The boldly styled seven-seater Hyundai Santa Fe takes aim at premium SUVs.
Shunning full-electric power for a choice of hybrid powertrains, the Santa Fe gets a bold new look, a plush interior, and room for adults in every one of the 4.8-metre-long family car’s seven seats.
Let’s start with the styling. Divisive as ever, the chunky aesthetic will appeal to plenty of people wanting the Land Rover look for less. The Santa Fe’s bluff front end offers an imposing vibe because of its sharp H-pattern daytime-running lights and wide grille. The boxy theme continues down the sides, with squared-off wheelarches and a flat back end. The rear is more challenging than the front, and it’s certainly distinctive.
Those Tonka-toy looks aren’t just for show, either. This is a big car outside and in, and as mentioned, there’s room in the third row for grown-ups on shorter trips. There’s loads of adjustment in the middle row, so you can prioritise legroom or boot space depending on your needs.
And again, the Santa Fe is certainly not lacking when it comes to its ability to carry big loads. Hyundai claims the new car has 725 litres of boot space (91 litres more than before) with five seats in place, and while that’s perhaps hard to quantify, the car had no trouble swallowing a load of bags, cases and camera kit – even with the second row of seats in their rearmost position.
Quality takes a leap in the right direction, as does the general cabin layout. Although plenty of people will bemoan the onslaught of minimalist, screen-heavy interiors, the outgoing Santa Fe was the complete opposite; a sea of buttons plastered to the centre console made it feel dated.
The new car gets a clean-sheet design. There’s a beautiful, panoramic curved display sitting atop the dash, comprising one 12.3-inch screen for the infotainment system and another housing a crisp digital instrument cluster. Beneath the central air vents there’s a touch-sensitive climate control panel, but with rotary dials for the temperature, meaning it’s easier to make minor adjustments on the fly.
This is definitely a car that has been designed with usability at its core. There are two wireless charging pads big enough for the largest smartphones, plus loads of storage areas dotted about the cabin. Also there are USB ports in the seat backs, and climate controls even for seats six and seven. Specs haven’t been confirmed, but our car was fitted with a dual-pane glass roof that stretches past the heads of those in the middle row.
The high-end but family-focused feel continues on the road, where the Santa Fe takes an unashamedly comfort-oriented approach to transporting you and your loved ones from A to B. Every input feels softened; whether it’s the cushioned ride, or the slightly lazy throttle application, this isn’t a car you’ll want to thrash around in too often.
But for most buyers, that won’t matter one jot – not when the hybrid system is so effective. The HEV we drove doesn’t have a particularly big battery, but it’ll happily move around at low speeds without using the engine at all. And even with a relatively modest 1.6-litre petrol engine at its core, the system transitions from electric to petrol power extremely smoothly, and is all but completely hushed at high speeds.
We drove a car on the smallest 18-inch wheels, as well as one on 21s and even on the chunkiest alloys the Santa Fe felt composed; admittedly, Korean roads aren’t as broken as ours, but nor are they as smooth as silk.
This being a very early drive we’re still awaiting guidance on prices and specs. We expect a rise compared with the outgoing car, however, given the increase in equipment. Likewise, fuel economy and emissions data hasn’t been released.
The new Hyundai Santa Fe builds on a solid baseline by improving on its predecessor in near enough every respect, aligning itself with the very best cars in this class. Its relaxed demeanour will be ideal for family-car buyers, as will the huge, tech-filled seven-seat cabin. If Hyundai can hit the bullseye on price, this new Santa Fe could give even premium-badged rivals plenty to worry about.