Ahead of its Australian release in Q3, 2020 (possibly Q4), Hyundai has revealed details on the updated Santa Fe.
The changes aren’t too radical, as this is an update of the current, fourth-generation version of the seven-seat SUV, rather than an all-new version. The changes are noticeable, though, starting with a new design for the front end. This is complemented by subtler styling tweaks at the rear.
The interior has been redesigned, with claims of more space, more comfort and more convenience for the driver and passengers compared to the current Santa Fe. The gear selector is gone, replaced by buttons, and the centre console adds a larger touch screen.
Improving its admittedly mild off-road credentials, the upcoming Santa Fe will also feature Hyundai’s Terrain Mode selector for the first time, with multiple mode options available to suit different driving conditions.
“We modernised the new Santa Fe with premium features and appealing aesthetics that are sure to add value,” said SangYup Lee, Senior Vice President and head of Global Design Centre.
“The bold lines that extend from one side to the other and from front to back give Santa Fe a rugged yet refined look that SUV customers want. Besides, we’ve added numerous features and functions to create a truly family-focused SUV that is a pleasure to drive.”
Not the most popular Hyundai in Australia in 2019 (the i30 took that title with 28,378 sales), nor the Korean brand’s best-selling SUV (the Tucson nailed that with 18,251 sales), the Santa Fe reached only 5,857 new owners in Australia last year; which was a big drop on 2018 numbers, even factoring in a depressed new car market.
Hyundai responded to this by reintroducing a petrol V6 variant to the range earlier this year in place of the naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder engine. This was only available with front-wheel drive, though, so If you want AWD, your only engine choice is the 2.2-litre turbo diesel.
Under COVID-19 conditions, the return of the V6 is unlikely to make any impression on Santa Fe sales this year, but the redesign for 2021 might. Hyundai are no doubt hoping that will be the case, as 2020 is looking like a bleak year for all automotive brands in this country.
The most obvious change to the updated Santa Fe is at the front with a new look grille.
Stretching across the width of the front end, the grille now incorporates the headlights in the outer edges. These are bisected by vertical LEDs to create a ‘T’ shape with the slim DRLs, which sit separate from the grille and are not all that different from the current Santa Fe in appearance.
The chrome strip that ran along the top edge of the grille now frames the bottom edge, but this is upstaged by a much bolder chrome strip on the lower grille opening that also serves as a faux skidplate.
The outer vents that previously housed the headlights have been slimmed right down, while the grille insert looks like it’ll be available in either the familiar open pattern mesh from the current Santa Fe, or a faceted triangular design depending on model grade.
In profile, there are no changes of note for the 2021 model, although Hyundai says the wheearches are wider. Seen alongside an MY19/MY20 model, the openings on the MY21 Santa Fe look identical, but 20-inch alloys in a new design help fill those openings.
At the rear, there are more noticeable changes, with the bold chrome band connecting the tail lights replaced with a thin LED strip, which is complemented by a reflector strip beneath the tailgate. The lights themselves have been redesigned and feature a new signature pattern.
Reversing lights are now more seamlessly incorporated into a lower bumper that runs body colouring to the lower edge and features a slimmed down skidplate. The result is a much cleaner look to the back end overall.
More Space, More Specs
Hyundai says the upcoming Santa Fe’s interior has been redesigned and provides more space, comfort, and convenience compared to the previous model.
There are premium soft-touch materials throughout the cabin and the centre console now sits higher, giving what’s described as an “armchair feeling” for the driver and front passenger.
The new shift-by-wire system removes the need for a conventional gear selector, with buttons now adorning the centre console below a touchscreen that’s increased in size from 8.0 inches to 10.25 inches.
Most of the touchscreen functions can be operated off haptic buttons, too, which are now grouped and centred for what Hyundai says is more intuitive and ergonomic use. From top to bottom, there are media/navigation controls, climate and comfort controls, then the new button-style gear controls and a rotating dial for the Terrain Mode selector, which will be making its Santa Fe debut with the coming update.
More Tech, More Capability
Adding the Terrain Mode selector to the Santa Fe for the first time with this upgrade seems an odd choice, but it may be more about bringing fresh interest to the current generation of the mid-size SUV than any attempt to make it more capable away from the tarmac.
Designed to optimise vehicle performance and the HTRAC All-Wheel-Drive system to suit a variety of driving situations, Terrain Mode offers easy switching between different drive modes – everything from sand, snow and mud, to eco, sport, comfort and smart modes. The latter automatically recognises the driving style and selects the right mode, so the driver doesn’t have to.
Further details on the MY21 Santa Fe’s specifications and features had not been released at time of writing, but will be available ahead of the update’s release later this year.
Similarly, pricing will be announced closer to local launch, but an increase is expected given the new standard features.