2023.10.19 Hyundai Motor Company

[Santa Fe: A new lifestyle platform] The space‒centered design satisfies both daily life and the outdoors

Hyundai Motor Company
The design of Hyundai Motor Company’s all-new Santa Fe was widely loved as it succeeded in an unprecedented transformation through the traditional SUV style. The all-new Santa Fe’s design, which was completed to expand lifestyle with a focus on space, has the following story:

Humans are always moving and traveling; We refuse to settle for repetitive daily life. Always dream of freedom and seek new experiences. We are drawn to the convenience of living in the city, but we go back to nature to relax and recharge our lives. In this process, cars were transformed from mere means of transportation into independent and meaningful spaces. As the demand for personal space has increased due to the impact of the pandemic that has been prevalent over the past three years, the popularity of outdoor life using cars has also surged.

Hyundai Motor Company designed The all-new Santa Fe after deep consideration and detailed analysis of this trend. Focusing on a spacious and comfortable interior space that provides a wide range of usability for an outdoor lifestyle, the automaker has created an authentic SUV style that can capture attention while naturally blending into urban daily life and the outdoors. Hyundai Exterior Design Team 1 senior researcher Chung-eun Kim and researcher Tae-wook Choi shared detailed stories behind the design of The all-new Santa Fe.

ㅁHyundai Exterior Design Team 1, who designed the exterior of the all-new Santa Fe, researcher Tae-wook Choi and senior researcher Chung-eun Kim (from left)

Q. What are the concepts and keywords that define the exterior design of the all-new Santa Fe?

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | It is the ‘lifestyle-centered design’. Rather than a conventional family look, Hyundai Motor Company is pursuing the ‘Hyundai Look’, which has slightly different shapes and designs for each model to suit the lifestyle of consumers. Just as the chess pieces are all similar but look slightly different, Hyundai Motor Company’s SUV lineup - Casper, Venue, Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe, and Palisade - has the same direction and aims for a design based on the lifestyle of each target consumer group.

The all-new Santa Fe was also born in pursuit of this design. We expanded the tailgate space and wheelbase to provide space and value optimized for consumers’ lifestyles that include both the city and nature. In addition, we wanted to create a differentiated premium design unique to the all-new Santa Fe by embodying the solid and majestic presence of an authentic SUV through the exterior design.

The all-new Santa Fe, unlike other cars, was designed with a focus on interior rear seat space

Q. From your explanation, it sounds like the all-new Santa Fe was designed with a focus on the tailgate for space utilization considering outdoor life.

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | The first generation Santa Fe moved the SUV from outdoor use to daily life in the city. And the all-new Santa Fe inherited the design identity of its predecessor, intending to become a ‘Cross-the-Line’ SUV. Before designing The all-new Santa Fe, we analyzed the lifestyles of various consumers through big data; It showed that by the time it is released, the preference for outdoor lifestyles such as auto camping will become stronger.

So, we started the design by expanding the tailgate space, which captures the potential value of the SUV for outdoor activities. To further expand the living space, the wheelbase was increased and space was secured compared to its predecessor, thereby naturally changing into a boxy typology. In this process, we also applied the ‘Inside Out’ concept, which extends the design that started from inside the tailgate to the exterior (an interior concept that brings the openness of the interior design to the outside).

The all-new Santa Fe has a hidden assist handle on the C-pillar that improves roof rack accessibility

Q. It appears that Hyundai Motors attempted to connect the design of recent Hyundai models such as the IONIQ 5 and the All New Grandeur with its heritage. Did you try to incorporate this heritage that has continued since the first generation model into The all-new Santa Fe?

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | The first-generation Santa Fe is not only the first SUV independently developed by Hyundai Motor Company, but also has the concept of a fusion car that goes beyond the outdoor-oriented SUVs at the time and embraces the city and nature. It had a monocoque structure with a comfortable ride quality, and it was also leading the new urban SUV trend of incorporating a curved design into the exterior.

The all-new Santa Fe inherited the concept of the first-generation Santa Fe and added detailed elements to support a variety of outdoor activities - a bridge-type roof rack that allows easy loading of additional cargo, and the hidden assist handle that helps the connection between the C pillar and the roof rack. In addition, we have dramatically improved the interior space so that our consumers can expand their horizons of life through The all-new Santa Fe.

According to senior researcher Chung-eun Kim, the all-new Santa Fe has excellent aerodynamic performance, and the shape of the roof rack was carefully refined to achieve this

Q. Its predecessor, the 4th generation Santa Fe, gave a strong impression of being a decent family car, and its target consumer group was those in their 50s or older. So what are the elements of The all-new Santa Fe’s design that attracts young consumers?

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | The boxy shape of the all-new Santa Fe will evoke nostalgia for consumers who remember the classic SUV design. On the contrary, young consumers will be able to feel a fresh impression through its retro design sensibility and design with futuristic details. Although it is not noticeable, there is also a hidden element that may appeal to young consumers who are sensitive to the latest technology - its aerodynamic performance.

The all-new Santa Fe refined every inch of the body, including the shape of the rear spoiler, and achieved a drag coefficient of about 0.29

The drag coefficient is about 0.29, which is better than the existing Santa Fe (0.33) despite its boxier shape; The designers and engineers worked closely together to apply an air splitter to the bottom of the front bumper and refine the angle of the rear spoiler. At first glance, it looks square because it mainly uses straight lines and flat surfaces, but if you look closely, you can also see that the fenders, wheel house, and corners of the front are gently rounded. I believe that even young consumers who are sensitive to fuel economy and efficiency will be satisfied once they realize that this unexpected charm is hidden in the angular body that appears to reduce aerodynamic performance.

