All-new Tucson design story – interview with SangYup Lee

- Following the World Premiere of the Tucson, SangYup Lee, Head of Hyundai Global Design Center and Senior Vice President at Hyundai Motor Company, has given an interview about its revolutionary design.

The all-new Tucson is the fourth generation of Hyundai’s successful best-selling model. Since it launched in 2004, more than 7 million units have been sold worldwide. Hyundai’s new compact SUV arrives on the market with a progressive and ambitious new look that follows the company’s new Sensuous Sportiness design identity.

As Head of Hyundai Global Design Center and Senior Vice President at Hyundai Motor Company, SangYup Lee is responsible for all Hyundai Motor designs. Mr. Lee is in charge of design strategies and directions in the areas of interior and exterior design, colour and materials.

Hi SangYup. Hyundai’s latest models are being developed according to the company’s “Sensuous Sportiness” design identity. How would you describe this exciting direction?

We are currently undertaking an exciting process where we are fundamentally revising the design of many of our models according to our design identity, called “Sensuous Sportiness”. It is characterised by the harmony between four fundamental elements: proportion, architecture, styling and technology. Our goal is to elevate the emotional value of our products through innovative design. In order to achieve this, we clearly define the roles and target audience of each vehicle within the line-up across our range and give them distinct individual styles and identities while maintaining the overall Hyundai look.

The purpose of this approach is to bring instinctive beauty to Hyundai vehicles by creating emotional value and giving them a distinctive look. In coming years, Sensuous Sportiness will be implemented across all of our future models. The all-new Tucson is the third Hyundai model to feature Sensuous Sportiness in Europe, and marks the completion of Phase One of this process. Therefore, it serves as our main proof-point for this strategy.

What inspired the design of the all-new Tucson, in particular?

The foundations for the design of the all-new Tucson were laid two years ago, when we presented “Le Fil Rouge”, our four-door coupe concept, at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. This was a landmark for our brand as it was the first Hyundai model guided by Sensuous Sportiness. “Le Fil Rouge” signifies the “common thread” which connects our past to the present and the future. For us, that common thread is the bold, audacious attitude that originated from our 1974 Pony Coupe Concept.

At the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show, we presented our innovative Vision T SUV concept. Once again guided by Sensuous Sportiness, this model revolves around the concept of dynamism, and aspires to be at the cutting edge of SUV designs. It served as a direct forerunner to our all-new Tucson.

Vision T features an ultra-clean and seamless design. It uses crisp geometric angles and sharp edges to create a striking contrast between a sleek silhouette and masculine wedge lines. The long hood and level roofline are coupled with a long wheelbase and short overhangs, reflecting a ready-for-anything, dynamic character. At the front, it features a parametric air shutter grille design and integrated hidden signature headlamps. These design cues directly influenced the all-new Tucson.

How would you define the “Tucson spirit”?

We believe the all-new Tucson is a pioneer – not just for Hyundai, but for the entire C-SUV segment. The Tucson offers an elevated design experience combined with state-of-the-art technology, which has been missing in this segment. This makes it a trendsetter, rather than a follower. We believe its unprecedented originality provides unique and special design value in the C-SUV market.

To us, the all-new Tucson represents a major milestone in our design journey, and serves as a benchmark for all future Hyundai models. It underscores our vision of how cars should be designed and experienced today: not as concepts, but as production vehicles.

What are the key exterior design highlights of the all-new Tucson?

The all-new Tucson is a design revolution for Hyundai – it reinvents the idea of what a family car can look like. Thanks to sportier and more dynamic proportions made possible by the new platform, the all-new Tucson achieves a very progressive look without compromising functionality.

At the front, we have implemented Parametric Jewel Hidden Lights. This design innovation seamlessly incorporates state-of-the-art lighting technology into the Tucson’s parametric jewel pattern grille, which forms the car’s striking light architecture. They appear to be of a dark chrome material when switched off, and become dramatically lit when turned on. Can you imagine these lights on your rear-view mirror? The identity of that car will be unquestionable.

