With so many people buying crossovers these days, automakers are adopting boxy retro designs in order to diversify their portfolios. Shapes like the Land Rover Defender, once seen as outdated, are now fashionable. Volkswagen is even jumping on board with its revived Scout electric SUV, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe believes it’s cool to be square.
Designing a boxy SUV is one thing, but many automakers held themselves back from this because they didn’t have the heritage to back it up. For reference, the first Ford Bronco came out in 1965 as a 1966 model. Meanwhile, the first Hyundai entered production in 1975, a full decade later.
Obviously, the first Hyundai wasn’t even an SUV. The Pony was a mix of elements from Ford and Mitsubishi in the shape of a compact car. The first Hyundai SUV is actually the Santa Fe, having made its debut for the 2001 model year.
The Santa Fe played a big part in making Hyundai into the popular carmaker it is today. During the late 1990s, the company prioritized the needs of its American buyers, so it developed crossovers and big sedans.
Hyundai now sells more crossovers/SUVs than ever, resulting in a considerable overlap between models. They’re about to make even more with the introduction of EVs, so the Santa Fe has been given a whole new identity. The SUV was spotted a few weeks ago in South Korea, and while the camouflage was pretty thick, some unmistakably square design elements could be identified.
Based on real spy photos
The video at the bottom of this story will show how the front end is clearly flatter than before. Gone are the quad headlights which so many Korean cars now have, replaced with large, square lights that still have modern LED inside workings.
The work of the Hyundai designers is particularly clear when the prototype is viewed from the side. The line of the roof and the shoulder line are both completely square, and there’s even a square quarter window similar to the new Land Rover Defender. Even the five-spoke wheels are blocky like they’ve been created in the 1980s. Its boxy shape reminds us of the upcoming EV9 electric crossover from Kia.
Using the information from that video, the website Kolesa created a set of renderings of the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe. While their work is usually pretty accurate, they clearly took a number of liberties because of the thick camo. For example, we don’t know if these profile creases are real, and that extremely large fender cladding makes it look like the 2003 Honda Element.
This next generation of the Santa Fe will be the 5th in this lineage which dates all the way back to 2000. And as such, the Ulsan-made SUV is known internally as the MX5 project. What’s surprising is how soon it arrives, since the current version is still pretty young for an SUV at 4 years. Sales are reportedly slipping despite a recent facelift, which may be why Hyundai is making such radical changes.
Then again, Hyundai doesn’t seem concerned with model overlap. It’s believed that the 2024 Santa Fe will grow from a mid-sized SUV to a full-sized one. This will help set it apart from the Tucson but could also increase prices significantly.
Although it looks like a Land Rover Defender, this Korean SUV won’t have the same kind of powertrain. Instead, hybrid or plug-in hybrid drives will be prevalent. Hyundai’s new illuminated badge is also believed to debut on this model, so it might be a technological showcase.