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Bigger, bolder and safer than ever before - that's the promise Hyundai is making with its new Santa Fe model, as the company debuts new technologies and sharper styling for its seven-seat SUV.
The all-new Hyundai Santa Fe 2018 model has been unveiled in South Korea ahead of an Australian showroom arrival mid-2018, and it brings an array of vital changes to keep the seven-seat SUV competitive in its tough-fought market segment.
Its design should definitely do its part in getting different buyers interested in the model, with the twin-headlight look of the smaller Kona model mirrored on the largest SUV in the brand's local range. This time around, though, it's less divisive, with LED daytime running lights at the top and LED headlights below. There will be no halogens, thank goodness.
In profile you'll notice the new model has a smooth, clean look to it, and the rearmost side window is much larger than before - ensuring better vision for the driver and third-row occupants alike. Wheel sizes range between 17- and 19-inches.
The back end is vastly different, too, with completely redesigned tail-lights, dual exhaust tips and a standout design for the rear bumper. It definitely looks more premium than it did previously... in fact, it looks a bit BMW-ish to me.
If it looks more substantial, that's because it is - the all-new model is bigger in almost every dimension than its predecessor, measuring 4770mm long (up 70mm), 1890mm wide (up 10mm) and 1680mm tall (down 10mm), while the wheelbase has been stretched to 2765mm (up 65mm).
What that all equates to is a roomier cabin, with Hyundai claiming improvements to second-row passenger space, third-row occupant room, and boot space. The cargo hold is now rated at 625 litres (VDA) with five seats in use, which is an increase of 40L.
The cabin has seen major changes in terms of its design, too, with a new 7.0-inch driver information screen between the dials, a head-up display (a first for Hyundai, expected to be offered in high-spec variants) a completely rethought centre console design and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with integrated sat nav on offer.
There are two smaller screens - a 7.0-inch and a 5.0-inch - and Australian buyers can expect to see the 7.0-inch in lower-spec models and the 8.0-inch in the top grades.
Both screens to be offered locally include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and has Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and USB/auxiliary connectivity. The nav-equipped 8.0-inch unit will be covered by Hyundai's map update program, covering updates for the life of the car. A wireless charging pad (Qi) will be offered, too.
Safety is another key talking point for the new-generation Santa Fe. The 2018 version follows the path set out by its predecessor, with Hyundai confirming it will offer every model in the range with a comprehensive suite of safety technologies including auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection (above 10km/h), adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist with steering intervention, a reversing camera and parking sensors.
In addition, there are new systems such as 'Rear Occupant Alert' (will warn the driver if they're about to leave a child in the car), 'Safety Exist Assist' (using radar to sense surroundings and stop occupants from opening the door in the path of oncoming traffic), rear cross-traffic with auto braking (will stop the car from reversing into the path of oncoming traffic). These systems are expected to be bundled together in the top-spec Highlander model.
Hyundai stated at the unveiling of the Santa Fe that there are six airbags fitted, including curtain airbags that will stretch to the third row. Those airbags are designed to protect occupants from impact in the event of the accident, rather than just from debris. That's an improvement over the existing version. There's no driver's knee airbag, but there is dual front and front-side protection.
For the vast majority of Australian buyers the updated Santa Fe will be powered by a revised 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The engine is a reworked version of the existing diesel, with slightly less power -144kW at 3800rpm (down 3kW), and a little less torque - 436Nm at 1750rpm (down from 440Nm).
There's a new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the six-speed auto in the old model (the existing six-speed manual has been dropped), and the new-generation Santa Fe also gets the Genesis-derived 'HTRAC' all-wheel-drive system.
HTRAC is a variable torque system, which can distribute torque between front and rear wheels as it's needed - be it on snow, slippery roads or normal driving. The system also incorporates torque-vectoring by braking to enhance cornering stability and bite.
As with all Hyundai products, the Australian arm will perform its own extensive ride, handling and steering tune to suit local demands.
The existing range-opening drivetrain - a 2.4-litre petrol direct-injection four-cylinder with 136kW of power and 241Nm of torque - is expected to be carried over. That model has a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Hyundai isn't expected to bring back the 3.3-litre petrol V6 front-wheel drive option that has been offered in the existing Santa Fe ActiveX model - a version of the SUV that has been a surprise success according to the Australian arm of the company.
There's no arguing against the importance of the new Santa Fe for Hyundai, which is Australia's third-highest selling automotive brand behind Toyota (1st) and Mazda (2nd). The Santa Fe has never really sold in the numbers it could have, with key rivals like the Toyota Kluger and Toyota Prado, Holden Captiva and Isuzu MU-X all bettering the Hyundai offering on the sales charts in 2017.
Buyers can expect pricing to rise incrementally for the new-generation model, but a similar model range strategy is expected, with the exception of the V6 ActiveX - though Hyundai may do a different take on that variant at some point.
We should see, then, a base model Active priced at around $42,000 for the petrol and $45,000 for the diesel, a mid-spec Elite in diesel-only guise, priced at around $53,000, and and top-spec diesel-only Highlander at around $58,000 (all estimated prices before on-road costs).