Let’s not kid ourselves here. As much as preposterously-sized grilles are distasteful, they’re here to stay. BMW has recently shown us that with their new 4-series coupe feature a huge grille that looks more like lungs than kidneys. Most Asian carmakers, save for Lexus, have shied away from this trend, until now. Taking inspiration from its North American cousin, the Kia Telluride, Hyundai has unveiled the all-new Santa Fe with a new design philosophy that makes us wonder if grilles made to fit cars or the other way round.
Evolving from the dual-headlight design found on the current generation Santa Fe, the new model incorporates slim headlights mounted on the top of the front fascia, with another set of headlight clusters below it, flanking the grille. The Volvo-esque vertical T-shaped LED running lights, together with the 3D mesh pattern grille of the Santa Fe work surprising well to project an imposing presence on the road. Hyundai claims the striking front end serves to create “a unique statement in the SUV segment, combining rugged presence and sophistication.” On that Hyundai, we can’t argue.
Along the sides, widened wheel arches, together with pronounced creases and a strong shoulder line, lend to the muscular and robust appearance of the Santa Fe. 20-inch wheel options further add to the sheer road presence of this behemoth. Round the back, the bold design language continues with a new horizontal taillight design that is linked with a reflector strip that runs across the width of the tailgate. The sculpted rear bumper harmoniously integrates with the rear tailgate design, further emphasising the wide stance the Santa Fe projects.
While the exterior of the Santa Fe is bold and in-your-face, the interior is much more sedated and refined, yet feels no less premium. The interior now provides more space, comfort, and convenience compared to the previous model.
The two-tier dashboard is finished with soft-touch material, housing the new 10.25-inch AVN touchscreen. At the same time, the driver’s instrument panel is now a larger 12.3-inch fully-digital cluster. Designed for ergonomic and intuitive use, the floating centre console houses all the controls for the media, climate control, as well as the shift-by-wire gear selector, and for the first time, a Terrain Mode rotary selector.
One significant highlight of the new Santa Fe would be the introduction of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Together with the Hyundai Kona Electric and Hybrid, the new Santa Fe joins the electrified SUV line-up featuring the ‘Smartstream’ hybrid and plug-in hybrid system. Although Hyundai hasn’t revealed the internal combustion component of its hybrid power plant, it can be safe to assume the 2.2 CRDi turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine would be one of the options available.
Being the first Hyundai to debut the brand’s all-new third-generation vehicle platform, the Santa Fe provides significant improvements in performance, handling, fuel efficiency and safety. Aerodynamics have also been improved so that air resistance is minimised to deliver excellent fuel efficiency, power and driving performance. Moreover, the enhanced aerodynamics, combined with the hybrid system hardware on-board allows for higher stability and a smoother, more comfortable ride for the passengers.
Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels have also improved through the use of reinforced sound-absorbing systems. Liberal incorporation of a multi-load path structure, hot stamping, and the integration of a super high-tensile steel plate in the chassis construction brings significant improvement to the overall safety of the passenger space with better impact absorption capabilities.
The new Santa Fe will go on sale in Europe later this year, just in time for the 20th anniversary of Hyundai’s longest-running SUV. With the growing popularity of large premium SUV’s in Malaysia, it’s only a matter of time before Hyundai Malaysia brings in the hybrid Santa Fe to our shores.