A competitor for the Ford Edge ST

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Hyundai announced its high-performance N division back in 2013, and four years later it launched the first vehicle with this badge: the i30 N. With the Veloster N following in early 2018, everyone is now wondering which nameplate will get the next performance update. Some of the company’s crossovers will also get the N treatment, and word has it that the Kona and Tucson might be first in line. But, what if Hyundai also made an N version of the Santa Fe? The SUV looks quite sporty in standard trim, and those aggressive N features would turn it into a menacing hauler and a unique vehicle in the affordable market.

Although Hyundai did say that there are plans to create N-badged crossovers, these aren’t a priority for the Korean brand. The Santa Fe is probably even farther down the line, but it would be the best-looking SUV with the N badge. And, it would also be a reasonable proposition for the recently launched Ford Edge ST. Although the idea seems a bit far-fetched right now, the Santa Fe N could happen sometime in late 2019, after Hyundai unleashes similar versions of the Kona and Tucson. Until that happens, let’s take a closer look at what it might bring to the table in the speculative review below.

Continue reading to learn more about the Hyundai Santa Fe N.

Hyundai Santa Fe N Exterior

  • Black trim instead of chrome
  • Black grille
  • Sporty front splitter
  • Blue accents
  • Black roof
  • Custom wheels
  • Diffuser-like element
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As seen in the rendering, the upgrade will replace all chrome with black trim, including the grille

Having already seen the i30 N and Veloster N, it’s easy to notice a pattern in the design of the N package and it’s pretty easy to imagine what kind of features will set the Santa Fe N apart. Luckily, X-Tomi Design has already created a rendering of the SUV by adding all the features seen on the i30 N to the Santa Fe.

Needless to say, the midsize is already a sporty looking SUV thanks to its slim headlamps, big grille, and massive foglamps, but the extra N features will make it even more appealing. As seen in the rendering, the upgrade will replace all chrome with black trim, including the grille and the upper section that runs into the headlamps. The headlamps and the foglamps will also get a darker tint.

The bumper should change significantly too and will likely include slightly larger side vents, sharper, black-painted fins, and a splitter. Much like the hatchbacks, it will get red accents on the lower bumper and an "N" badge on the grille.

Look for a black-painted spoiler atop the tailgate, dark-tinted taillights, and a more aggressive rear bumper

As far as the side profile is concerned, expect to see extended side skirts finished in black and with red accents, as well as black window trim. Hyundai will probably add black mirror caps too. The SUV-style wheels will be replaced by sportier, lightweight counterparts and low-profile tires. The ride height will be dropped a bit as well, so the Santa Fe N won’t be as capable off the beaten path. A black roof will round out the package.

The rendering doesn’t include a shot of the rear section, but upgrades should be similar to the i30 N. Look for a black-painted spoiler atop the tailgate, dark-tinted taillights, and a more aggressive lower bumper with fake vents and a diffuser-like element.

Hyundai Santa Fe N Interior

  • Sportier seats
  • Unique steering wheel
  • Contrast stitching
  • New upholstery
  • Shift timer
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
- image 770546
Inside, the cabin has been refined tenfold
The latest Santa Fe comes with many new features and it’s safe to say that they will be present in the N model too

The latest Santa Fe comes with many new features and it’s safe to say that they will be present in the N model too. For starters, it offers greater interior room and has a more convenient placement for the cup holders and the center armrest. There’s also a three dimensional dashboard with an arched upper section and a big infotainment display place above the center stack. The latter includes fewer buttons than before, sporting a clean look.

Tech-wise, it’s packed with all the good stuff. There’s Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance, Smart Cruise Control, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, and Lane Departure Warning. There’s also Blind Spot Detection, which uses radar to detect obstacles and will automatically apply the brakes if needed. The Santa Fe also comes with Rear Seat Occupant Alert, which can detect children and pets in the rear seat and provide the driver with a reminder message in the center information screen of the instrument cluster. Another new feature is the Safe Exit Assist, which will keep the door locked when it detects a motorcycle, another car, or a cyclist approaching from behind.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
- image 770532
While the contrasting colors add a hint of luxury
The Santa Fe N should also get sportier seats with bigger bolstering, a unique steering wheel, and blue contrast stitching

The new infotainment system, with a larger display on higher trims (and likely the N model too), comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while the Qi wireless charging system is optional. Also optional is an 8.5-inch heads-up display, which projects a virtual image onto the windshield with various vehicle information.

