all on one long, unbroken unit, for a very sleek and upright look to the dash:

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So far Hyundai hasn’t released any details on drivetrain or other technical specifics, but they did send out at least one picture suggesting the new Santa Fe should at the very least be able to blast through some sand:

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There’s also no pricing details just yet, but I’d expect all of those to be revealed in August at the world premiere. The current Santa Fe starts at $28,750 and has engine options that range from 191 to 277 horsepower, so I’d probably guess for higher numbers on both of those metrics for the new one.

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This new Santa Fe is a good reminder that Hundai/Kia is still killing it on the design front lately. This feels modern and capable and handsome, and is a nice dramatic shift away from the blobby and fussy current Santa Fe. Park this next to a new Land Rover Defender and I suspect most people would have trouble telling which was the more up-market car.

I’m really curious to see this thing in person, and expand my experiences effortlessly with lifestyle topology or whatever.

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ScottyB
ScottyB
10 months ago

I’m living for the horizontal tails, so refreshing. Hoping they make it to a sedan or coupe. Plus the H shape is quite clever (I feel like it should annoy me, but I like it!).

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago

Yep, these are going to be everywhere in short order, maybe even my own driveway.

I really like the design, it’s unique and familiar at the same time.

Goblin
Goblin
10 months ago

Small pair of glass roofs (a la Palisade) instead of the bautiful huge panoramic roof of my 2017 Santa Fe (XL) ? Check.

Ugly dash – like someone threw ipads at it to see which one will stick, with no visor whatsoever, a la BMW ? Check

Exterior design like a Laforza got raped by a Ford Flex with a Mitsubishi Endeavor cheering from the sidelines ? Check

All the elements are there, and it all comes together: congratulations to Hyundai, they are now a REAL car brand. One that can force ugly designs in their clients’ throats, call it progress and yell at them to love it. One whose products are bought despite their design, not thanks to it.

They wanted to be BMW – they are taking all the “good” examples from them. Now all they need to do become as unreliable, and they’ll have it all.

In the meantime, I’ll have to make my 2017 last another generation. I was hoping that after the Palissade they’d come to their senses.

Sorry Jason, it is not way nicer. It is just way more in the process of trying something (G. know what). It looks like an Endeavor from the sides, like a Flex from the front, and like a Cube from the back, but without the wonderful quirky Cube beauty and cuteness.

Hyundai had their stellar design moment starting with the 3.8 Coupe and the 2013 Santa Fe and its later restyling. It could look ordinary to whoever didn’t care, it was a piece of wonder, all the way. It pains me to see them lose their way.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
10 months ago

I really love the Brutalist design. It looks a lot like a post-WWII apartment building with exposed concrete walls.

I hate the rear, and yes, Hyundai/Kia should be berated for putting the signal lights that low. Nobody should be doing that in modern times.

The interior is pretty impressive, but it absolutely NEEDS a shroud around that long instrument panel/control panel screen. Something extendable and collapsible on all three edges so that it can be customized to the angle of light coming in would be unique and very clever design. As-is, it looks like the designers have never been outside the office on a sunny day at noon.

Myk El
Myk El
10 months ago

I expect to see these populating the garages of my neighbors in short order.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
10 months ago

This car is BEGGING for a rear mounted spare. There is so much excess space on that tailgate I’d be surprised if Hyundai doesn’t have a more rugged upmarket model in the works already.

My brain still has a hard time parsing Hyundai and Kia as quality brands because of how garbage they were in the 90s and early 00s but they are certainly killing it from a design standpoint the last 5 years or so.

Andrew Bugenis
Andrew Bugenis
10 months ago

My issues are twofold. First, this is pulling a lot from the IONIQ 5, from the blocky lighting to the interior console. Hyundai has said that the IONIQ line is a sub-brand with character all its own, but we’re seeing it bleed into mainline Hyundai now, and I don’t like it.

Second, that liftgate looks like ass. The lights are too low (imagine not being able to see that it’s braking when it’s two cars in front of you, and this is setting aside Hyundai’s propensity for bumper-mounted turn signals lately), and there’s just so much empty sheetmetal above it.

The current Santa Fe looks pretty good, and if they wanted something boxier, they should have done that they did this time around – pull inspiration fromt he Palisade. The 2021 facelift pulled a lot of design elements, particularly the interior, from the Palisade that debuted in 2020. The 2023 Palisade got a facelift and that should have been the design template for the 2024 Santa Fe.

CatMan
CatMan
10 months ago

I’ve been quite impressed with the improvements in Hyundai design over the years, but I have to say that there is nothing about this that I like.

Ronan McGrath
Ronan McGrath
10 months ago

I am very impressed just how far Korean design has come from the awful Hyundai Pony at the beginning. Combined with a significant development effort on EVs they will give companies like VW a serious and credible challenge.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
10 months ago
Reply to  Ronan McGrath

The Hyundai Pony designed by Giugaro? Making it Italian design, not Korean?

Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
10 months ago

Even more than a Typ 4, the rear reminds me of T3 generation VW Buses (Vanagon to some of you).

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago

Looks great, though that rear gate with the low light strip is a bit lopsided.

