New Hyundai Santa Fe 2018 review

Big family SUVs: if a mainstream manufacturer isn’t making one, there’s almost certainly a model on the horizon. It’s a segment that’s been enjoying growth for years, and Hyundai has more experience than many.

With upstarts like the Skoda Kodiaq fresh on the scene, the venerable Santa Fe is entering its fourth generation. To see what the latest car is like, we’ve been to Korea for an early drive of Hyundai’s global success story – before it arrives in the UK towards the end of this year.

Best SUVs and 4x4s 2018

Every new iteration of Santa Fe has taken a substantial leap forward in terms of design and technology, and this latest car is no different. The old model was hardly unattractive, but the new car has taken on more complex and modern shape.

Shorter overhangs make it look less bulky in profile, while an increased colour palette adds a bit of personality. The rounded twin front lights and chunky chrome grille won’t be to all tastes, but at least the latter can be swapped for a matt black design on some variants.

The interior is an improvement, too, both in terms of look and feel. It’s not exciting by any means, but unlike the old car, it gives off enough of an upmarket air to justify a list price that (while not yet confirmed) is expected to top out at around £40,000. Most surfaces you prod feel substantial yet soft to the touch, and Hyundai has slimmed down the button count on the centre console. There’s enough switches left to ensure it’s all very simple to operate, however.

Hyundai has focused on improving things on the tech front, too. A digital instrument screen will be standard on top models, and a head-up display is also offered. Our car featured the top-spec eight-inch infotainment system, which comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a healthy seven-year subscription to live data services. There’s even wireless smartphone charging.

You’ll find a full suite of active safety kit on offer, too, including forward collision, lane keep and blind spot assist. There’s also a new feature called Safe Exit Assist, which detects vehicles overtaking from the rear when stationary and locks the back doors to prevent rear-seat passengers getting a nasty surprise.

The Santa Fe’s wheelbase is 65mm longer than before, translating into a third row of seats that are more usable for adults (on short journeys, at least) than a Kodiaq. The rest of the cabin is as roomy as ever, while there’s plenty of storage and a decent 625-litre boot with the rearmost row folded flat.

The Santa Fe will come to Britain with a modified version of the current car’s 2.2-litre diesel engine, making a healthy 197bhp and 436Nm of torque. A 2.4-litre petrol is being considered, too, but we reckon the former will better fit the package. Unfortunately, the only engine available for us to try was the not-for-UK 179bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Still, it’s refined and gutsy, which given its power and torque deficit bodes well for the revised 2.2. The new eight-speed auto box is smooth and responsive, too.

Four-wheel drive models use a new torque vectoring system that boosts efficiency, while maintaining strong levels of grip. We’ve no provisional economy or emissions data yet, though.

Few 4x4s of this size are going to be particularly inspiring to drive, and the Santa Fe is no different. It majors in composure and stability, with naturally weighted and precise steering, as well as safe and predictable handling. The suspension has clearly been stiffened up over the outgoing model, as body control is tidier than before. The trade-off is the ride, which is by no means uncomfortable, but got caught out by some of the sharpest bumps on our rural test route. It’s comparable to a Land Rover Discovery Sport in that regard.

The key factor to the Santa Fe’s success in the UK will be pricing. Hyundai expects to shift around 4,000 a year, with the bulk of those made up by high-end trims. But predicted pricing puts those well into Discovery Sport territory, while an equivalent Skoda Kodiaq would be considerably less.

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