What is it?
You’re looking at latest and largest version of Hyundai’s SUV range, launched in 2001 and now moving into its fourth generation.
These days there’s an air of confidence about everything Hyundai does with the Santa Fe. This seven-seater has been the marque’s SUV flagship and has sold around 1.6m examples in Europe as well as scoring even bigger successes in the US, so its creator has known for a long time that it is on the right track. Which is why this latest iteration, unveiled at the Geneva motor show last March and in UK dealerships now, is pretty similar to previous versions, only better in nearly every way.
It’s an imposing design, and modern-looking against its peers, conforming well enough to the company’s claims to an “impressive presence” and a “powerful, wide stance”, although the one about “athletic lines” is stretching the friendship just a bit. The new Santa Fe is palpably about generous cabin space and carrying capacity, and is none the worse for that.
What's it like?
The new interior is dominated by an impressive two-level fascia featuring a prominent and unusually easy-to-use central screen. Details like switch lighting, instrument graphics and the location of USB ports are unusually thoughtfully handled, and there’s an impressive feeling of completeness throughout the car. To back that up, our Santa Fe Premium SE came without a single extra-cost option, because nothing needed adding.
The latest Santa Fe is an all-new model, around 80mm longer at 4770mm, with 65mm added to the wheelbase. Both the second and third row seats have 20-30mm of extra legroom, but the model remains compact enough to fit European parking spaces and cope easily on tight UK roads.
Three models are offered — SE, Premium and SE Premium — and they’re all well equipped and available with either two or four-wheel drive. The lower two versions can be ordered with six-speed manual or optional automatic gearboxes, but the full-house Premium SE comes only with a six-speed auto in 2wd form, or an eight-speeder with 4wd as tested here.
New for the latest model is a torque vectoring system with three different driving modes for distributing torque front to rear: 50:50 in Sport, 65:35 in Comfort and between 80 and 100% to the front wheels in Eco mode. The system still adjusts automatically when it detects really slippery conditions, and the driver can select a 'locked' position that ensures a 50:50 split in the toughest going.