Next-gen Santa Fe ups boldness

Hyundai has unveiled its bigger, smarter and more stylish next-gen Santa Fe

No pricing yet, nor any detail as to how many variants are en route – yet just about every other detail about the next Hyundai Santa Fe has been revealed.

In addition to revealing a host of technical info about the fourth generation model, Seoul head office has also issued a host of photos, some of which are shown today.

While this provides Kiwis with a first decent look of the new model, we might not have to wait too long before seeing it in the metal for ourselves. There’s strong talk that a car that has its public debut at the Geneva motor show, opening on March 8, could well be on sale here by July.

The most obvious change for a replacement for a model that has been Hyundai’s New Zealand’s second-heaviest sales hitter (after Tucson) is its new design; the shape is sharper and has plenty in common with that of the two sizes down Kona city-centric crossover.

The reshape might disguise that this rig has grown in every dimension save height. Hyundai has confirmed the model is now 70mm longer, at 4770mm long, is 10mm wider (at 1890mm) and the wheelbase has grown by 65mm, to 2765mm. The height, though, is now cited 1680mm, a 10mm deficit.

The new skin is hardly the end of it. The model also has a completely redesigned interior, picks up more active safety and convenience technologies, the carry-over engines are improved and married to an eight-speed automatic and Hyundai says the handling has been improved, though not to the detriment of ride comfort.

The all-wheel-drive set-up has added HTRAC, a new variable torque distribution system, which Hyundai says enables agile handling and better torque application depending on the wheel grip and the speed of vehicle.

HTRAC works in tandem with the driving modes, with Sport and Comfort providing splits up to 50:50 and 65:35 respectively, while Eco mainly sends torque to the front wheels but can switch to all four corners if conditions are slippery.

It seems likely NZ-bound Santa Fe might benefit from a local market fine tuning programme that has been undertaken in Australia. This concentrates on the steering and suspension. Hyundai is already claiming improved responsiveness and vehicle stability, a smoother ride, and reduced noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.

The stiffer suspension has been placed vertically for longer travel length, external vertical shock absorbers have been added and the floor panel has been reinforced.

The 2.2-litre CRDi turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine favoured by Kiwis carries over. Though power and torque outputs are reduced by 3kW and 4Nm, to 144kW and 436Nm, the brand attests that performance is better, due to the new transmission.

Hyundai is still being vague about the status of its petrol engines, a 2.4-litre four and a 3.3-litre V6. It has dropped hints that a plug-in hybrid option is coming.

The bigger body allows for increases in passenger room. Second-row legroom has increased by 38mm, while the bench itself sits 18mm higher. Third-row headroom is up 22mm.

Cargo capacity is improved to 625 litres when the third row is stowed, a 109L improvement. Rear visibility has also improved thanks to a 41 percent larger rear window.

As per the Kona, the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, while a fully featured head-up display is projected onto the windshield. Wireless smartphone charging has also been added.

Hyundai has expanded its suite of SmartSense driver-assist technologies, adding rear occupant alert, rear cross-traffic alert with automated braking and safety exit assist.

Rear occupant alert monitors the rear seats via an ultrasonic sensor and alerts the driver if occupants – be it children, adults or pets – are still present when exiting the vehicle. This system also works if children accidentally lock themselves in.

Safety exit assist is the focus of a video on our video page. This uses the radar to detect other vehicles approaching from behind and warns the driver when a door without the child lock active is opened. For doors that do have the child lock activated, the vehicle will keep these doors locked in these scenarios, even if the driver attempts to unlock them. An acoustic warning is then issued to explain why.

Other active safety features include forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.

Santa Fe achieved 1626 registrations in 2017, against 2237 Tucson.