Arriving early next year on its 20th anniversary of being sold in Europe, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is bringing a host of improvements over the current version, as well as a total styling makeover. It's more than just a skin-deep makeover, however, with the flagship SUV being based on a brand new, third-generation platform which promises to improve dynamics and comfort.
As well as styling, the cabin and technology has been brought up to the latest standards with more connectivity. Complementing this is a range of powertrains including a new diesel engine and Smartstream hybrid, and for the first time a plug-in hybrid variant.
Gaining a proper, zero emissions-capable option brings the Santa Fe into line with many of its major rivals and will be the most powerful option by quite a stretch. It achieves this by mating a 1.6-litre T-GDI turbocharged 'Smartstream' petrol engine with an 89.7bhp electric motor drawing power from a 13.8kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.
The 'Smartstream' moniker relates to the T-GDI petrol engine which is the first to utilise continuously variable valve duration and low pressure exhaust gas recirculation. Both of these measures are designed to improve economy and lower emissions without detrimental impact on overall performance.
A total system power of 261bhp and 258lb-ft should be plenty of poke for day-to-day driving and, thanks to the option of four-wheel drive via Hyundai's HTRAC system, towing duties. That power is distributed through Hyundai's 6AT gearbox.
Hyundai has hinted that a fuel cell electric version will be built, but so far there are no specific details and we'd guess that very small numbers will hit the roads – predominantly in Scandinavia.
Based on the latest SUV platform from Hyundai, the new Santa Fe is slightly larger than the previous generation car, but dynamically more astute and safer. Major components, such as the powertrain, are mounted lower, aerodynamics is significantly improved and noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is better thanks to revised suspension. New crash structures should better dissipate energy in the event of a collision.
Size wise, the Santa Fe is 4785mm long (+15mm), 1900mm wide (+10mm) and 1685mm tall (+5mm). The 2765mm wheelbase is the same as the previous car, though thanks to better interior packaging there is an additional 3cm of rear legroom and 4cm of third row legroom (where seven seats are specified).
Five or seven seat versions will be available and in each case, boot capacity is up. Nine additional litres in the five seater bring the total seats-up capacity to 634 litres and in the seven seat version there's a substantial 571 litres – a 24 litre improvement over the old car. Either version is positively cavernous with seats stowed.
Hyundai has given the Santa Fe a proper once-over in the styling department, bringing it into line with current brand design language. A large, distinctive grille which incorporates the main headlamps dominates the front end of the car, above which sits new 'T-shaped' daytime running lights with dual-function turning signals.
Flared wheel arches and optional 20 inch wheels add to the bling factor and add strength to the overall look. At the rear end it's a little more subdued, but new lights connected by a central light strip make it an attractive thing to look at.
With the additional space comes additional comfort and luxury, according to Hyundai, and there's no doubt that the interior also looks good. The dash is lower with a redesigned centre console which houses a 10.25 inch touchscreen. Button controls are located centrally for ergonomic use by the driver and, for the first time, include a terrain mode selector to switch between drive modes. A new 12.3 inch digital instrument cluster replaces traditional dials. A full head-up display supplements the instrument cluster.
Connectivity wise, Hyundai Bluelink services enable owners to locate and control certain functions of the car remotely, as well as viewing attributes like fuel and battery level. Hyundai LIVE services add real-time traffic, parking and fuel station and weather information. We'd assume that charging points will be included in the PHEV version.
Smartphone connectivity gets the usual Apple and Android integration options and wireless charging at 15 watts can be done via a charging pad in the central console. USB charging is available for rear seat passengers. Eleven Hyundai SmartSense safety and driving assistance systems are included as standard including several new systems: Forward collision avoidance with junction turning function, navigation-based smart cruise control, highway driving assist, reverse parking collision-avoidance and remote smart parking assist.
There's no word on what UK prices will be for the new Santa Fe in PHEV form, but it will be hitting the roads early next year, so there's still a bit of time to wait. We'll fill in all the gaps – such as range and emissions as well as price – once available.