The All-New Hyundai Santa Fe 3-Row SUV Is Boxy, Modern and We Love It

It's boxy. It's modern. It's filled with premium details. And we LOVE it. This is the all new Hyundai Santa Fe 3-row SUV, redesigned for how you live and drive.

Hyundai Santa Fe

This Cannot Possibly be a Hyundai Santa Fe.

There was a time not long ago when car buyers considered Hyundai a brand that leaned hard towards bargains. Designs were not distinct; the headlights, squared-off exterior edges, and alloy wheels looked like they belonged to cars made by another car maker.

Then, Hyundai, in its move to become a top global automaker, went in for European design. The company hired Peter Schreyer, then chief of design at Audi, to retool the entire lineup (as well as that of Kia). Its cars and SUVs had a premium look and feel, were more aerodynamic, and filled with expensive goodies that its competitors charged extra for.

Hyundai was among the first to add features like Apple CarPlay and phone-as-key to its affordable lineup. The move dramatically changed the perception of Hyundai, moving the brand solidly into the more-for-your-money category. And the company’s fortunes followed; more than 10% of cars on the road are built by Hyundai.

So, how does a brand follow that success?


2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Review: Can This Compact SUV Stand Up to the Family Challenge?

Hyundai Santa Fe

It looks rugged and premium. Photo: Connie Peters

The Hyundai Santa Fe, at First Glance

Would you even guess THIS is a Hyundai Santa Fe? I would not have, but now, I am totally in love.  

The brand new Hyundai Santa Fe look is rugged, dynamic, and, dare I say, PREMIUM. This massive departure from any previous Santa Fe is more modern, more spacious, and features a more elegant design.

The first thing you’ll notice is how squared off and boxy the new Santa Fe. This design is more leader than follower; it’s in the camp with Lexus GX, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Land Rover Defender, all with rugged designs built for capability and comfort.

Hyundai’s approach was purposeful, with the intention of maximizing interior space. The starting point for the design was the tailgate and the wheelbase, and the result is longer and taller than the outgoing model’s design. 

Using the tailgate as a major design point, Hyundai created more rear cargo space and helped make way for a new third row, which returns to the Santa Fe again, but this time a full-size usable third row rather than a small bench that is more for convenience than daily use.

Hyundai Santa Fe

SangYup Lee, Head of Global Design at Hyundai Motor Company, reveals the design of the new Santa Fe. Photo: Connie Peters

The Santa Fe is Built for Families

I asked SangYup Lee, the lead designer and a father of two, what inspired him besides “watching families at Costco loading purchases into their vehicles” (yes, he really said that). SangYup, who was recognized just this year as the World Car Awards Person of the Year, said that he envisioned himself driving the new Santa Fe with his wife and two daughters along for the ride.

Comforts like USB charging ports at every seat, the spaciousness, and the caring interior theme all played a role in his mind as he designed this new Santa Fe.

Hyundai Santa Fe

The new Interior is beautiful and functional. Photo: Connie Peters

Longer and Larger for Kids, Gear and Comfort

The new Santa Fe is 45mm longer than the prior model. The longer wheelbase and height mean more flexibility for kids, gear, and everything that needs to be part of a family car. Not only gear but more headroom and legroom for your rear passengers. Both the second and third rows have increased legroom and headroom.

For families who still need more space, roof rails are standard, and there is a grab handle on the back pillar behind the second row to help you get up and reach whatever is on the roof. (I can already hear short people everywhere saying ‘thank you.’)

Hyundai Santa Fe

The center console opens from the front and back. Photo: Connie Peters

Smart Spaces with Premium AND Earth-Friendly Features

Something that seems like ‘not a big deal’ but is a really big deal to me is the location of the gear shift knob, or in the case of the new Santa Fe, the position of the gear shift STALK. Yes, the gears, drive, park, reverse, and neutral, are controlled by a stalk on the steering column instead of being placed on the center console.

I love this for two reasons. Number one: it saves space – you can use the center console for charging and storing your smartphone, placing your well-needed cup of caffeine and water bottle, and, in my case, sunglasses AND reading glasses. The gear shift knob no longer takes up any of that precious center console space. And, number two: it’s faster to use the gear shift stalk to change from park into drive, reverse, and back into park. It’s a premium approach that you’ll find in Tesla, a Mercedes-Benz, and others, and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6.

