What is it?
You’ll have heard, many times, that the SUV market is getting bigger. But it’s literally growing here - the new Hyundai Santa Fe, the brand’s biggest SUV, is 70mm longer in its latest generation.
That might not sound like much - the length of an index finger - but on a car that already takes up 4.7 metres of road from nose to tail, it’s enough for Hyundai to now offer the Santa Fe in only one variant globally; before, a Grand Santa Fe topped the line-up.
It’s not quite the sales maven that the Tucson has turned out to be, as people tend to prefer Nissan Qashqai-sized SUVs (only around 4000 Santa Fes find UK homes each year), yet represents a growing and therefore important SUV niche.
The new Santa Fe, then. It’s got a new look, in line with the Kona, and a new chassis, which despite the car being bigger than the old model, is lighter than before.
It’s available only in 2.2-litre CRDi flavour in the UK, while the automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive will be the bestselling set-up over here. Seven-seaters are all we’ll get in the UK, while other markets get five-seaters.
What's it like?
It doesn’t feel as big as it looks – or is – for a start. It’s a big car - not far off as long and wide as a Range Rover Sport – but feels fairly agile for the class.
The steering is direct and blessed with a surprising amount of feel - there’s no point-and-guess that you get with many wallowy seven-seater SUVs. Speaking of wallowy, there’s no escaping the Santa Fe’s body roll, but it’s controlled and gradual rather than sloppy and clumsy. It’s no Seat Ateca - it’s a whole class bigger for a start - but it defies the class standard of not being particularly fun to drive.
The new eight-speed automatic gearbox makes largely smooth, unnoticeable shifts, although the lack of dual-clutch option means they’re not as smooth as they could be.
At motorway speeds, there’s little complaint from the suspension, although a UK drive could bring out some flaws we’ve yet to see, given the state of our Tarmac compared with Barcelona’s. It’s certainly more settled over what bumps we encountered than the Skoda Kodiaq, mind.