Santa Fe on Its Way: Hyundai's Largest Crossover Dons New Clothes

santa fe on its way hyundai s largest crossover dons new clothes

Hyundai has dropped a few details about its next Santa Fe, including a dimly lit teaser photo. In a confusing bit of theatre, the company says the trucklet will make a world premiere at an unnamed location next month before debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in early March.

Hyundai refreshed its two largest crossovers just two model years ago. With consumer tastes running hot in that segment, the Korean automaker knows it needs to keep up with the Joneses (and the Toyotas and Nissans).

The teaser photo, as they often do, tells us little beyond giving a vague idea of the vehicle’s overall silhouette. Examining its proportions, this author guesses we are looking at the seven-passenger Santa Fe, which stickers starting at just under $31,000. The taillight assembly extends a bit further into the rear quarter panel, with an oddly sharp angle halfway up the lens.

Up front, its headlamps are a heckuva lot narrower than the current units, which employ a version of Hyundai’s “Fluidic Sculpture” styling language. These peepers seem to be very slim, barely dipping below the top of the vehicle’s grille. It’s tough to tell if there are any ancillary lights below. It’s unlikely that the Santa Fe will ape the old Cherokee’s alarming mug, for example, but the photo does suggest a bit of change in styling direction for the Korean automaker.

The new-generation Santa Fe will offer a package of Hyundai’s latest active safety features under the Smart Sense technology umbrella. Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning is now paired with an automated braking function designed to toss out an anchor if Junior runs across the driveway while you’re backing out of the garage.

For calendar year 2017, Hyundai and Genesis-branded vehicles sold a total of 685,555 units, a 12 percent decline from the all-time yearly sales record established in 2016. Annual sales were lower due in part to a concerted effort of vanquishing fleet sales, which were down 31 percent. Retail sales were down about 5 percent, despite a car-to-SUV mix inverse to the industry.

That mix is increasing, as Hyundai light truck sales set an all-time annual record with nearly a quarter-million sold, representing a 12 percent increase over 2016. SUV sales represented well over 30 percent of total sales, the highest SUV mix in Hyundai history.

The Santa Fe line is currently cleaved in half, with the five-passenger Santa Fe Sport making a value play with its $25,000 opening bid while the seven-passenger Santa Fe takes care of those with larger families or more stuff.

Hyundai’s large crossover naming scheme vexes your humble author, as it allows for a grouping of sales numbers. When the automaker had three distinct nameplates (Tucson, Santa Fe, and Veracruz) it was much easier to determine how each model performed in its respective category. I deplore intentional obfuscation.

Whatever its title, the fourth-gen Santa Fe will bow at the Geneva Motor Show in early March.

[Image: Hyundai Motor America]

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  • Kyree Kyree on Jan 25, 2018

    It's clear Hyundai is committed to the front fascia design language seen on the Kona, with small headlamps assemblies up top and larger, functional ones in the bumper...which is unfortunate. So, yeah, I'm thinking 2014-2017 Cherokee, definitely.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Jan 26, 2018

      Hyundai's take on the split headlights is different from what was on the Cherokee (or for that matter, Citroen's) - the DRLs actually look like (aggressive) headlights. Unlike on the Cherokee, don't mind it at all.

  • ShoogyBee ShoogyBee on Jan 25, 2018

    "In a confusing bit of theatre, the company says the trucklet will make a world premiere at an unnamed location next month before debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in early March." It would be cool if they unveiled the new Santa Fe in... Santa Fe, NM.

  • Dennis Howerton Nice article, Cory. Makes me wish I had bought Festivas when they were being produced. Kia made them until the line was discontinued, but Kia evidently used some of the technology to make the Rio. Pictures of the interior look a lot like my Rio's interior, and the 1.5 liter engine is from Mazda while Ford made the automatic transmission in the used 2002 Rio I've been driving since 2006. I might add the Rio is also an excellent subcompact people mover.
  • Sgeffe Bronco looks with JLR “reliability!”What’s not to like?!
  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
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