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Our European-based spy photographers have snapped the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe large SUV while testing near the company’s German development centre.

Hyundai’s replacement for the current Santa Fe, which premiered in April 2012, is confirmed to appear next year, and will move upmarket to better match the Kia Sorento, as well as the likes of the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger. Ergo, expect more cabin space to boot.

New design elements such as the company’s latest hexagonal grille design and more aggressive LED lights are sure to feature, while there also appear to be stronger character lines around the arches.

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It looks altogether more mature and less edgy than the current car, though the signature raked side windows – with subsequent issues for third-row outward visibility – look to remain in some form.

The version spotted here has twin exhaust-pipe outlets and a set of sharp LED tail lights, plus interesting and sporty alloy wheels. Likely an upper-end version, then.

One might expect the new Santa Fe to share some platform elements with the Kia Sorento/Carnival, and gain a size increase from the small-ish 4700mm length and 2700mm wheelbase of the model currently offered here (known overseas as the Santa Fe Sport), to around 4800mm and 2800mm respectively, matching the larger Santa Fe currently available overseas.

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We’d expect a heavily revised version of the current 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine to be offered, with improved emissions. The petrol offering may be a V6, or perhaps a downsized turbo-four such as the 180kW version in the Sonata. A plug-in hybrid version using bits from the Ioniq seems likely, too.

Expect both front-wheel drive and on-demand all-wheel drive to remain available. Hyundai Australia will again tune the suspension.

Expect the cabin treatment skew into more premium territory as well, with nicer trims, plus the latest infotainment (standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connections, of course) and some level of partially-autonomous active safety tech, at least on the circa-$60k range-topper.

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The new Santa Fe will cap off a busy period for Hyundai Australia. It has the all-new i30 next month, the Kona small SUV (to rival the Honda HR-V) before the end of 2017, plus the new Veloster and Ioniq arriving in 2018 too.

Remarkably, our source of spy images claimed Hyundai hassled them, despite the shots being taken on public roads, saying the guards at its development centre pushed, blocked and even hit the photographer.

“Hyundai even called the police in order to complain about our photographer standing outside of the facility, but at the end it was Hyundai who had to crawl back with the tail between their legs as the German police gave our photographer right and even wished him luck in order to shoot more prototypes,” our source claimed. Yikes.

MORE: Hyundai Santa Fe news, reviews, comparisons and videos

 




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