Whoever in marketing wrote that florid piffle needs to be sentenced to hard labor keeping Hyundai Excels running.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
10 months ago

It looks great but I wish they would update the H emblem. As their cars get better looking that H just keeps looking more out of touch.

Chris D
Chris D
10 months ago

The Ford Bronco styling is spreading to other brands. Something had to replace the post-Bangle design of unnecessary folds and creases, and I guess this is a little better.

Kasey
Kasey
10 months ago

Does anyone actually use wireless charging pads to an extent that merits automakers giving them so much space in car interiors? I’d much rather have a cubby or more cupholders or anything else.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
10 months ago
Reply to  Kasey

I like the charging pads where a phone slots down inside it. You’re right about the wasted space. I don’t know why plugging in a phone is such a horrendous chore.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
10 months ago
Reply to  Dodsworth

I know, it’s SO difficult! When did wires=bad? I know it’s been that way a while…it used to be the more wires the better; like if you had an awesome sound system! (My friend used to seriously put a system worth thousands of dollars in a car worth hundreds)

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
10 months ago

From a distance this looks cool in a brutalist kinda way. When you at it closer I think there are issues:

  • I expect those trompe-l’œil wheel arches are going to look awful once you see the round outline and realize the ‘piano black’ panel is just shiny plastic cladding. I reckon once these get muddy/dusty it’s going to ruin the ‘big angular wheelarch’ effect and just look tacky.
  • I don’t think the styling of the rear end is going to age well. Maybe this can be fixed with a mid-cycle refresh, but you’re starting with a flat slab so that is not an easy job.
  • Those ankle-height light clusters at the back should be criminal on safety grounds.
EXL500
EXL500
10 months ago

I think it looks terrific, bold even. It’s way too big for my use, but it’s a terrific design (jury a bit our on the height of the rear lights).

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
10 months ago

It would help if Hyundai turned the pixel resolution up some.

Last edited 10 months ago by Theotherotter
Kody Dagley
Kody Dagley
10 months ago

So we’ve gone from the ugly trend of ‘tack an ipad to the center of the dash’ for instruments / infotainment to the new trend of ‘tack a really long screen across the dash in front of the driver 🙁

Seeing that design in a lot of vehicles now….just looks terrible to me :/

HOT_HATCH
HOT_HATCH
10 months ago
Reply to  Kody Dagley

Looks terrible, yes. But it makes visibility so much better. No more hump for the cluster needed.

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
10 months ago

That original gen Santa Fe felt like it was around a lot more ten years ago, and then disappeared fairly quickly. I suppose Hyundais of that time didn’t last as well as other types of car.

Anoos
Anoos
10 months ago
Reply to  Wolfpack57

I think Hyundais of that time came with 10 yr / 100k mile (non-transferrable) warranties.

MDMK
MDMK
10 months ago

Looks like a cross between a Land Rover (good) and a miniature RV (yuck!) with its attempt to preempt the future Ioniq 7’s weird bumper hugging taillight style which strangely enough, would actually look pretty good on a Santa Cruz’s tailgate. In any case, the rear end will be an acquired taste for sure but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see an emergency refresh moving the taillights 12-18 inches higher where they belong by 2026.

The H light patterns front and rear are interesting but whether they will considered either iconic or gimmicky by its finicky home market and abroad remains to be seen.

Last edited 10 months ago by MDMK
Karl Jacobs
Karl Jacobs
10 months ago

I’ve been waiting for this for nearly a year since the spy photos starting showing up..

Boy am I disappointed.

The good: The grill, the boxiness, and focus on space.

The ok.. the odd wheel arches and overly robotish appearance.

The terrible.. that rear end.. that’s a rear end design only a delivery van could love. It feels like a fugly minivan.

Ben Novak
Ben Novak
10 months ago

Like the new design, but it seems sure to negatively affect its aerodynamics. Hopefully they’ll option it with a nice hybrid system for improved mileage.

Roofless
Roofless
10 months ago

Hyundai(/Kia/Genesis) is really on another level with their designs right now – there’s really nobody else making genuinely interesting designs and then actually shipping them as products. Even when they’re not exactly to your liking, they’re interesting, unique, and packed full of details. I don’t have any interest in an SUV, but I appreciate that they’re building it – we need more cool new cars.

Dan Bee
Dan Bee
10 months ago

I love this thing.

Bring back boxy, practical SUVs. Great how the dash has knobs and buttons too. And what is that in the interior picture… a thin A pillar? Can it be… outward visibility is returning? Sure the taillights could be better and the styling line below the windows could be horizontal instead of gradually sloping upward, but this is so refreshing in a world of “SUVs” that look like armadillos on four wheels. Go down a wheel size to 18″ and slap a good pair of all-terrains on there, and you have a real SUV.

Nice work, Hyundai. Please build a plug-in hybrid version.

Last edited 10 months ago by Dan Bee
Karl Jacobs
Karl Jacobs
10 months ago
Reply to  Dan Bee

The boxiness is fine, and I could get used to the angular wheel arches, but the lower front fascia, and the entire back end are FUGLY.

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