Hyundai’s biggest SUV in the UK gets to gen-four with a smart new look
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0D automatic
Price: Â£33,000 (est)
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Torque: 293lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 125mph
CO2/tax band: TBC
Most Santa Fes are sold in the United States and South Korea, but about 4000 UK buyers plump for this chunky seven-seater every year too.
To keep it fresh while not disturbing the basic proposition, Hyundai has made the latest version a bit more SUV-ish, with slightly deeper rear side windows to improve visibility for those in the cheap seats. It also gets a refreshed cabin with better-quality and nicely-mixed trim materials, a new and clearer head-up display, and a virtual rear-view mirror on the infotainment screen.
Added to the normal range of electronic driver aids is a safety system that temporarily locks the doors if anyone tries to open one of them when thereâ€™s close moving traffic around.
In another predictable move, the new platform makes the new car larger than the old one, but on the Korean launch we werenâ€™t told if it also has more weight. Thereâ€™s no change in the powertrains. The UKâ€™s main engine will be the familar 2.2-litre 194bhp diesel attached to either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic with Hyundaiâ€™s HTRAC all-wheel-drive system divvying up torque between the axles and brake individual wheels to boost traction. A 2.4-litre petrol might come here too, but the US/Korean bias of the customer base means thereâ€™ll be no 1.6-litre turbo petrol option.
Not everyone will see the aesthetic benefits of the new cabin â€“Â itâ€™s a shame the soft-touch plastics donâ€™t reach the centre console or the glovebox â€“ but there are plenty of attractive features to admire, like the adaptive instruments, inductive mobile phone charging pad and that new head-up display. Better still, the driving position is really comfy, thereâ€™s lots of space in both cabin and boot, and the new glass areas enhance the view out for everyone.
Our Korean test vehicle had a 2.0-litre diesel that weâ€™re not getting in the UK, which is quite a blessing as itâ€™s too obviously a diesel and the optional automatic to which it was harnessed was too keen to change up prematurely. Picking Sport mode sharpened things up a bit, but only at the expense of extra noise. It was less tiresome to switch to the Comfort setting, or the fuel-saving Eco mode. Luckily, the current 2.2 diesel is a far superior unit that functions especially well with an automatic transmission.
Although that Sport mode doesnâ€™t have any effect on the suspension damper settings, the Hyundai is refreshingly resistant to body roll at low to middling speeds, albeit at the cost of some absorbency in the ride. We werenâ€™t able to let loose in any meaningful way in Seoulâ€™s dense traffic. Weâ€™re hoping that, between now and its on-sale date later this year, Hyundai will take better advantage of the new carâ€™s longer-travel suspension to refine its response to potholes, which is presently fairly rudimentary.
That said, even as it stands thereâ€™s a lot to like about the new Santa Fe. It looks better in the metal than it does on a screen or a page, the dash display is pleasantly modern, thereâ€™s no shortage of storage, and itâ€™s a quiet, easy drive .
If the ride is sorted before UK sale thereâ€™s every chance that our halfway-house rating â€“Â and the Santa Feâ€™s position in the big SUV pecking order â€“Â will move up.