What is it?
Leaving an interval of just two and a half years between the introduction of your new flagship SUV and the arrival of its updated, ‘facelifted’ successor could be construed as an admission of serious error, given that a four-year gap is more typical.
So the fact that the Mk4 Santa Fe only went on sale in the second half of 2018 but has now been reconceived with aesthetic tweaks and an almost entirely new platform, plus an electrified overhaul of the engine line-up, represents an awkward volte-face from Hyundai.
However, to spin it another way, the industry is changing impossibly fast at the moment. And the fact that Hyundai has quickly read the room, swapped out the high-CO2 2.2-litre diesel engines, replaced them with downsized hybrid petrols and slid its new N3 platform beneath the Santa Fe’s seven-seater bodyshell shows considerable manufacturing agility. It will be worth the trouble, too, you suspect. The competition among full-sized family crossovers costing about £40,000 is utterly bloodthirsty, and the Santa Fe’s rivals include the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and on it goes.
Other than the engine and platform, what else is different? At 2765mm, the wheelbase is unchanged but an extra 34mm of second-row leg room has nevertheless been found, and cabin width is increased too, so this is now an even more spacious interior. The second row also folds almost completely flat, at the touch of a button, and can still be slid fore and aft to free up a good level of knee room for the third-row passengers. It all means the Santa Fe remains among the more versatile large crossovers in terms of seat layout.
The cockpit architecture is then mostly as before, but the transmission tunnel has been tidied up considerably and slopes elegantly up towards the slimline new 10.3in touchscreen, which sits adjacent to the standard-fit 12.3in digital instrument cluster. The standard of fit and finish is now conspicuously high in here, too, and while there are still some hard plastics, most of the cabin is finished in soft-touch materials. Factor in plush seats and better than average visibility, and the result is one of the nicer, more relaxing cabins in the class.