“First launched in the year 2000, Hyundai celebrates 20 years of its flagship SUV, the Santa Fe.”
In the year 2000, Hyundai introduced its first Sport Utility Vehicle, the Santa Fe which made its way to dealerships in 2001. South Africa also had the opportunity to taste the brand’s SUV in its first generation. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, we take a look back at how the Santa Fe has evolved through the years.
It goes without saying that the Santa Fe has undergone significant changes in its design, safety and technology. It has also often led the way for new features as a flagship model. Introduced at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show, subsequent generations of the SUV became progressive premium models over time with the 2005 model year gaining a refreshed look and a 2.7 V6 engine and traction control to meet standards of consumers of the time.
When it was first introduced, the Santa Fe featured a rugged yet refined look and was a little wider and longer when compared to its segment rivals while emphasising practical off-road driving. The spacious interior offered enough room for up to five passengers, as well as ample cargo space. Meanwhile, its convenience features, which included air conditioning, a CD player, as well as electric windows, mirrors and a sunroof, were comprehensive for the time.
In 2003, in response to customer demand for even more driving performance, Hyundai upgraded Santa Fe with a more powerful engine and a computer-controlled four-wheel-drive system. In 2005, the South African market also benefitted from the upgrades with a powerful 2.7-litre V6 engine with outputs of 130kW and 255Nm mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox fitted with Shiftronic manual control and traction control.
Exterior changes and upgrades included a new grille, refined body, side cladding, new taillights, redesigned tailgate handle, new rear bumper design, and newly designed 16-inch alloy wheel design. The Santa Fe is fitted with climate controlled air conditioning, ABS with traction control and EBD, and new fashionable 16-inch wheels and tyres. Interior upgrades on the 2005 model included a new instrument cluster, new leather seats and a two-tone colour scheme.
A year after the facelift saw its life in South Africa, Hyundai introduced the second-generation Santa Fe at the North American Internation Motor Show in January 2006. Launch engines were the 2.7-litre V6 petrol and 2.2-litre diesel in 4×2 or 4×4 derivatives with a choice of a 5-speed manual or automatic gearbox. This new model was 175mm longer, 45mm wider and 60mm higher than the first-generation SUV with a wheelbase extended by 80mm.
Hyundai put more effort on this model as it was sculptured to create more visual appeal with its geometric shape which featured pod-type headlight structures in clear glass and black bezels. It was fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels enveloped in 235/16 profile tyres. Looked at from the rear, revised styling lines helped in highlighting extra length and width to the body with wrap-around taillights echoing the front design.
Inside the second-generation Santa Fe, a refined cabin with upper-class material was evident. Materials used were full leather and wood grain finishes with a mixture of analogue and digital displays which were said to be restful on the eye. A premium feel was more emphasised by the use of blue backlighting which also surrounded controls and switches. Larger interior space allowed the automaker to add a third row of seats making the Santa Fe a seven-seater as opposed to a traditional 5 seater like its predecessor.
In its midlife, 2010 to be exact, the Hyundai Santa Fe turned a decade old and it was accompanied by a facelift in South Africa. Upgraded for year 2011, the SUV gained interior aesthetic and mechanical improvements with a focus put more on the latter. Inside the SUV delights were a 3.5-inch LCD screen positioned in the rearview mirror activating when the reverse gear is selected. Displacement on the 2.2-litre diesel engine was increased and provided greater power and torque outputs. A six-speed transmission was also added.
With customer demand increasing, Hyundai added safety technologies such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), an anti-lock braking system (ABS), side-curtain airbags for all seating rows, a tyre pressure monitor, and active front head restraints now came as standard. Later, a premium version was added, which included a built-in navigation system, rear-view camera, cruise control and a light sensor.
Taking a big step forward in enhanced safety and connectivity, Hyundai introduced its third-generation Santa Fe in 2013 under the brand’s new fluid design language called “Storm Edge”. This design consisted of refined lines and bold voluminous surfaces. By adding a more emotional, muscular look and a wealth of premium features, the company demonstrated it was moving away from offering a purely functional SUV, and instead a sophisticated lifestyle vehicle.
In South Africa, the third interpretation of the Santa Fe was launched in three derivatives with a choice of a front-wheel-drive and two all-wheel-drive Executive and Elite models which also had a choice of 6 or 7 people seating.
2015 Hyundai delivered yet another refined and innovative package for their flagship SUV. Key elements were smart assist systems for increased convenience, enhanced engine and transmissions, traffic alert systems coupled with new technologies in comfort, convenience and active safety. The front and rear design were also refreshed to bring the Santa Fe in line to Hyundai’s family look of the time.
Building on the success of its previous models, Hyundai introduced the fourth-generation Santa Fe in 2018. The flagship SUV arrived with a new premium look, advanced technology with more space and comfort features.
The elegant SUV model features a bold outward appearance with a wide, athletic stance. Hyundai’s signature Cascading Grille decorates the front, and the side is enhanced by sleek lines which stretch along the roof and from the headlights to the taillights. This reinforces the car’s status at the top of Hyundai’s SUV line-up. Inside, it is the roomiest Santa Fe yet, with 38 mm more legroom in the second row.
Its power comes from a 2.2-litre CRDi engine with outputs of 152kW and 440Nm mated to an eight-speed gearbox that sends all needed power and torque to four wheels using an enhanced torque application called HTRAC. This technology controls the torque distribution and braking power of the front and rear wheels variably. It supports drivers in all kinds of driving situations, whether on slippery roads or in regular road conditions and enhances stability in cornering.
Equipped with Hyundai’s SmartSense technology, the Santa Fe is said to be among the safest SUVs with a five star EuroNCAP rating. Other safety features include Rear Cross-Traffic Assist which scans 180 degrees area behind the car. Key safety and convenience feature are the in-house designed Rear Occupant Alert which uses an ultrasonic sensor to detect the movement of children or pets on the rear seat and alert the driver when leaving the car.
Since it was first introduced with the millennium year, Hyundai has worked to improve both the technology and looks of the Santa Fe making it a premium SUV it is today. Hyundai will release further details on the enhanced fourth-generation in the near future.