On top of these features, the Santa Fe N should also get sportier seats with bigger bolstering, a unique steering wheel, blue contrast stitching, and extra upholstery options including suede, leather, and cloth. It could also get the shift timer at the top of the instrument cluster and even the LED tachometer. The infotainment screen should also provide data about torque levels, boost pressure, lap times, acceleration times, and readouts on G-force.

Hyundai Santa Fe N Performance

  • New Theta III engine
  • Up to 330 horsepower?
  • Retuned suspension
  • Five-mode selector
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
- image 770596
This includes a 2.3-liter with 185 HP
Hyundai’s N division should be able to tune the new engine to at least 300 horsepower

The Santa Fe gained a bunch of new engines with the redesign, with the most powerful choice being the 2.0-liter Theta II rated at 235 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. While this is enough for a daily driver, it’s definitely less than what you’d expect to find in a performance-oriented crossover. The N-branded i30 and Veloster get a bit more oomph, using a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill that cranks out up to 271 horsepower and 260 pound-feet.

Needless to say, it’s still not enough for the Santa Fe, which is significantly heavier than the i30 and Veloster, but Hyundai has at least one more option. While the four-pot in the hatchback might not be reliable with a higher output, the Theta III gasoline engine that’s underway might be a good choice for the SUV. The turbocharged, 2.5-liter engine is anticipated to deliver 280 horsepower and Hyundai’s N division should be able to tune it to at least 300 horsepower.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
- image 770594
The beefed-up engine will be backed by a stiffer chassis and bigger brakes

Should Hyundai apply the same strategy as with the i30 N, an optional Performance Package could add another 30 horses and take the total output to 330 horsepower.

The beefed-up engine will be backed by a stiffer chassis, an electronically controlled suspension for reduced roll dynamics, and improved brakes. It could also get a five-mode selector with the "Sport," "N," and "N Custom," modes seen in the i30 N.

Hyundai Santa Fe N Pricing

It’s obviously too early to talk about prices here and the fact that we don’t know how much the new Santa Fe costs makes predictions that much more difficult. We will be back with an estimate when Hyundai unveils pricing information for the new-generation SUV.

Hyundai Santa Fe N Competitors

Ford Edge ST

2019 Ford Edge ST Exterior
- image 757605

While the premium market is packed with performance SUVs, there aren’t many options to choose from if you want something affordable. The Edge ST is basically the only choice you have, and it’s actually brand-new for the 2019 model year. Based on the recently facelifted Edge, the ST version also sports a black grille, revised bumpers, larger wheels, and more aggressive rocker panels. Inside, you’ll find heavier bolstering on the seats, leather and cloth upholstery, contrast stitching, and all the tech you get with the regular model. Power comes from a 2.7-liter, EcoBoost V-6 engine rated at 335 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. That’s an extra 20 horsepower and 30 pound-feet over the Sport trim. But it’s not just about power. The ST also uses a retuned suspension, sharper throttle response, revised traction control, and an upgraded transmission. Pricing for the Edge ST is not yet available as of May 2018, but it should cost more than the Sport, which retails from $40,770.

Read our full review of the 2019 Ford Edge ST.


2020 Hyundai Santa Fe N
- image 768824

While I’m not entirely sure that the market needs a beefed-up version of the Santa Fe, I still think that Hyundai needs to roll out as many performance-oriented models as possible, including crossovers. The Tucson might be the better choice at first, but the new Santa Fe looks too sporty to not receive the N treatment. And with an engine that potentially more powerful than the Edge ST, it could become a big hit in the U.S.

  • Leave it
    • Not confirmed for production
    • Might be at least two years away


2018 Hyundai i30 N High Resolution Exterior
- image 723387

Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai i30 N.

2019 Hyundai Veloster N Exterior
- image 761352

Read our full review on the 2019 Hyundai Veloster N.

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
- image 770583

Read our full review on the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe.

- image 744957

Read more Hyundai news.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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