Seoul, South Korea - Hyundai’s fourth-generation Santa Fe SUV, revealed today at the company’s  Motorstudio Goyang, can perhaps best be summed up as typically Korean: practical inside and distinctly oddball outside.

The latest version of Hyundai’s ‘cascading’ grille is flanked by slit-eyed daytime running lights, above chunky LED headlight/indicator clusters, a design feature already abandoned by Jeep and facelifted out of the Cherokee for 2018.

There’s also a completely new model line-up, although which of them will be released in South Africa has yet to be confirmed.

The five-passenger Santa Fe Sport becomes just plain Santa Fe, with a ‘peanut gallery’ of child-sized third row seats available only on diesel model, while the current long-wheelbase seven seat Santa Fe is replaced by the new Santa Fe XL.

Overall length of the short-wheelbase standard model is up 100mm, from 4670-4770mm, on a 65mm longer wheelbase (new 2765mm), width is up 10mm to 1890mm and height (including the roof rails) has grown from 1685mm to 1705mm.

Apart from a raft of new gizmotronics, the cabin has been revised to improve its ergonomics, particularly for larger occupants.

The infotainment screen in the centre stack has been repositioned and tilted to reduce glare, the grab handles and window switches in the door panels have been moved forward for more elbow room, the door map pockets have been made slimmer to provide more legroom, the centre armrest is higher and longer, and the centre cup holders have been repositioned to make them easier to get at.

The second row of seats now has one-touch folding, their H point has been moved back and the floor lowered, for more rear legroom. Like we said, practical inside.

Clever new gadgets

The Santa Fe debuts two intriguing new features:

Firstly, it has rear seat monitors that detect movement in the second or third row of seats after the car has been locked, and then send a warning to your smartphone, to remind you that you have locked either a pet or a child in the car.

The second new safety feature is ‘safe exit assist’, which prevents the doors on that side from opening if there is a car, a motorcycle, a bicycle or even a pedestrian approaching from behind.

Hyundai’s Smart Sense suite of driver aids is is now standard across the model range, including automatic high-beam dipping, forward collinson assist, lane-keeping assist, smart cruise control and rear-cross traffic warning.

New eight-speed transmission

The 2019 Santa Fe will be offered with a choice of two petrol and one diesel four, starting with a 2.4-litre, direct-injection non-turbo petrol four rated at 136kW, or a two-litre turbopetrol four rated at 170kW. Diesel fans get the familiar 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel, good for 147kW at 3000 revs and 435Nm at 1750rpm.

Each is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which has both a lower first gear and a higher top gear than the previous six-speeder for improved getaway off the line and more relaxed cruising. 

It drives via Hyundai’s HTrac all-wheel drive system, with an electronic, variable-torque-split clutch between the front and rear axles and three selectable drive modes - Normal, Sport (most of the power goes to the rear wheels for improved handling) and Smart.

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe will be released in South Africa, in standard wheelbase format only, during the second half of 2018. Powertrain and trim details for the local market have yet to be finalised. 

IOL Motoring