New Hyundai Santa Fe to be brand's first diesel vehicle in U.S.

The gasoline version of the redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe is slated to hit U.S. showrooms in August, while the diesel variant is due in 2019. Photo credit: Vince Bond

SEOUL — The redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe will include the brand’s first diesel offering in the U.S. as it continues to rework its car-heavy lineup.

The automaker has been touting its commitment to delivering more electrified vehicles, but a new diesel shows its diversification efforts aren’t stopping at EVs. The brand’s U.S. portfolio will soon include an assortment of EVs, including the new fuel cell-powered NEXO crossover and a diesel.

Click here for Hyundai’s press release.

This year’s introductions of the Santa Fe, the brand’s best-selling light truck, and the Kona compact crossover will bring Hyundai closer to matching consumer tastes, says Andrew DiFeo, chairman of the Hyundai National Dealer Council.

Hyundai’s U.S. light-truck sales grew 12 percent in 2017, while car sales dropped 24 percent. Trucks were just 37.3 percent of the brand’s U.S. volume. By contrast, 64.5 percent of total U.S. light-vehicle sales went to light trucks.

The Santa Fe’s direct competitors include models such as the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Edge.

“Hyundai has been a car company in the SUV world for quite some time now,” Difeo told Automotive News. “While they are great cars, the consumer demand has been for SUVs. We are just starting to see the product pipeline get a little bit closer to parity with what consumers are demanding.”

The five-passenger Santa Fe Sport will now be called Santa Fe. The three-row, seven-passenger model will be renamed the Santa Fe XL.

The Santa Fe and the larger XL model bring Hyundai halfway to its goal of eight new or re-engineered crossover debuts by 2020. The gasoline version is slated to hit U.S. showrooms in August, while the diesel variant is due in 2019.

The diesel Santa Fe houses a 2.2-liter CRDi turbodiesel engine that churns out nearly 200 hp. The other options are a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder GDI engine with an estimated 185 hp, and the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an estimated 232 hp. Each engine is matched with the brand’s new eight-speed automatic transmission.

The brand is pushing the Santa Fe as a family vehicle, so a diesel option comes with several advantages. A spokesperson referred to better fuel economy, towing capacity and torque.

The diesel version also comes with an occasional-use third-row seat with one-touch folding second-row seats, which allows for easier entry into the third row by children. The other non-XL Santa Fe models won’t have a third row.

Other family-oriented perks this year include the addition of rear seat occupant alert, which Hyundai is debuting with the Santa Fe.

Hyundai says the system “monitors the rear seats using an ultrasonic sensor that helps to detect the movements of children and pets.” The system, Hyundai said, “first reminds drivers to check the rear seats when exiting the vehicle with a message on the center instrument cluster display. If the system detects movement in the rear seats after the driver leaves the vehicle it will honk the horn, flash the lights and send a Blue Link alert to the driver’s smartphone via Hyundai’s Blue Link connected car system.”

U.S. Santa Fe sales were 133,171 units in 2017, a 1.5 percent gain from the previous year.

“Families are really going to like the thoughtful technologies found in the Santa Fe,” said Brian Smith, COO of Hyundai Motor America, in a statement. “Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Safe Exit Assist and Rear Occupant Alert are the result of a deep analysis of how families behave and can really help those sometimes dangerous situations. Easy-access rear seats, HTRAC AWD and a HeadsUp Display improve existing features with even more advanced technology.”

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