Making gains in handling response and stability while improving rolling comfort, as Hyundai aimed to do with this car, wasn’t ever going to be straightforward.
The Santa Fe’s spring rates have been increased, but of greater significance is the fact that Hyundai has opted for longer-travel suspension here than it did with the last-generation car. When combined with the 19in alloys of our Premium SE test car, however, the Santa Fe delivered a low-speed ride that wasn’t quite as convincing as the accompanying marketing literature led you to believe it might be.
The car’s ride can feel slightly agitated around town, amplifying the impacts and vibrations imparted by rutted Tarmac to a degree that few testers considered appropriate for a big, comfort-oriented SUV.
Were this a properly capable 4x4, the heavy-duty, agricultural dynamic undertones would perhaps be easier to forgive; as it stands, though, the laid-back, comfort-first dynamic character of the old Santa Fe seems to have been lost a little here, and little of worth has been gained in the trade. Increasing the pace does smooth things out a bit. The Hyundai has settled vertical body control at open-road speeds, and deals with undulating surfaces with greater comfort and suppleness than it does low-speed ruts and bumps.
Yet it fails to handle with any greater composure or agility than the last Santa Fe, and compared with the current crop of seven-seat SUVs, remains a car that makes every kilogram of its considerable kerb weight felt when you hurry it along.
Body control is softer than the SUV class average and, while the Santa Fe’s stability is never in question and is well-marshalled by its electronics, the suspension holds surprisingly little grip or composure in reserve when you meet a mid-corner bump, or have to unsettle the car’s equilibrium to make a course adjustment under plenty of lateral load.
The Santa Fe isn’t alone among seven-seat SUVs in its failure to mask its considerable weight through the numerous bends, dips and climbs of Millbrook’s challenging Hill Route – yet it still struggles here. Faster directional changes are particularly adept at making the Hyundai’s mass felt, although the car’s stability control and suspension combine to keep roll from building too adversely.
The HTRAC four-wheel-drive system’s ability to shuffle 50% of the engine’s torque rearwards helps to quell the effect of understeer a little, but it was hard to detect the impact of that much torque vectoring in the car’s handling balance or response.