Hyundai Santa Fe: history of the brand’s longest-lived SUV

Just a year later the production model was launched for sale. It was the first SUV of the brand, which now has numerous examples with various propulsion systems, from the Kona to the hydrogen Nexus, through the best-selling Tucson. Until then it had only manufactured the Hyundai Galloper from 1991 to 2003 in Ulsan (Korea), which was actually a second generation Mitsubishi Montero.

The first SUV developed entirely by the brand in its history began to be sold in 2001 in Europe. That makes the Hyundai Santa Fe the manufacturer’s oldest vehicle on the old continent, with no less than four generations behind it.

Curiosity: Santa Fe has its own logo, with the name of the model and a sun. Let’s take a look back to discover how this model has evolved in design, safety and technology, in which more than 5,260,000 units have been sold worldwide.

Hyundai Santa Fe SM (2000-2006)

Hyundai introduced the Santa Fe to the European public for the first time at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show. Its strong points were functionality and reliability. It had just debuted in the United States with overwhelming success, where its muscular protections and bulging hood were liked. On the other side of the pond it was offered with two gasoline engines, a 2.0 136 HP four-cylinder with manual transmission and front-wheel drive and a 2.7-liter V6 with 179 HP, associated with automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive (torque was divided in a 40:60 ratio between the front and rear axles).

At 4,505 mm in length, it was longer and wider than its competitors, with a larger cabin and a notable trunk, with an opening rear window. Highlight its level of safety since in the NHTSA ratings it surpassed many of its rivals in the segment (Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee or Toyota RAV4).

The range of engines was completed with a 2.4 gasoline engine and an essential block to succeed in Europe, a 2.0 diesel 116 HP with which it accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 13.3 seconds and reached 172 km/h. Shortly after he would add a computer-controlled four-wheel drive system.

In addition, the car did not skimp on passenger care. The equipment included air conditioning, a CD player, as well as electric windows, mirrors and a sunroof, it was complete for the time.

Hyundai Santa Fe CM (2006-2012)

The second generation was presented at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2006. The automobile firm spared no effort in its development, investing two years of work and 150 million euros in improvements. Designed in California, it acquired a more elegant appearance with soft lines, which disguised its larger size (4,675 mm long).

This greater length (and width) allowed the car to be completed with a third row of seats, for occasional use or for children. The interior materials were also greatly improved, with a feeling of greater quality accentuated by the blue backlit buttons and controls or the leather upholstery of the more equipped versions, which could have an integrated navigator, rear view camera or cruise control.

See gallery (20 photos) Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 Spanien Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 Spanien Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 Spanien It could be chosen with three mechanics. Once again, the most popular in Europe was the diesel, a 2.2 with 155 HP. In the United States, the 3.3-liter V6 with 235 HP or the 2.7 V6 with 189 HP, completely made of aluminum and which was also sold in the United States, were preferred. And safety was emphasized, with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), side airbags, tire pressure monitor and active front headrests now standard. It was updated in 2011, with slight aesthetic, mechanical and equipment changes. Hyundai Santa Fe DM (2012-2018) The third generation of the Santa Fe was a great revolution. First in design, debuting the Storm Edge style line that combined lines with voluminous surfaces. It was no longer just practicality that was sought, but now also excitement.

The long version was added to the five-seater variant, the 2013 Hyundai Grand Santa Fe. In addition to seven seats (its length grew by 215 mm, of which 100 were wheelbase), it had a differentiated design with a hexagonal grille, different B pillar, specific tires…

They were in charge of moving it 2.4 GDI 193 HP gasoline, with front or all-wheel drive and two four-cylinder diesel blocks, the 2.0 VGT 150 HP and the 2.2 VGT 200 HP the latter exclusive to the seven-seater version.

The commitment to connectivity is notable, with an eight-inch multifunction touch screen with optional browser, voice recognition and connection to the mobile phone. Also with safety, with ABS that included braking assistance or electronic brake force distribution (EBD). In these points, the Hyundai Santa Fe 2016 was greatly improved with the update.

Hyundai Santa Fe TM (2018-2021)

The Hyundai Santa Fe 2018 was the fourth generation of the Santa Fe. It renewed its exterior appearance to become more sophisticated, debuting the waterfall grille and preserving the lateral lines from the front to the rear headlights. Without losing its essence as a practical and spacious car (38 mm was gained for the legs in the back row).

In Spain it was offered with two diesel engines, the 2.0 CRDi with 150 HPwith front-wheel drive and manual transmission and the 2.2 CRDi 200 HP, also with all-wheel drive and eight-speed automatic transmission. In gasoline it had the new 2.4 GDI 185 HPlinked to the six-speed automatic transmission and the HTRAC all-wheel drive system, which sends engine torque depending on the grip of the wheels and the speed of the vehicle in adverse situations.

See gallery (42 photos) Safety improved greatly with SmartSense technology and innovations such as rear occupant alert (so as not to forget children or pets), the rear collision prevention assistant or the Head-Up Display. Hyundai Santa Fe TM (2021 -) In September 2020, the evolution of the fourth generation arrives, the Santa Fe 2021. Among the new features, hybrid propulsion systems and a completely renewed appearance, as well as new technologies and safety features.

There will be a version of the plug-in hybrid SUV and also micro-hybrid variants. To Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, Vice President of Marketing and Product at Hyundai Motor Europe. “With the latest evolution, the Santa Fe maintains its flagship status in our broad SUV portfolio, further underscoring our SUV heritage, while also advancing the market with its technological innovation.”

Happy drivers

Client testimonials

Lisa D.


Theuth has completely changed how I follow automotive news. Relevant articles, thorough reviews, and an active community!

Hanna A.


I never miss a live show. It's like having front-row seats at every exhibition or race, but from my couch!

Andrew R.


As a novice in the world of motorbikes, Theuth's guides and analysis have been invaluable for my first purchase.

Ignite the drive, explore the ride