The original model was one of the most strongly associated with Hyundai and brought popular SUV attributes to the mass market with the reassurance of a strong warranty. The new third-generation includes the first 2WD model and this will open up new markets for Hyundai, including business sales.
On stage: Completely new design for latest Santa Fe
Prices start from £25,495 for the 2.2-litre CRDi Style 2WD model and the most expensive of the 12 models over three trim levels is the 2.2 CRDi 7 seat 4WD automatic at £34,395.
Since its launch in the UK in 2001, the Hyundai Santa Fe has sold 37,500 units in total with just over 4,200 last year, and its best year was 4,500 UK sales 2010. Over the next 12 months Hyundai anticipates selling 4,300 Santa Fe.
The New Generation Santa Fe has a familiar but updated 197ps 2.2-litre CRDi engine matched to six-speed manual or automatic transmissions and choice of 2WD or 4WD which give between 155gkm and 159gkm in manual form or 178gkm with the automatic.
Engineers have tuned the Santa Fe suspension with firmer dampers to cope with UK road surfaces and there are a variety of stability systems, including a programme to make towing safer, and hill start assist.
Three trim levels continue with a choice of five- or seven-seats in Style, Premium and Premium SE, but the trim levels are impressive from the outset and include self-levelling suspension on the seven-seat models, air conditioning, voice recognition Bluetooth, adjustable weight electric steering and as you move up get touchscreen navigation, parking camera, powered driver’s seat, big sunroof and keyless entry. Seven seat derivatives are about £1,200 dearer than the five-seat models.
It is also the first Hyundai to have a pedestrian friendly bonnet which cushions upon impact and there is more room inside than in the previous version with 582 litres of luggage space minimum and over 1,600 litre maximum while its slightly longer and wider than before but also lower.
The Santa Fe is backed by Hyundai’s 5 Year Triple Care package covering unlimited mileage warranty, roadside assistance and vehicle health checks.
Tony Whitehorn, President and CEO, Hyundai Motor UK, said, “We know that Santa Fe buyers are amongst our most loyal customers and it is their feedback that has helped to shape the new model. We think that the New Generation Santa Fe will not only appeal to existing customers with its fresh design and improved levels of standard technology, but will attract a new range of buyers looking for a stylish, premium and authentic SUV.”
Hyundai marketing director Andrew Cullis said Santa Fe had brought new buyers to the brand, predominantly middle aged family buyers, and they had proved very loyal with 60pc returning to buy successive models and the addition of the 2WD model variant will widen still further its appeal.
“The MPV market attracts buyers from a range of alternative models, most notably estates and 4x4s where they are use to having a lot of room but there is a growing realization that people don’t need the 4WD capability or want the cost of running a pure 4×4 so with the latest Santa Fe we can offer them a choice of 4WD or 2WD,” said Mr Cullis.
Hyundai anticipate 90pc of Santa Fe buyers will choose the 4WD version and 60pc of those will want the seven-seat specification with its foldaway back seats.
For the new version there is a completely different look to the car both inside and out. There’s new body work and interior with a strong emphasis on giving it a premium look with LEDs, flowing lines, high equipment levels and better driving dynamics.
Improved safety and repair technologies also mean considerable reductions in insurance premiums with the latest series over the outgoing models.
The new design has brought the Hyundai Santa Fee bang up to date with rivals.
It looks more rounded and dynamic even when parked and the interior is a big step up from the previous generation. Controls are better laid out and everything is within easy reach of the driver.
I liked the low loading rear floor with its fold down pair of back seats but raising them would severely restrict luggage space. Used five-up, the room inside is good, even for those in the middle row of three seats.
Although it has less absolute power than before, the revised engine gives very smooth acceleration thanks to the revised fuel injection, the automatic box produced seamless changes up and down, and it turned and stopped with ease and assurance.
The UK-tuned suspension is slightly firm in its damping but it handled well as a result and over a mildly challenging off-road course it admirably coped with grassy hills and crossing ditches.
The new Santa Fe does a lot in a compact package and it will not only delight existing owners who move up but also with its packaging and running costs it is a sounder financial proposition than many rivals and is likely to bring new customers to the brand who will not be disappointed at what they find.
Santa Fe Premium SE 4WD 7-seat £34,395
Mechanical notes: 4cyl 194bhp 2..2 litre turbo-diesel, 436Nm from 1800rpm, 6sp
Insurance group: 20
Emissions/ tax: 178gkm/ VED band 1
Performance: Max 118mph, 0-62mph 10.1sec
Fuel consumption: 37mpg on test
Warranty: 5yrs/ unlimited mileage
For: Room, versatility, mechanical refinement, running costs
Against: Rear visibility, luggage room with seats in use