Nicola Danza talks TG through the process that led to the sharp-edged Santa Fe

“When it came time to redesign the Santa Fe, we faced a big challenge,” says Nicola Danza, Hyundai’s director of exterior design as he shows us the rather striking new look. “Because of course it is a car that should be sold in America, Europe and Hyundai’s home market. We realized that we needed something completely new. A complete revolution.”

They certainly managed it. The Santa Fe’s July reveal took us completely by surprise, especially after the fast, streamlined appearance of the Ioniq 6.

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“In this segment, we realized that all cars tend to look the same,” says Danza. “They’re all slanted and they’re somehow trying to be a sporty SUV and they’re not. They’re big, they’re huge. How many pimples can you put on the side of a body to pretend you’re sporty?”

“In this case we said let’s try to make an undesigned car. Strange words for a designer but at the same time it was about making it really pure. We wanted it to be more practical, and more practical means being boxy, so let’s make it boxy again.”

We’re on board with that. The more practical a seven-seat SUV is, the better, right?

“We forced the designers to really think about whether they needed every line and every stripe,” Danza continues. “It was like Giugiaro’s way of designing cars from the 1970s.

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“As a provocation to our management, we showed them the first prototype of this square-wheeled car. It’s a box, so let’s make everything boxy. In fact, it was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on.”

There’s been a lot of rumblings that this new Santa Fe looks like the Discovery 4, but Danza actually thinks there’s another SUV icon that bears a greater resemblance.

“We took influences from product design, because product design tends to be very logical, very intelligent and very practical. There’s nothing you don’t need.

“Many times I’ve heard people say it looks like a Land Rover, but to me it reminds me more of the first Jeep Grand Wagoneer. This kind of elevated station wagon.

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Funny enough, Danza was reading recently as Jeep designer Daniel Calonacci told us about keeping its cars as boxy as possible.

“You can personalize it, too,” Danza continues on the Santa Fe. “In Korea there will be an Arabic script version that comes down with big wheels, while in America I’m 99 percent sure they’ll all lift it up, put bigger wheels and go off-road.”

So here we are, this is how the new Santa Fe came to be. And this is not a concept car – it will make the production look exactly like this.

“Working at Hyundai is a dream for us as designers right now,” says Danza. “You can experiment, you can try different things, you can challenge. You need to stimulate us. We are creative people. If you do not nurture creativity it tends to die or make it more boring and normal.

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