2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV gets bold, tech-forward look
There's a bit of a mystery surrounding this fourth-gen crossover -- is it the Sport, or not?
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
If the teaser renderings revealed late last month suggested that Hyundai's next-generation Santa Fe would be a conservative reskin, they were misleading. These first official photos of the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe crossover SUV show off a much more ambitious front end, a design that heavily echoes that of the company's recently unveiled Nexo fuel-cell vehicle.
The fourth-generation Santa Fe appears somehow both beefier and higher tech, thanks in part to divided light clusters. Hyundai is calling these fixtures "twin headlights," and if the Nissan Juke and pre-facelift Jeep Cherokee are any indication, it's not entirely clear which units are the main beams and which are the daytime running lamps. Hyundai's forthcoming Kona small SUV also features a similar look, so perhaps this split-lamp look will become a touchstone of the company's crossover range. If I had to bet on it, they wouldn't be the slim, glowering upper units that nestle between the wing-shaped piece of brightwork and the hood's leading edge. Those are probably the DRLs.
Whether it's because of the split lighting or the large and intricately detailed cascade grille, this new model's look is likely to be more polarizing than today's milquetoast Santa Fe.
Dimensionally, the new Santa Fe spans 187.8 inches long and 74.4 inches wide. Somewhat confusingly, in terms of length, those dimensions split the difference between the third-generation Santa Fe three-row model and the two-row Santa Fe Sport currently on sale. Today's Santa Fe spans 193.1 inches long, and the smaller Sport is 185 inches long. It's therefore likely that the vehicle shown here will be a five-seater and be known as the Santa Fe Sport when it comes to market in the States. Regardless of which it is, the new model is also a smidge wider than today's existing Santa Fe family.
Hyundai has also released a full dashboard shot of its new Santa Fe, and it looks like the image shows a high-end trim. Dominated by a large floating navigation screen flanked by physical switchgear including a pair of knobs, there's also what looks to be a large in-cluster display, and heating and cooling for the seats and steering wheel.
Hyundai hasn't released much in the way of specifics about its new SUV's features, other than to reiterate that the model will feature a Rear Occupant Reminder system (designed to prevent accidentally forgetting children in the back).
The new model will also be offered with a new Safe Exit Assist system that warns occupants if they're about to open their doors into the path of oncoming traffic -- the tech can go so far as to lock the door momentarily to avoid an accident.
Additionally, the Santa Fe will be the company's first model offered with Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Hyundai-speak for rear cross-traffic alert with auto brake.
No word yet on driveline options for the US, but Hyundai's Korean-market website suggests that the SUV will receive a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas model, as well as pair of diesels that presumably won't be available in North America. The new Santa Fe will make its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March, and it seems likely to make its North American debut at the New York Auto Show shortly thereafter. Based on the cadence of the company's teaser schedule, however, we wouldn't rule out seeing more information about this important new model before then.