The center console between the driver and front passenger seats opens from both the front and the back. While I’ve seen consoles that open to both left and right, this is a novel approach, and it makes a lot of sense. This is another family-focused feature that we’re going to love.

The digital center mirror – or as I call it, a rearview camera mirror (it toggles between a video view and a reflective rearview mirror) gives you a full view of what’s behind you while driving. This means you can have the rear cargo area packed full to the roof with passengers, luggage, and gear and still be able to see clearly behind the SUV, day or night. This is a major feature for families who often fully use the rear space. We also love this feature because the video view is much brighter and clearer at night than the reflective view.

And then, let’s talk about earth-friendly materials: many fabrics and surfaces in the new Santa Fe are made from recycled materials and faux leather. This not only minimizes harmful substances to the human body, but it creates less waste and deforestation. Some models will come with real leather, but Hyundai will use natural leather with eco-friendly post-processing applications.

A Girls Guide To Cars | The All-New Hyundai Santa Fe 3-Row Suv Is Boxy, Modern And We Love It - Img 0823

The beautiful boxy new design on display in the Santa Fe Sunset. Photo: Connie Peters

Safety and the Advanced Driver Assist Features 

As a new model that has a very tech-forward look and from a brand that prides itself on early adoption of leading in-car technology, we expected advanced driver assist features to, well, advance. So I’m pleased to say yes, it’s all here in the new Santa Fe.

While we don’t know which trims will have which features, the new Santa Fe will be fitted with a full array of driver assistance and safety technology, including:

  • Forward collision avoidance assist
  • Lane keep assist
  • Blind spot monitor
  • Safe exit assist for getting out safely while roadside
  • Speed limit assist
  • Driver attention warning
  • Blind spot view monitors on the driver’s display (when turn signals are on)
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Navigation-based adaptive cruise control
  • Lane following assist
  • Highway driving assist 2, which, when using adaptive cruise control, automatically changes lanes for you when you tap the turn signal
  • Rearview monitor
  • Surround-view 360 degree camera
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Remote smart park assist, AKA “Smaht Pahk”
  • New driver attention warning (finally, confidence that teenage drivers are paying attention!)
  • Driver monitoring system, which analyzes a driver’s vital signs to ensure safe driving
Hyundai Santa Fe

There will be two powertrains in North America. Photo: Connie Peters

New Engines for Ample Power

While not yet set in stone, there are four engine options for the Santa Fe, only two of which will be offered in North America: a 2.5L Turbo that generates 277 horsepower and a 1.6L Turbo Hybrid with 177 horsepower.

As of now, Hyundai is not planning to offer a plug-in electric hybrid in the US and Canada, sadly for me, as I love PHEVs. But Hyundai has a strong EV strategy in the Ioniq lineup and will likely have an electric option for those who need a 3-row SUV.

Hyundai Santa Fe

The XRT Concept looks ready for adventure! Photo: Connie Peters

From City Luxury in the Calligraphy to Rugged Capability in the XRT

What Americans WILL be offered is the XRT Concept, a new rugged XRT trim destined only for the US. It has bigger tires, more ground clearance, some off-road accessories, and we’re not sure what else. But it looks good! We can’t wait to see (and drive, of course) this one!

Hyundai Santa Fe

I am loving the new colors. Photo: Connie Peters

US Built And On the Way Soon

The new Santa Fe will be built in Montgomery, Alabama, beginning in 2024. Hyundai hasn’t shared pricing or other details just yet; that will likely be closer to the roll-out. 

So we’ll have to wait. And it won’t be easy. This modern, rugged, and luxe design promises to be yet another game-changer for Hyundai.

Car Shopping

Need a new car? Whether shopping for a new car or a used car we recommend using our car shopping service

Tire Shopping

Need new tires? We recommend Tire Rack

Car Repair

Need to get your car repaired? We recommend Repair Pal. Exclusively just for Girls Guide to Cars readers, call (877) 323-1708 to speak to RepairPal Car Genius for FREE automotive repair advice and if needed to find the right shop for you!

I was a guest of Hyundai for this first look. Travel and accommodations were provided, but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

Have a thought or comment? Share it with us on social media! You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And be sure to sign up for our email newsletter!

Connie Peters is a mother of 3 girls in suburban Vancouver, Canada and has been an online entrepreneur since... More about Connie Peters