DubiCars Car Spotlight — Hyundai Santa Fe History, Generations, Models & More

In the 1990s, Hyundai as a brand faced a crisis. It was known for cars that didn’t really leave a lasting impression and the top brass at Hyundai wanted to change this. A restructuring process began in the late 90s and Hyundai decided to develop its first SUV. The SUV went into production in the year 2000 and was named Santa Fe after the city in New Mexico, USA. 

hyundai santa fe history generations

Since the very beginning, the Hyundai Santa Fe has been powered either by inline-4 or V6 engines. It was also known as the Hyundai Maxcruz in certain markets. It is positioned between the Hyundai Tucson and Hyundai Palisade. In this edition of the DubiCars Car Spotlight, we closely examine the Hyundai Santa Fe, its history, and its generations.

First Generation | 2000 – 2015

The first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, marked a significant milestone in Hyundai’s journey to establish itself in the competitive SUV market. This crossover SUV was a breath of fresh air in a segment dominated by traditional body-on-frame vehicles, as it adopted a monocoque construction, providing a comfortable and car-like driving experience. 

hyundai santa fe history generations

Petrol engine options included 1.8-litre, 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre inline-4 units. Larger 2.7-litre and 3.5-litre V6 engines were also available. Those opting for the diesel variant found a 2.0-litre inline-4 unit under the bonnet. 

The first-generation Santa Fe underwent a facelift in 2003, refining its exterior and enhancing its overall appeal. This update helped Santa Fe maintain its competitiveness in a rapidly evolving market. Production of the Santa Fe for international markets ended in 2006. However, a rebadged version sold by Chinese brand Hawtai remained in production for the Chinese market until 2015.

Second Generation | 2005 – 2012

This iteration of the Santa Fe brought with it a host of improvements, making it a more attractive option for SUV enthusiasts. One of the standout features of the second-generation Santa Fe was its increased size compared to its predecessor. This growth translated into a more spacious and comfortable interior, making it an ideal choice for families and those who need ample cargo space. 

hyundai santa fe history generations

In terms of safety, Hyundai made strides with this generation, incorporating features like stability control, antilock brakes, and a comprehensive array of airbags. The second-generation Santa Fe received a facelift in 2010, which enhanced its exterior styling, giving it a more contemporary appearance. 

Under the bonnet, the second-gen Santa Fe offered multiple engine options. Inline-4 engine options ranged from 1.5-litres to 2.4-litres while the old V6 engine options were retained and a new 3.3-litre V6 was added to the lineup. Diesel variants continued to be powered by a 2.0-litre engine. 

Third Generation | 2012 – 2018

The third generation of the Hyundai Santa Fe was a proper evolution of this popular midsize SUV. This generation brought a plethora of enhancements, both in terms of style and features. The third generation of the Hyundai Santa Fe saw segmentation into two distinct models in the North American market — the 5-seater Santa Fe Sport and the 7-seater Santa Fe or Santa Fe XL. All other markets only received the 5-seater and it was just called Santa Fe.

hyundai santa fe history generations

Stylistically, the third-gen Santa Fe received a comprehensive makeover, with a more refined and modern appearance. Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language was evident in the sleek lines, hexagonal grille, and redesigned headlamps.

Inline-4 engine options included a 2.0-litre unit and a 2.4-litre motor. Those opting for the more powerful versions got a 3.3-litre V6 under the bonnet. A 2.0-litre CRDi engine powered the diesel version.

Fourth Generation | 2018 – Present

The fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, introduced in 2018 represented a significant leap forward with a blend of striking design, advanced technology, and enhanced performance. It featured a bold cascading grille, sleek LED headlights, and an overall more refined appearance. 

hyundai santa fe history generations

The dynamic character lines and sculpted surfaces gave it a distinctive and modern look, setting it apart from its predecessors. It also came with a modern interior including a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto. Safety features have been a strong focus in this generation, with available driver assistance technologies such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist, making the Santa Fe a safer and more convenient SUV.

Petrol engine options included a 2.0-litre inline-4, a 2.4-litre inline-4, and a 3.5-litre V6 while diesel variants were powered by a 2.2-litre inline-4 CRDi unit. The fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe will be phased out in 2023 and replaced by the all-new fifth-gen Santa Fe.

Fifth Generation | 2023 – Present

In July 2023, Hyundai unveiled the fifth-gen Santa Fe and this time it is a completely new SUV with straight lines and sharp edges instead of curves. One of the most noticeable changes in the fifth-generation Santa Fe is its design. Hyundai has given it a more striking and modern appearance with bold lines, a larger grille, and massive LED headlights. 

hyundai santa fe history generations

The interior has also received a significant update, featuring high-quality materials and the latest technology, including a large touchscreen infotainment system. In terms of safety and driver-assistance features, the fifth-generation Santa Fe is likely to be equipped with Hyundai’s SmartSense suite, offering a wide array of advanced safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic emergency braking.

There are several changes under the bonnet as well. Firstly, Hyundai has done away with the diesel engines and the Santa Fe is now only available with petrol engine options. The base versions are powered by a 2.5-litre inline-4 petrol engine, while the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions are powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged inline-4 engine in conjunction with an electric motor.

Most Popular Hyundai Santa Fe Generations In The UAE

The third and fourth generations of the Hyundai Santa Fe are very popular in the UAE. Buyers love these generations for their affordability, practicality, and reliability. The fifth generation Hyundai Santa Fe is yet to officially arrive in the UAE and hence is yet to gain popularity. However, we can expect this to happen in the near future.

Check out new Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs for sale in the UAE and used Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs for sale in the UAE.

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