The Hyundai Santa Fe was the brand's first crossover in the United States. Earlier this week, the automaker revealed the fifth generation with a radically altered design. The best way to understand how revolutionary the new model looks is by reviewing the versions that came before it.
First Generation (2001-2006)
Hyundai debuted the first-generation Santa Fe at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show. The small SUV had a moderately rugged design with black plastic cladding covering most of the lower half of the vehicle, including a huge piece on the front bumper and some interesting detailing on the rear.
Hyundai touted the original Santa Fe as an off-road-capable vehicle. Believe it or not, the model was longer and broader than most of its competitors at the time.
The interior was basic but roomy, with enough space for up to five passengers and pretty solid cargo room. Hyundai even offered then-premium features like air conditioning, a CD player, and electric windows and mirrors on the top-end model. It even had a sunroof.
The first-gen Santa Fe underwent a few changes in its five-year lifespan, receiving more powerful engine options and a substantial facelift toward the tail end of its production run. Assembly finally ended on the first-gen Santa Fe for the 2006 model year.
Second Generation (2007-2012)
The second-generation Santa Fe arrived in the US for the 2007 model year. It adopted more conservative styling with a smaller grille and less body cladding than the original. The result was a vehicle that was understated and absolutely not flashy.
The Santa Fe was no longer Hyundai's only crossover at this point. Hyundai offered the smaller Tucson and somewhat more luxurious Veracruz at the same time.
Inside, the second-gen Santa Fe was available with more premium amenities. Buyers could get things like a navigation system, wood trim, and improved stereo systems.
Third Generation (2013-2018)
Hyundai launched the third-generation Santa Fe for the 2013 model year. It was available as a five-seat Sport model or a seven-seat long-wheelbase variant with room for up to seven people.
It retained a little of the second-gen model's smooth styling but added some complexity. There was a new hexagonal grille. The headlights gained sharper edges, and bigger foglights were in the bottom corner. A sharp crease cut from the front fender to the rear through the door handles.
The interior took another step upmarket. It looked far more modern with metallic trim and sharp-edged styling.
Fourth Generation (2019-2023)
The fourth-generation Santa Fe is still very familiar to us because you can still find them on dealer lots. It radically differed from the third-gen model with elements like narrow headlights and a hexagonal grille with a big mesh insert. The crossover also gained more sculpting along the sides.
The interior remains competitive in the class. There's a big screen on the dashboard while retaining some physical controls. The upholstery materials are also up to the standards with other models that buyers might shop for.
Fifth Generation (2024-Future)
While every previous generation of the Santa Fe was smooth and sculpted, the new one switched to a much more chiseled appearance. The grille is now upright, and there are H-shaped headlights that communicate this vehicle is from Hyundai. The profile is mainly slab-sided except for the bulging fenders.
The cabin adopts a minimalist aesthetic. The digital instrument cluster and infotainment screen share a single bezel. The HVAC controls are on a separate display that connects to the center console.
While Hyundai debuted the new Santa Fe's styling, the full debut doesn't happen until August. We should get powertrain details there.