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Tested: 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Deftly Blends Form and Function

2024 hyundai santa fe
Tested: 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe Mixes Form, FunctionAndi Hedrick - Car and Driver

The definition of an SUV has changed a lot in recent times, but the classic two-box profile still hasn't gone out of style. If anything, boxy is more in than ever. It's hard to argue with a box for carrying people and stuff, and the aesthetic appeal of a rectilinear, square-jawed vehicle like the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe also jibes well with other current trends toward a rugged and outdoorsy image.

Radical New Look

Hyundai designers, for their part, say that they arrived at the new Santa Fe's radically rectangular new look by penning this mid-size SUV from the rear forward. Much of the design focus for this new model went toward the tailgate and cargo area, which largely explains why it's such a wholesale departure from its swoopier predecessor. And the eye-catching new shape, which has more than a few hints of Ford Flex, pays off handsomely: The new model is far more spacious than before in terms of both passenger and cargo space, even though its footprint only stretches by a couple inches here and there.

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It's not just a simple two-box look, either. Interesting lighting elements, sharp creases along the body sides, and detailing around the wheel arches make the Santa Fe look more upscale and distinctive than many luxury-badged SUVs—especially in our test example's $1000 Earthy Brass matte paint. The most controversial styling elements are the low-mounted taillights, which Hyundai says were necessary due to the larger struts needed to hold up the heavier tailgate.

2024 hyundai santa fe
Andi Hedrick - Car and Driver

Inside Story

Open up that tailgate and you'll find a nice, wide opening and a relatively low cargo floor. The standard third row of seats—which the previous-gen Santa Fe didn't have—folds flat, and the second-row captain's chairs are power operated and fold at the touch of a button (a three-passenger bench is also offered on lower trims). Second-row space is good for adults, but the third row is best left for children; its bottom cushion forces your knees into your chest, and to get any kind of meaningful legroom back there requires you to slide the second-row seats forward considerably.

Not only is the new cabin roomier than before, it's also fitted with high-quality materials and class-above design and features. Our loaded Calligraphy trim level came with enough kit to make the more expensive Palisade jealous, including nappa leather seats, a UVC sanitization compartment, dual wireless phone chargers, and an extendable footrest for the driver's seat that makes rest-stop napping a breeze. Soft leather, grained wood trim with an interesting-looking pattern, a steering wheel that looks like it's straight out of a Range Rover, and crisply rendered display screens are among other visual delights. Importantly, there are enough hard buttons and knobs to keep the screen-heavy setup from being an ergonomic hassle.

2024 hyundai santa fe
Andi Hedrick - Car and Driver

Power and Performance