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This is the new-generation Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s the fourth iteration of the badge since 2001, and launches in the hyper-competitive large SUV segment in July.

It’s based on a tweaked version of the platform underpinning the Kia Sorento and Carnival, and has a completely new design.

Hyundai talks about a “powerful wide stance” and “athletic, bold look” – and we don’t disagree. LED headlights appear to be standard.

The new model is a smidgen larger than its predecessor, though still one of the more compact seven-seaters out there, sitting between the Nissan X-Trail seven-seater and something like a Toyota Kluger. It’s 4770mm long, 1890mm wide and rides on a 2765mm wheelbase.

It’s also lighter than before, but stronger. It has the biggest percentage of high-strength steel — made in-house, not supplied — of any Hyundai, at a claimed 57 per cent.

The sharp cabin is said to be backed by improved tactility and quality, though it must be said the current model remains a strong offering late in its life-cycle.

Second-row legroom is up 38mm and the seats are 18mm higher. A new one-touch slide and fold system on the second row makes access to the rearmost seats easier – always a weakness of the outgoing version – while there’s also 22mm extra headroom back there.

That bigger, redesigned rear window also helps, with Hyundai saying third-row passengers have better outward visibility. Luggage space grows by 40 litres, to 625L against the VDA standard.

The centre 8.0-inch touchscreen has Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and 3D satellite navigation with free upgrades. The base system is a 7.0-inch screen with the phone mirroring, but no nav. Australian specs are yet to be confirmed.

Top grades also get a new head-up display unit with “class-leading luminance”. You also get a Qi-standard wireless smartphone charger.

The company’s ‘SmartSense’ system packages the familiar AEB with pedestrian detection, radar cruise and lane assist systems with a new version of rear cross-traffic alert setup including autonomous braking. It also includes a Safety Exit Assist designed to stop you opening the doors if something is approaching from behind. Cyclists rejoice.

The main drivetrain is a revised 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that meets the latest Euro 6C emissions standards, meaning fuel use and CO2 emissions are marginally down. Hyundai claims outputs of 144kW of power and 436Nm of torque, with cold-start noise down by 4dB. It’s matched with a new eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, in place of the old six-speeder.

The new all-wheel drive (AWD) system, called HTRAC, is an on-demand setup controlling torque distribution and braking to each corner of the car, and can be programmed to suit snow and other slippery surfaces. A digital gauge in the instrument cluster shows you the AWD system’s current torque distribution.

For instance, in road-oriented Sport, 50 per cent of engine torque goes to the rear wheels. In Comfort mode it’s 35 per cent, while in Eco the car is front-drive only.

There’s also a 2.4-litre ‘Theta II’ petrol engine with 136kW/241Nm, but it isn’t confirmed for Australia. The V6 petrol has been axed, and will likely be replaced by a hybrid of some variety in the near term. The Euro-market 110kW, 2.0 diesel won’t come here either.

Like all Hyundais in Australia bar the iLoad, the Santa Fe is getting extensive local suspension tuning. In fact, we’ve already caught camouflaged cars at it. An optional self-leveliser, as Hyundai calls it, adjusts the dampers to keep the ride height uniform regardless of load.

The Santa Fe has been something of a success story for Hyundai globally, having sold 400,000 in Europe alone over 17 years.

The outgoing model remains a strong seller, though it has rarely hit the sales heights of the larger Toyota Kluger, cut-price Holden Captiva or new-generation Mazda CX-9. Hyundai Australia naturally wants that to change this time.

Australia

The new Santa Fe will be here in July, with pricing and spec still to be confirmed.

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