Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe XRT AWD

Price: $49,974 CAD

Colour: Rockwood Green

Much has been made of the rise of Hyundai over the last decade. They’ve transformed themselves from a maker of somewhat tolerable eco-boxes from South Korea to a manufacturer of such respect and esteem they now rival the carmakers they’ve often been accused of imitating. Few have witnessed the progress of Hyundai with more admiration than yours truly. I so admire them because they don’t just borrow from their supposed betters but have routinely taken inspiration of sorts from the designs of other vehicles and then improved upon them. Sometimes significantly so. The all-new 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe, while well received, has been accused of cribbing the look of the Land Rover Defender. This may be true insomuch as, like the Defender, it’s a pseudo-rugged SUV with a somewhat boxy shape. Beyond that however, the Santa Fe is very much its own special animal.

When pictures first dropped of the all-new Santa Fe the automotive world gasped. What was this? Has Hyundai gone mad? How dare they box out this design and call back to the days of old when all SUV’s were delightful rectangles on four wheels? Mad they may be, but they did it anyway. Make up your own mind about how much inspiration Hyundai borrowed from the Defender, that’s up to you. To me it doesn’t matter as this is a good-looking car from all angles. It’s actually quite beautiful and, crucially, rather striking. It’s hard to make vehicles look distinctive in the modern car market. Government regulation and a lack of courage from manufacturers have ensured that most mid-sized SUVs like the Santa Fe all kind of look the same. One big blur of four doors and tall rooflines. The Santa Fe, all other things aside, is none of these things. It’s so unique and different you’d swear it was the first offering from another upstart EV manufacturer.

I had the good fortune to spend a week in the Hyundai Palisade and then transfer directly into the Santa Fe. It did throw into sharp relief how similar, at first glance anyway, these two vehicles are. They both have seven seats. They’re both mid-sized. While the Palisade is a little bigger overall, it’s not readily apparent unless you’re sized like you should be playing in the NBA. Why then would Hyundai make both of these vehicles? What’s the purpose? I think it boils down to character. The Palisade is an excellent choice and one you won’t regret if you need to haul too many children to their required sporting events all over the urban environment. The Santa Fe will of course do this as well with no issue. Where it differs though is in how unreserved it is. This car really shouldn’t exist. It steps so far outside the standards of the industry, both legislated and otherwise, that it feels like something out of a fever dream. The machinations of an over-caffeinated, sleep deprived design team who threw out the rule book and designed the SUV they might actually want to buy. It’s a wonderful piece of inspiration.

While the exterior design wounds you with its beauty and originality, the interior is no slouch either. While it’s not as revolutionary as the outside it still has little surprises that will put a smile on your face. The dash is a particular winner as it has lines that are integrated into the vents and run the length of it. You get the nearly ubiquitous Hyundai Infotainment/Dash Cluster curved combo that is angled slightly at the driver, just as it should be. I particularly enjoyed watching my son open the upper glove box, lower glove box and lodge his phone in the little parcel shelf that separates them. I don’t know what they’re all for, but I’m really glad they’re here.

Engine options on the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe are pretty standard. You can have the 1.6L Turbo w/Hybrid drive mated to a 6-speed automatic on the base model. All other trims come with the 2.5L Turbo charged power plant bolted to an 8-speed dual clutch. This XRT model features the latter and it’s a peppy power plant which offered few complaints with regards to how it did its job, save for the fuel economy. The vehicle, with the 2.5L engine, is rated around 12L/100 kms in the city and 8.8L/100kms on the highway. Real world testing returned 14L/100 kms in the city and just under 10 on the highway. Curiously, the aforementioned Palisade returned similar numbers from it’s 3.8L V6. Another example of how these turbo-charged power plants seem to struggle to move larger vehicles.

The Santa Fe was doing well and I figured there was little more it could do to impress me more. Imagine my surprise then when I looked at the pricing. This modern, 7-seater that may or may not look like a six-figure luxury barge starts a tick under $41k CAD. Yes, you can spank it up and top out around $55k but if you get the base model and add the Trend Package for $4,000 CAD, you get a well equipped version of one of the most interesting new cars on the market for $45,000 CAD. In the current ca r market, that’s nearly highway robbery.

What else can I say then about the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe? Nothing more need be said. The Korean carmaker has proven, yet again, that they are second to nobody. While they may crib a design feature or two from time to time, what they do with it puts the people they borrowed it from to shame.

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