The fame of the Santa Fe precedes it. It is the brainchild of Korean-based carmaker Hyundai. This mid-size SUV's name is based on a city in New Mexico by the same name. A research conducted by Hyundai showed that the Santa Fe name was more popular than the Hyundai brand, and for this reason, the SUV got its name.
Soon enough, Hyundai Santa Fe became a household name, not merely due to the all-too-familiar name but to the top-of-the-line SUV features that Hyundai offered at an affordable price bracket. Its popularity went beyond the company's targets that, many times, production would fail to meet the market demand. The SUV sustained its success despite the strong competition posed by the likes of the Ford Escape and the Pontiac Aztec. The Santa Fe slots between Hyundai’s Tucson compact crossover and full-size Veracruz SUV.
Production timeline started in the year 2000, launching as a front-engine front-wheel-drive mid-size SUV, the Santa Fe has evolved to accommodate a front-engine four-wheel drive later on. In its second generation, it received recognition as the Top Pick car in the 2008 Consumer Reports.
First Generation: SM (2000-2006)
The Santa Fe first hit the scene in the year 2000 with a single-engine option that was a 2.7-litre 4-cylinder unit with either 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. It could also have a full-size Delta V6 coupled with the 4-speed automatic transmission. The Santa Fe was also made available in Australia in a 2.4-litre powertrain option later on in 2001. It came in two 4x4 trims, the GL and the GLS:
- GL – 2.7-litre G6BA V6 engine (132 kW, 247 Nm) with 4-speed automatic transmission
- GLS – same powertrain
In 2002, production continued with the Santa Fe sporting minimal changes. In the middle of the year, it received an upgrade which increased fuel tank capacity from 64 litres to 71 litres. This release also featured a redesigned logo and revised interior.
Hyundai pushed out a new Santa Fe in 2003. The designers took customer complaints into account, such as installing a light in the glove compartment and a prop to the hood. Its powertrain featured the previous 2.7-litre G6BA V6 with a computer-controlled 4-wheel drive system and a Monsoon sound system. Hyundai opted to discontinue the 2.4-litre G4JS variant owing to slow sales.
The next year saw maintained market performance for the Santa Fe with minor changes in the new release. Other changes in 2004 included a revised manual climate control and repositioned the AM/FM antenna system.
The 2005 release marked the last design change of the Santa Fe. It got new taillights, grille, rear bumper, interior instrument cluster, and a refined toll ticket slot. It also came with body-painted fenders and a new Mocha frost colour variant.
Second Generation: CM (2006-2012)
The second generation of the Santa Fe came to life in 2006 with its launch at the North American International Auto Show. This defined a new-era body style, ditching the old, less sporty design.
It featured electronic stability control, electronically-controlled pressure monitor, active front head restraints and anti-locking brakes. It was also equipped with a heated windshield wiper that helped remove ice build-up. The interior centre console came with Bluetooth control, quality grid leather with head restraints, and shingled headrests. The 2008 release added a new LG navigation system, the new Infinity sound system, and a sunroof as standard.
The 2009 Santa Fe came with 16-inch wheels. Later on, an R-line engine was released with an electrically-controlled injector. This 2.2-litre CRDI 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel unit made 145 kW of power and 421 Nm of torque. 2010 had the Santa Fe feature hands-free phone connectivity, steering audio controls, darker wood trims, and metallic steering wheel inlays.
The infotainment system was upgraded to a touchscreen with the inclusion of a rear backup camera. The powertrain was a standard 6-speed manual transmission or an optional 6-speed automatic transmission powered by a 2.4-litre Theta II 4-cylinder engine or a 3.5-litre Lambda II V6 engine.
In 2012, improvements on the Santa Fe’s interior added a new shift knob and downhill brake assist.
Hybrid Santa Fe
Innovation knew no bounds with the hybrid Santa Fe. On schedule, a New Santa Fe hybrid was developed that came with a petrol engine fitted with a 30kW electric motor powered by a 270V lithium-polymer battery.
The second-generation Santa Fe faced airbag deployment problems deeply rooted in the safety software. Hyundai proceeded to recall 200,000 cars to correct this defect.
Third Generation: DM (2012-2017)
The third-generation Santa Fe came to sport a new design that was made available in 2012. It was released during the New York Motor Show to feature two wheelbase variants of either 5-seat or 7-seat configuration. The 7-seat version comes with a new grille design and 19-inch alloy wheels, together with flush dual exhaust tips and broader body shape at the back.
This new generation came with an upgraded engine that featured 4-cylinder engines ranging from a 2.4-litre Theta II engine that made 142 kW to a 2.0-litre Theta II turbocharged unit that made 197 kW. This generation also received Hyundai’s Torque Vectoring Cornering Control feature that insured an upgraded drive performance.
The Santa Fe comes in a variety of trim levels, including a basic trim level that features two engine variants. Standard equipment included AM/FM radio system, CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth connectivity, touchscreen infotainment system, a GPS navigational system, and leather seats.
The Limited trim comes with blind-spot monitoring and a rear parking camera. It features the following engine options:
- 2.4-liter Theta II direct injection MPI inline-4 petrol (121 kW, 190 Nm)
- 2.0-liter CRDI VGT turbocharged inline-4 petrol (110 kW)
This release featured a new sound system and touch screen infotainment system with voice control features.
Fourth Generation: TM (2018-Present)
The TM series, which is the fourth-generation Santa Fe, came in two launches, the first one in South Korea, with the second one happening at the Geneva Motor Show.
This two-row SUV succeeded the Santa Fe Sport model and named the Santa Fe XL with a replacement model appearing later on in 2019.
For diesel lovers, the Santa Fe fourth generation has got you covered. This release sports a range of engines, a 2.0-litre diesel engine, a larger 2.2-litre diesel unit, and a 2.4-litre petrol engine coupled to 6-speed or 8-speed automatic transmissions.
The trim levels and their powertrains are as follows:
- Active AWD – 2.4-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission (138 kW, 241 Nm)
- Active CRDI AWD – 2.2-litre DT4 diesel engine with 8-speed automatic transmission (147 kW, 440 Nm)
- Active MPI – 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with 8-speed automatic transmission (206 kW, 336 Nm)
- Elite CRDI – 2.2-litre DT4 diesel engine with 8-speed automatic transmission (147 kW, 440 Nm)
- Elite MPI (2WD SUV) – 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with 8-speed automatic transmission (206 kW, 336 Nm)
- Highlander CRDi – 2.2-litre DT4 diesel engine with 8-speed automatic transmission (147 kW, 440 Nm)
The story of the Santa Fe does not end here. With a scheduled new release in 2020, the Santa Fe’s rollouts will continue to take the world by storm and prove that SUVs do not need to go with a hefty price tag.
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