We seem to be living in an era where appearance frequently trumps substance. Enter the Hyundai Santa Fe XRT, South Korea’s attempt to convince shoppers that modifying a vehicle to look the part is just as good as making it genuinely capable.
The XRT is the newest trim for the Santa Fe crossover and introduces some aesthetic ruggedization as a way to entice customers that fantasize about weekend blasts at the dunes but have no intention of ever going. It’s an appearance package for an otherwise capable daily driver that can already be customized to suit your needs and price range. But perhaps you’re still curious and want to know everything XRT has to offer — just in case it happens to slot into your lifestyle.
Though I would doubt it.
Another day, another Zoom presentation to learn about some new hotness.
As we noted, the Kona now gets an N Line trim so that the brand can argue that its subcompact crossover can be considered truly “sporty” (we’ll be the judge of the merits of said argument once we drive it), and there are new duds.
Hyundai has sent the Santa Fe in for surgery for the 2021 model year, but there was little reason for us to worry about a botched facelift. With the notable exception of the mildly polarizing Elantra refresh from 2019, the brand has been on an extended roll with its refreshes. They’ve come often, typically bringing a model into the brand’s current design language without diluting the visual characteristics underpinning its own individuality. Considering most automakers can’t help but drop a steaming dud onto the carpet at least once every couple of years, we think Hyundai should be praised just for screwing things up so infrequently.
That said, the Santa Fe update goes quite a bit further than simply not ruining anything. The family-focused crossover is getting some meaningful tech upgrades, improved interior options, a whole new platform (despite this being a “refresh”) and a selection of new powertrains. A SmartStream 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine replaces the base 2.4-liter from the outgoing model and doesn’t offer much additional performance at just 191 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque (estimated). But Hyundai says customers should notice a bump in fuel economy as the motor doesn’t have to work quite so hard in its daily duties. Those wanting more might enjoy the turbocharged variant — which features a new eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission and 277 horsepower/311 lb-ft of torque (estimated) — or the brand’s soon-to-follow hybrid option.
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.
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?
Ah, the mainstream compact crossover. Quickly overtaking the traditional midsize sedan as the new family vehicle of choice, every manufacturer has to have one or more with which to fill the lot. The formula is simple — usually two rows with five seats, a reasonably powerful four-cylinder, benign handling, and striking-but-instantly-forgettable styling. No need to trawl manufacturer websites or dealer lots, either. Five minutes of searching for an open space at the grocery on a busy Saturday will allow you to closely inspect every possible contender in this hot class.
Hyundai’s been playing in this market with a pair of similar models for a few years — the Santa Fe with three rows, and the shorter Santa Fe Sport, with two rows. No longer (or shorter). The old embiggened three-row soldiers on as the Santa Fe XL, while the two-row model is now simply this 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Now that we’ve sorted the names, does this Santa Fe satisfy?
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.
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.
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).
Here’s something to depress our older readers: There is an entire generation of drivers that has never known a world without Lexus. Note that I did not say “Lexus and Infiniti.” The majority of American drivers probably have no idea Infiniti exists.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way. I was there at the start, working for a BMW dealer, and I can tell you that many people on the retail side of the business thought that Infiniti would prove to be just as successful as Lexus. Maybe more successful. All of the momentum seemed to be on Nissan’s side: They had the near-legendary Nissan Primera as Infiniti’s entry-level car, beloved of autowriters and cognoscenti everywhere. Toyota had a Camry with frameless windows. Infiniti had the mighty, dream-crushing Q45, which was as fast as a V12 Bimmer and styled from nose to tail in an original, tasteful, fake-wood-free fashion. Toyota had a store-brand copy of the S-Class.
It didn’t turn out that way, of course. We now live in a Lexus world. The brand is so strong that other brands, like Cadillac, obtain the bulk of their sales volume selling knockoff versions of the RX350. I don’t have access to hard numbers, but I would suspect that Lexus dealers are more profitable, per unit sold, than any other franchise south of, say, Porsche.
And where is Infiniti? Nowhere. Lost. Sinking. The reasons for the brand’s failure are too numerous to consider in a single article. But I’m going to discuss what I think might be the most important reason here, because it doesn’t just apply to Nissan’s boutique brand and it continues to affect everyone from Honda to Hyundai.
Hyundai America chief Dave Zuchowski told Car and Driver that he expects the Santa Cruz Concept, seen here, to be given the go-ahead from Korean bosses this year.
That means the Subaru Brat-inspired pickup, based on the Hyundai Tucson, could go on sale sometime soon, for which you can pay actual money for a real one of these (maybe with a diesel!) compact pickups. However, the pickup’s viability hinges on a couple key points.
I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First time ever. Was not a good time.