TESTED 7.10.18, LONDON ON SALE NOW PRICE £43,295
Seven-seat flagship SUV arrives in the UK as an all-new model – and it shows
There’s an air of confidence about the new, fourth-generation Hyundai Santa Fe that permeates practically everything it does. This seven-seater has been the marque’s SUV flagship for the past 17 years and has sold around 1.6 million examples in Europe as well as scoring even bigger successes in the US, so its creators have known for a long time that they’re on the right track. Which is why this latest iteration, 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, but the new Santa Fe is palpably about generous cabin space and carrying capacity, and none the worse for that. 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 than before, at 4770mm, with 65mm added to the wheelbase. Both the second- and third-row seats have 20-30mm of extra leg room, but the model remains compact enough to fit European parking spaces and cope easily on tight UK roads.
Three grades are offered – SE, Premium and SE Premium – and they’re all well equipped and available with 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 with only a six-speed auto in two-wheel-drive form, or an eight-speed auto with four-wheel drive as tested here.
New for the latest model is a torque vectoring system with three 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 ‘lock’ position that ensures a 50:50 split in the toughest going.
All versions are powered by the same 2.2-litre diesel engine producing 197bhp, with generous and relaxed peak torque of 325lb ft between 1750rpm and 2750rpm.
Before you drive it, you tend to view the Santa Fe as a usefully updated model but nothing out of the box. Once you’ve put miles under its wheels, you appreciate where the real progress has been made. The steering is surprisingly quick with a new accuracy and the Santa Fe unerringly holds its direction over changing cambers and big bumps in a way that many large SUVs cannot.
It corners nicely, too, gripping accurately at the front all the way through long bends and maintaining its line when pressed hard on undulating A-roads, the front strut/rear multi-link suspension absorbing bumps easily and quietly while keeping excellent control of body roll. The car rides flat, damping big bumps and coping neatly and quietly with typical British ruts and potholes. This latest Santa Fe has a stiffer floor structure and better soundproofing under the carpet, and it certainly tells.
In fact, there’s an air of practical sophistication about everything the Santa Fe does. This big Hyundai might have started life as a budget model – and at £43,295 in the top-spec form tested, it still looks like very decent value – but its refinement and capability can now give any of the grand marques a run for their money.
It comes with extra suspension travel and optional self-levelling that helps it maintain impressive composure in both on- and off-road conditions. SC
Engine 4 cyls, 2199cc, diesel
Power 197bhp at 3750rpm
Torque 325lb ft at 1750-2750rpm
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 2100kg
Top speed 127mph
CO2, tax band 164g/km, 37%
Rivals Kia Sorento, Skoda Kodiaq