Hyundai has challenged its designers to remove all sporty design cues from the Santa Fe in a bid to “make it look great again.”

5 hours ago

Crossovers and SUVs can be many things. Spacious, comfortable, and even powerful. But can they really be athletes? Hyundai designer Nicola Danza doesn’t think his company’s SUVs are either, which is why he’s working to remove the “sporty” design language from its non-sporty cars.

Danza is reacting to the rise in the number of large SUVs and crossovers featuring coupe-like rooflines, slotted wheel arches, and all the other trappings of a sports car, despite having none of its performance characteristics.

“In this segment, we realized that all cars tend to look the same,” Danza told Top Gear. “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?”

So, when he and his team were working on the new Santa Fe, they challenged themselves to “make a car that was different from the design.” They wanted the car to be more practical, and that meant making it more structured, “so let’s make it look boxy again,” he said.

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“We forced designers to really think about whether they needed every line and every pimple,” Danza said. “It was like Giugiaro’s way of designing cars from the 1970s. To motivate our management, we showed them the first prototype of this car with square wheels. It’s a box, so let’s make everything boxy. In fact, it was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on.” ”

Danza admits that the team took inspiration from others in the automotive world, including Jeep, which is also engaged in its own mission to make boxy design in an industry increasingly obsessed with electrification.

Sticks pocket with boxy

“There are a lot of companies around the world that are moving into the crossover world, but Jeep will still be more… boxy,” Daniele Calonacci, who designed the Jeep Avenger, told Top Gear. “Right now, people are asking for a lift off the ground, or a leadership position. A lot of people need electricity.”

While the boxy design is less aerodynamic than the streamlined shape of the Hyundai Ioniq 6, for example, Calonassi said he’s willing to give up a few miles to create a vehicle that works better for Jeep customers.

Coupe crossovers don’t have real headroom, he said, “so when you’re on the highway during the summer, you have a lot of crossovers with a roof box because they don’t have room in the trunk. The Jeep will still be boxy. Maybe.” We will lose a couple of kilometers in range, but in the end we will make our customer happy.

He claims that by making practical, boxy designs that look good, Jeep can help ease customers’ transition to electric vehicles. Meanwhile, Danza said the Santa Fe’s boxy shape likely opens it up to customization.

“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 on it and go off-roading.”

It’s part of their mission to make vehicles that live up to customers’ expectations, and maybe even earn a place in their hearts.

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