Hyundai design boss: “let’s make boxy cool again”
Nicola Danza talks TG through the process that brought about the sharp-edged Santa Fe
“When it was time to redesign the Santa Fe we faced a big challenge,” says Hyundai’s exterior design manager Nicola Danza as he shows us round the rather striking new shape. “Because of course it’s a car that has to be sold in America, Europe and Hyundai’s domestic market. We realised that we needed something completely new. A complete revolution.”
“In this segment we realised that all the cars tended to look the same,” says Danza. “They’re all slanted and trying somehow to be a sporty SUV that they’re not. They’re big, they’re huge. How many blisters can you put on the body side to pretend that you’re sporty?
“In this case we said let’s try to make an anti-design 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 boxier, so let’s make boxy cool again.”
We’re on board with that. The more practical a seven-seat SUV can be the better, right?
“We forced the designers to really think whether they needed each line and each blister,” continues Danza. “It was kind of like a Giugiaro way of designing cars from the 1970s.
“As a provocation to our management, we showed them the first model of this car with square wheels. It’s a box, so let’s make everything boxy. Actually, it’s been one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on."
There’s been a lot of shouts to say that this new Santa Fe looks like a Discovery 4, but Danza actually reckons 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 that you don’t need.
“I heard many times people saying it looks like a Land Rover, but to me it reminds me more of the first Jeep Grand Wagoneer. That sort of raised station wagon.”
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Funny, Danza must have been reading TopGear.com recently as Jeep designer Daniele Calonaci told us about keeping its cars as boxy as possible.
“You can personalise it too,” continues Danza on the Santa Fe. “In Korea there will be a Calligraphy version which is lowered with big wheels, whereas in America I’m 99 per cent sure that they’re all going to lift them, put bigger wheels on and go off-road.”
There we go then, that’s how this new Santa Fe came to be. And this isn’t a concept car – it’ll actually make production looking exactly like this.
“As designers it’s a dream working at Hyundai at the moment,” says Danza. “You can experiment, you can try different things, you can challenge. You need to keep us motivated; we are creative people. If you don’t feed creativity it tends to die or make it more boring and normal.”