It seems potentially controversial front end treatments are today’s theme. After teasing its upcoming Santa Fe last week, Hyundai let it all out on Tuesday, debuting a wildly different fascia with which to temp buyers on the hunt for an “ultimate family adventure vehicle.”
If you’re not up on your corporate marketing-speak, that’s how Hyundai refers to its popular midsize crossover. Despite bowing in fourth-generation form in mid-2018, the Santa Fe rolls into 2021 with a new platform in tow, begging to be noticed — not that it already wasn’t.
Hyundai apparently feels that boasting the freshest faces in the industry will help it woo the American buying public. With a full stable of crossovers now realized, it’s not a terrible strategy.
Just two model years after its debut, the midsize Santa Fe crossover (which replaced the Santa Fe Sport and necessitated a name change for the existing, larger Santa Fe to Santa Fe XL before that model’s metamorphosis into the less confusingly named Palisade) stands to gain a fairly radical new front end design.
It wasn’t long ago that Hyundai, having rocketed out of the recession on the strength of efficient — and newly improved — product, canned its American CEO over declining sales and made Operation Crossover its primary focus.
The sales slump was almost entirely the product of American buyers’ cold-shouldering of traditional passenger cars, to which Hyundai brass saw a utility vehicle surge as the only remedy. Seems they were right, as Hyundai’s now sitting pretty — and there’s another crossover that’s yet to land.
In all the years we’ve been presenting this series, Ace of Base has never focused on what was Hyundai’s first stepping stone into the world of crossovers and SUVs: the Santa Fe. Let’s correct that oversight with this new-for-2019 model.
To be clear, this is the two-row model, not the three-row which currently has an “XL” suffix appended to its name. That machine will vanish when the new Palisade appears later this year. Whatever it’s called, Hyundai sells a lot of ‘em; there must be a reason for that, right?
If you’re enamored by the thought of a high-torque, compression ignition Hyundai crossover, dream on. After promising a diesel version of its new-for-2019 Santa Fe, which began arriving at dealers this past summer, Hyundai has announced a diesel is off the table.
The automaker admitted as much to Green Car Reports following a plant tour in Seoul. Apparently, Hyundai feels Americans just aren’t interested. With the diesel’s stillbirth comes another change for the revamped crossover: the removal of its third-row option.
Calling something “unremarkable” is usually a bad thing. No one likes being called unmemorable or bland. But when it comes to crossovers, which are primarily meant to haul lots of people and stuff, it’s a term that can easily be used in a complimentary manner. After all, few people are looking for crossovers that drive like tall sports cars, and no one wants something so bad that it’s remarkable.
Not to mention that only a few crossover buyers want or need significant off-road capability – and only a few crossovers really offer that, anyway (which hasn’t stopped brands, including Hyundai, from touting their crossovers’ “off road” ability. More on that later).
If you’re selling a crossover in 2018, all you really need to do is come up with something comfortable that isn’t terribly boring to drive. Something that has all the right safety and convenient features, has a price in line with the competition, and won’t require a stop at every gas pump.
Hyundai has most of that covered here.
There was a moment last week when a few TTAC minds nearly cracked while nailing down the changes coming to Hyundai’s lineup for the 2019 model year. The momentary confusion centered around the bold new Santa Fe, which replaces the Santa Fe Sport (but not the old Santa Fe, which becomes the Santa Fe XL, except in Canada, where it’s already called the Santa Fe XL).
It was touch and go there for a moment. With a wholly new two- and three-row crossover replacing the Santa Fe Sport for 2019, the existing three-row-always Santa Fe (soon to be Santa Fe XL) soldiers on unchanged, though not for long. The full-size crossover seen in these spy shots is nearly ready to step in and give Americans the really big Korean vehicle they’ve always wanted.
Now, who wants to place bets on the inevitable Southwestern name?
Hyundai apparently deemed that a thorough restyle of its popular Santa Fe crossover wasn’t enough, so it went ahead and mixed up the model names. Debuting today in Seoul, the new Santa Fe and Santa Fe XL are the latest push by the Korean automaker to offer more product to a crossover-hungry marketplace.
Oh yeah, and they added a diesel option, too.
As part of its sales-stimulating crossover offensive, Hyundai’s upcoming Santa Fe will drop the safe styling act that’s carried the model since its inception. The first official images of the 2019 model are out, revealing a three-row vehicle that mimics Hyundai’s smallest crossover, the Kona.
Like that bottom-rung sibling, the 2019 Santa Fe, due for a full reveal ahead of March’s Geneva Motor Show, adopts the brand’s now signature “cascading grille” and a quartet of headlamps — narrow running lights above, driving lights below. Get used to the new face, as you’ll be seeing it on plenty of Hyundai rigs in the coming years.
Hyundai’s Santa Fe has been a reliable performer for the automaker, topping up the company’s coffers over three generations and helping turn the crossover segment into the unstoppable juggernaut it is today.
The current generation, dating to 2013, is sufficiently long in the tooth to call for a top-down revamp, the results of which we can see in these official renderings. For 2019, Hyundai’s biggest grows bigger and bolder, but a few mysteries still remain.
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).
“Each model will have its own identity.” – Luc Donckerwolke,
senior vice president, head of Hyundai Motor Design Center
Finally, long after the Nissan Juke, Subaru Crosstrek, Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3, Hyundai is ready to launch the Kona subcompact crossover, at least in moderate volumes.
The Hyundai Kona is hardly a Tucson Lite; not remotely an Accent Allroad. An unusual face and bizarre use of cladding are all the more obvious because of the Kona’s tidy dimensions.
But while the 2018 Kona showcases a new Hyundai utility vehicle design language, Hyundai’s design leadership promises that future models won’t merely be enlargements of the same.
People don’t talk about crossovers in the same hushed and awed tones reserved for snarling muscle cars and sultry exotics, but mainstream automakers couldn’t care less. As long as their respective family haulers continue to sell like generators during a blackout, automakers are happy letting crossovers quietly fill the driveways of suburban America (while generating massive revenue).
However, nothing’s ever static in the industry, and crossover competition has never been more fierce. Recently, Nissan and Toyota issued a mid-year sales pitch to buyers, ramping up content and slashing prices on the Rogue and RAV4 to squeeze a few more sales from the low end of their respective lineups.
Naturally, Hyundai would be foolish not to fight back.
Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. have announced plans to recall 1.3 million vehicles in the United States and South Korea for engine defects that could result in stalling. While no automaker wants to face the possibility of a recall, Hyundai Motor Group is already facing a sales slump in both North America and Asia.
Having to waste millions on a recall that further brings the company’s ability to regulate quality into question is the last thing it needs. Last month, Hyundai recalled roughly one million cars seat for a faulty fastener that occasionally caused seat belts to detach in a crash.
You won’t recognize Hyundai’s crossover lineup after the automaker’s potentially lucrative product revamp.
Giving crossover-hungry buyers more of what they want, Hyundai plans to add two new models and re-position three existing models to better battle rivals in red-hot segments. Expect a name change for one well-known model and growth spurts for others.