2018 Hyundai Santa Fe review – price, specs and release date

All-new version of the seven-seat Hyundai Santa Fe gets dramatic looks and improved practicality. Is it now a match for the class-leading Peugeot 5008?...

Priced from £33,425 Release date September 2018

Big isn't always beautiful. Just ask the Hyundai Santa Fe. The seven-seat SUV is the largest model in Hyundai's line-up, sitting above the Kona and Tucson, and now, in its fourth generation, it has received a fairly drastic – and much-needed – makeover.

The previous Santa Fe, launched in 2013, looked and felt pretty old both outside and in. That situation wasn't helped by the arrival of brilliant new rivals such as the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.

So what's new? Well, one of the biggest changes is the way the Santa Fe looks. On the outside, it now apes the smaller Kona thanks to Hyundai's trademark 'cascading' grille, while on the inside there has been an injection of tech and a few more soft-touch materials to make it feel more upmarket.

The car has also grown in size, with the distance between its front and rear axles extended by 65mm, while its ride height has been raised by 5mm. But despite being wider and longer than the model it replaces, it's also lighter.

The new Santa Fe will be available in three trims – SE, Premium and SE Premium – when it goes on sale in September, but with just one 2.2-litre diesel engine, which can be had with a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic gearbox. Front or four-wheel drive is available depending on whether your idea of off-roading is parking on a kerb or driving halfway up a mountain. Seven seats are standard.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe review – price, specs and release date

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe on the road

Seven-seaters like the 5008 and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace have proved that large SUVs can be practical but still good to drive.

The Santa Fe does plenty right in this regard. Its engine pulls well from low revs and has plenty of poke for motorway journeys. It will also see off most versions of the 5008 and Kodiaq in a sprint from 0-62mph if you rev it hard.

The engine can sound a bit uncouth above 3000rpm, though, and you feel some vibration filtering up through the steering wheel. It quietens down at motorway speeds – where wind noise is also well suppressed – but there is a noticeable amount of road noise to disturb the peace.

A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, but so far we've only sampled the optional eight-speed automatic. This shuffles through the gears smoothly enough and does a good job of being in the right ratio at the right time; you rarely need to reach for the steering wheel-mounted paddles to do the job yourself.

If you opt for the automatic, you can choose between four different drive modes: Smart, Eco, Comfort, Sport. These adjust the weight of the steering, how the gearbox behaves and how the four-wheel-drive shuffles power between the front and rear wheels. The majority of the time, you’ll probably find you just leave the Santa Fe in its default Smart mode, though, and let it sort things out for itself.

The Santa Fe soaks up the majority of small bumps and undulations pretty well. Sharp-edged bumps aren't dealt with so adroitly, but you could level the same criticism at many rivals in this price bracket, including the Kodiaq. Indeed, the only rival that will be comfier back in Britain is the smooth-riding 5008.

Chuck the Santa Fe into a fast corner and it responds in the way you’d expect a large SUV to, being somewhat unwilling to change direction initially and then leaning noticeably when it does so. The steering is also inconsistently weighted at faster speeds, which doesn't inspire much confidence, although around town it's actually quite light, making manoeuvring surprisingly easy.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe review – price, specs and release date

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe interior

It’s inside where the new Santa Fe really excels; there has been a clear leap forward compared with the previous model. There’s now a tablet-style touchscreen infotainment system, which helps bring the look of the interior bang up to date, even if it still doesn't have quite the visual pizazz of the 5008 or the solidity of the Tiguan Allspace.

SE trim gets you a 7.0in screen, while upgrading to Premium gets you a larger 8.0in version. However, while the screen might look the part, it’s a bit slow to respond and doesn’t match the simplicity nor functionality of the systems in the Kodiaq or Tiguan Allspace.

Up front, even the tallest of drivers have plenty of room and generous adjustment to get comfortable. Room in the second row of seats is also good, even with the panoramic sunroof that’s fitted as standard to Premium SE models. But you'd probably expect that to be the case in such a big SUV. What you might not expect is how much room there is left over on the third row of seats.

True, if you decide to go seven-up from Land's End to John o’ Groats, adults sitting right at the back might start to grumble by the time you pass Birmingham, but the Santa Fe is a proper seven-seater and roomier than any other SUV in this price bracket. Access to the third row is also very good, and there are even separate air conditioning controls back there.

With all seats in place, the boot is pretty small and only capable of holding a few carry-on suitcases or bags of shopping. With the third-row seats folded down, luggage space is 40 litres up on what was available in the previous Santa Fe, although still markedly less than what’s on offer in the Kodiaq and 5008.

As standard, the Santa Fe is really well equipped, getting roof rails, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, privacy glass, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, automatic windscreen wipers, a DAB radio and Apple and Android smartphone mirroring. It also gets important safety equipment, including lane-keeping assist, high-beam assist and automatic emergency braking.

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