Researcher Tae-wook Choi said that The all-new Santa Fe’s H light conveys a unique charm

Q. Now that the SUV market is very dense, car design has never been more important than it is now. What are the exterior design elements that can emphasize the unique charm of the all-new Santa Fe?

Researcher Tae-wook Choi | One example is the H light, which was designed to intuitively reveal Hyundai Motor Company’s identity while emphasizing the presence of the all-new Santa Fe anytime, anywhere. The all-new Santa Fe catches the eye with its angular shape that emphasizes its SUV appeal, but it still needed more details - the H-shaped lights did the job. This was developed to take the design one step further from the seamless horizon lamps of the Grandeur, Sonata, and Kona.

The H light connected by a horizontal lamp is not just for the family look, but also embodies Hyundai Motor Company’s design spirit of constantly evolving in line with the development of technology and trends. If technological advancements and market needs change in the future, H Light will evolve in a more special and emotional direction. In addition, the visual details and UX elements that improve the user experience - such as the hidden assist handle on the C-pillar - make the model even more unique. In addition, we wanted to reveal the unique personality of The all-new Santa Fe by harmoniously mixing the overall neat surface with the angular volume of the fender.

The all-new Santa Fe’s H lights and front bumper design create a bold atmosphere, while the elaborate pattern inside the radiator grill creates a delicate feel

Q. The all-new Santa Fe looks robust overall, perhaps because of its shape with a lot of straight lines. In particular, the design of the front part, which heavily utilizes the H motif, stands out even more. What are the features of the front design of the all-new Santa Fe?

Researcher Tae-wook Choi | We tried to increase visual completeness by logically connecting each design element. The H light visually harmonizes with the front bumper design with the H motif. While the H lights and front bumper give a bold impression, the elaborate pattern inside the radiator grill emphasizes its delicate charm. These elements with conflicting properties create tension. Depending on the trim, the grille pattern is divided into a design with balanced rectangular elements (Exclusive, Prestige) and a design with elaborately arranged triangular elements (Calligraphy).

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim said that the neat side and volume of the fender are attractive design elements of The all-new Santa Fe

Q. The charm of the all-new Santa Fe’s sturdy shape seems to be most noticeable when viewed from the side. What are the characteristics of the side design?

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | The side design has three elements - a solid atmosphere created by the clean surface and powerful volume around the fender, bold and sharply designed wheel arches, and strong elements such as 21-inch wheels. Together, these dominate the overall impression of the vehicle.

The straight belt line and roof line further emphasize the solid impression of the all-new Santa Fe, while also reminding us of the spaciousness of the cabin. As the design of the all-new Santa Fe started from the rear and tailgate, maintaining the roofline was an important task. In addition, the roof rack, which upgrades the loading capacity on the roof, has had its slope refined to the very end for aerodynamic performance.

The hidden assist handle mounted on the C-pillar of the all-new Santa Fe is designed to support a weight of up to 200 kg

The last are the detailed elements of the C-pillar and quarter glass area. We put a lot of thought into the design from the early stages to provide consumers with a convenient way to easily access the roof, and the result is the hidden assist handle located on the C-pillar. And its design had to be safe and easy to use while meeting all packaging requirements. To this end, the width of the handle was set at 200 mm to ensure usability even when wearing thick gloves in cold weather, and the C-pillar structure was strengthened to support a maximum weight of 200 kg. At the same time, the cross-section of the C-pillar was minimized to maximize the openness of the rear quarter glass.

The all-new Santa Fe’s rear design shows careful consideration to support consumers’ diverse lifestyles

Q. When the design was first revealed, there were many mixed reactions regarding the rear design. There must be a reason for the rear design, so please explain in detail.

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | As explained earlier, the design of the all-new Santa Fe started with a tailgate that took into account spacious and comfortable rear seat space and extensive utility to provide a special user experience. We focused on the design work on the tailgate, imagining that when passengers fold down all the rear seats, sit inside, and open the tailgate, they would enjoy the beautiful scenery outside through the wide open terrace. We designed a tailgate of unprecedented size and optimized the position of the gas lifter to make it easier to operate when the tailgate is opened.

There were countless concerns about the location of the rear lamps; However, as we prioritized interior space, we learned that it was best to place the rear lamps low, and came to the conclusion that this was the optimal design to provide consumers with a new and innovative experience. By creating a wide-opening tailgate, the rear lamp attached to the tailgate also went up. However, unlike the moving tailgate, the regulation states that turn signals must be mounted on a fixed area such as a bumper, so the lamps and turn signals were placed separately. In other words, the rear design of the all-new Santa Fe was completed to create a new, bold, and unique design that has never been seen before, all designed for a consumer-oriented experience. 

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim and researcher Tae-wook Choi said that when people see The all-new Santa Fe, they hope that they will imagine going to nature with their loved ones

Q. Is there a message you would like to emphasize or convey to consumers through the exterior design of the all-new Santa Fe?

Senior researcher Chung-eun Kim | In addition to the premium image created by the sturdy exterior design and 21-inch wheels, the all-new Santa Fe has a variety of special USPs that cannot be felt simply through photos, such as excellent aerodynamic performance and UX features such as a hidden type assist handle. Anyone who wants to experience the true charm of the all-new Santa Fe should visit a Hyundai showroom or Hyundai Motor Studio to see it in person and fully experience it; It would be even better if you imagine going to the countryside and enjoying auto camping with your loved ones.

Photography by Daeil Choi and Beom-suk Kim

HMG Journal Operation Team


Pursuant to the Creative Commons License (CCL) 2.0, all users can copy, distribute, and transmit Information available on the Hyundai Motor Group Newsroom, or use it for exhibitions and performances. Please note, however, that all information is protected by copyright. Information users must use the information available on the Hyundai Motor Group Newsroom for strictly private/personal purposes only.

HMG Operation Policy