A stalwart of Hyundai’s SUV/crossover offering, the next generation Santa Fe model, states Iain Robertson, benefits from new styling and a re-gauging of its place in the mainstream segment of the market, which will boost both sales and expectations.

The march of the South Korean car brands has been unrelenting in recent times. Led by Hyundai and its partner, Kia, their products have met consumer demands and expectations head-on. In many ways, they are delivering to customer needs in ways at which their European rivals can only marvel. While I used to refer to both as ‘coming brands’, it is now much fairer to regard them not just as ‘having arrived’ but actually as sector leaders. They are also heralding-in an atmosphere of tremendous excitement, at a time when many of their competitors are enduring insufferable pain.

Introducing an array of new equipment, safety addenda and powertrain features over the outgoing generation, the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe factors in an up-market stance for its new car due this September. It is combined with fresh exterior styling that showcases the SUV design language initiated by the smaller Kona model, which includes the cascading radiator grille and composite lamps. The interior has also been completely re-designed to create a roomier environment possessing heaps of soft touch and greater use of high-end materials. The way in which Hyundai has transformed this car, from a jokey off-roader to a luxurious SUV has been little less than extraordinary.

Santa Fe’s engine line-up features the 2.2 CRDi ‘R’ engine that has been upgraded with the addition of both selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and lean NOx trap (LNT) to further reduce emissions, in conjunction with the diesel particulate filter (DPF) system. It still delivers a healthy 197bhp power output and will be available with front, or 4WD underpinnings, with a choice of 6-speed manual, or an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission. A ‘smart’ gearbox, the auto unit features an enhanced drive mode logic that improves engine responsiveness and control when cornering, by suppressing upshifts over a set lateral G-level, while over-riding engine braking by raising the gearbox downshift revs level, when slowing rapidly. It is a step on from ‘fuzzy logic’, which used to predominate in automatic transmissions for more than two decades.

Four-wheel-drive models introduce HTRAC, an evolution of Hyundai’s ‘Torque on Demand’ 4WD system. Previously, front and rear torque distribution was controlled automatically, HTRAC offers the driver a modicum of manual control over torque distribution with the introduction of three set-mode splits (front-to-rear bias in brackets):

SPORT: 65/35 (50/50)
COMFORT: 80/20 (65/35)
ECO: 100/0 (80/20)

The new system allows the driver to select ‘4WD Lock’ manually, which holds the torque delivery at 50/50 until the road speed exceeds 19 mph, for better defined off-road progress, at which point the torque distribution and grip control is controlled automatically as required. It is an highly effective system and provides enough flexibility to ensure that the Santa Fe can be used easily in both working and normal driving situations.

In terms of equipment, Santa Fe benefits from seven seats, roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, with rear view camera, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, drivers’ seat height adjustment, leather steering wheel, automatic windscreen wipers, DAB radio with Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™, cruise control, Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Smart High Beam Assist, all as standard. Satisfying a remit of providing high equipment levels at zero extra cost has been a Hyundai priority for many years of which it appears reluctant to let go and leads to strongly supportive customer reactions. Of course, that is also the key reason for Hyundai to maintain its win:win propositions.

Prices, before any dealer discounts are applied, start from £33,425 for the SE 2.2 CRDi 197bhp 6-speed 2WD manual, which rides on 17.0-inch diameter alloys. Automatic variants incorporate smart cruise control and an electric parking brake. From £36,995, the Premium 2.2 CRDi builds on the SE trim level by offering 18.0-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry with engine start/stop button, LED headlamps, heated steering wheel, electric front seats, leather seat facings and electrically operated tailgate. The higher trim also includes a Krell sound system with 8.0-inch touch screen, 10-speaker sound system and navigation. Of course, these price tags were untenable for the brand 10 years ago and while they are broadly competitive today, trim level and equipment tally comparisons are essential, if for no other reason than to prove that the Hyundai offers value for money in its class.

Additional safety features include Rear Occupancy Alert, which alerts the driver to any occupants, including children or pets that may have been left inadvertently in the vehicle, when the central locking has been operated, and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) on manual models and Blind Spot Detection with Brake Assist on automatic transmission models, which automatically counter-steers by individual brake application, should a collision be detected during a lane-change manoeuvre. 4WD is available optionally.

The top of the range Premium SE 2.2 CRDi 8-speed automatic 2WD enters the range at £41,495 and adds 19.0-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, with drivers’ seat position memory function, and Head Up Display (HUD) which projects relevant information directly to the driver’s line of sight, in the windscreen. The HUD lowers into the dashboard when not in use and is fully adjustable for both angle and height. Premium SE trim also introduces an around-view monitor (automatic transmissions only) and is also available with an optional £300 Burgundy Pack that includes two-tone burgundy and black leather seat facings, dashboard trim and a black suede headlining. This model can also be ordered with 4WD.

There is a choice of nine exterior colours: (pearl finishes) black, cream, orange, red and turquoise, or (metallic) silver, blue, bronze and green. Interestingly, red is available to customers as a no-cost option, while all other finishes cost £575.

The new Santa Fe represents a huge step-change for the model. Its fresh exterior and interior design aspects, the elevated equipment levels and high-end standards of refinement will serve to reassert the model range’s position at the head of Hyundai’s model line-up. Naturally, because they are Hyundai motorcars, they also come standard with the industry-leading five years unlimited mileage warranty, roadside assistance package, five years annual health check, and 12 years’ worth of anti-corrosion warranty.

Conclusion:   Hyundai is one of those ‘leaps and bounds’ brands that embodies new styling and detail elements on a regular basis to all of its models. With enhanced practicality for the popular Santa Fe, it is sure to retain high consumer interest, even though the prices stated may induce a sharp intake of breath. The Santa Fe’s showroom appeal is immense but it delivers importantly on the open road too.