Cubist-like chiselled surfaces give the all-new Tucson an avant-garde, bold and daring character. A sharp and strong character line offers the perfect contrast between rich volume and the ample rear and front fenders. Meanwhile, the dynamic Bertone.style angular wheel arches accentuate the parametric jewel surface. We utilised eye-catching chrome Daylight Opening moulding to maximise the all-new Tucson’s sporty and premium sensibility, while ensuring its practicality.

The rear of the car features a few notable design innovations. For example, it boasts the Parametric Jewel Hidden Lights. To further burnish its high-tech credentials, the all-new Tucson showcases a glass-type Hyundai emblem, as well as a hidden rear wiper enhancing a clean look.

Parametric dynamics are a key feature of the all-new Tucson’s design. What does this mean and what advantages does this offer to you as a designer?

Parametric dynamics refers to the use of geometric algorithms that maximise digital technology as design elements. Instead of traditional drawing or sketching, it utilises lines, faces, angles, and shapes that have been created through digital data to create unprecedented and bold design aesthetics.

A good example of this is the new parametric jewel pattern grille I just talked about. This emphasises the three-dimensional shape according to the angle and the reflected light that looks like a jewel ensconced in a geometric shape. Also, thanks to the integrated architecture, we were able to integrate the lamps of the car completely into the grille. By applying half-mirror technology, it looks like the chrome of the grill when it is not lit, but when it lights up, it shows the function of the lamp. I believe this is a truly impressive feature and a hidden delight for our customers.

We have also used the parametric dynamic technology to transfer the jewel surface to the sides and back of the vehicle. The hidden lighting tail lamp also consists of parametric patterns, such as a bezel and black spots. This gives it an emotional touch and fascinates, like the stars in the night sky.

Finally, what can you tell us about the all-new Tucson’s key interior design features?

Traffic situations, especially in urban areas, can often be stressful for drivers. Therefore, we strived to create an interior environment to maximise comfort and relaxation. The interior design of the all-new Tucson was strongly inspired by the serenity of gigantic flowing waterfalls. This is particularly visible with the control elements, which move downwards in a unified manner.

The all-new Tucson’s interior space is where the user organically and seamlessly interacts with futuristic technology and space. It is very special, especially in the case of the instrument panel, which we designed in an innovative way. Usually, the instrument panel is very large in competitors’ models, and we started with the idea of how to make it light, flat and offer customers a wider view.

In a cluster, there is no Head Up Display at the top. Since there is no HUD, we focused on the innovatively comfortable view from the driver's seat and applied a technology that does not reflect the screen to the windshield at night through a special anti-glare film.

The air vents were pulled upwards to lighten the instrument panel. A black pad is connected to the vent and the bottom screen. The dual cockpit emphasises sportiness in the driver's independent space, making it spacious and practical.

To enhance the in-car experience so it is even more pleasant and relaxing, we installed ambient lights with 64 configurable colours and ten levels of brightness to fit every mood.

For a modern and futuristic look, we ensured everything is layered and connected with sensuous forms. For this, we completely dispensed with physical knobs - all the functions are controlled via touch. The materials used in the vehicle are of extremely high quality.

This enables us to achieve a very uniform interior image that continues from the front to the rear of the vehicle, which makes it particularly high-quality and modern. To emphasise the openness of the interior, we applied a silver deco garnish line from the centre fascia to the rear door. This gives the impression that it expands endlessly.


About the all-new Hyundai Tucson

The all-new Tucson is the fourth generation of Hyundai’s best-selling model in Europe. It is the first Hyundai SUV to be developed according to the company’s new Sensuous Sportiness design identity, combining sleek and dynamic proportions with rich surfaces. In addition to state-of-the art technology and a class-leading safety package, it offers the most electrified powertrain line-up in the compact SUV segment, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, gasoline and petrol 48-volt mild hybrid options.