Hyundai has always been a bit unfair to the Santa Fe, I feel. The mid-size SUV has always been forced to be in the shadows of its siblings. As ungainly and listless as it was, the first generation model was just gaining traction as the brand’s leading crossover SUV, when Hyundai brought the Veracruz above it as their largest family hauler. Since 2006, the Santa Fe has been fighting a domestic battle for attention with the overrated Veracruz and the more popular Tucson. And then in 2014, the Korean giant killed the Veracruz off and made the seven-seat version of the Santa Fe their leading SUV. And just when it was starting to enjoy the limelight, Hyundai again brings the Palisade above it as their flagship model.
While this once again makes it an inbetweener sandwiched by the entry-level Tuscon and the new range-topper, there’s no denying the fact that the Santa Fe is a highly practical family SUV that has contributed significantly in changing brand perception in global markets. And it’s become even more attractive in its current all-new fourth-generation form. The design of the new model is more in line with Hyundai’s new corporate look, featuring the signature Cascading Grille and the Composite Light cluster that comprises slim LED Daytime Running Lights placed above LED headlights. The overall appearance of the SUV is bolder than the previous models, with sharp lines and creases adding to its muscular stance.
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The cabin has also been spruced up significantly, looking and feeling more upmarket than before. All controls, buttons and knobs are laid out ergonomically and the crisp central touchscreen does its job well as the interface between driver and the car. While the front seats offer extendable seat cushions as well as 10 electrically adjustable positions, rear seats also incorporate electrical controls on the sides for easy folding. Second row legroom has been increased by 38 mm and the seats are higher affording a better view out for rear passengers.
Although Hyundai says headroom has been improved for the third row, these seats are best reserved for children as legroom isn’t good enough for adults of reasonable height. However, those seated in the third row will find the experience less claustrophobic thanks to the larger rear quarter glass and separate AC controls and vents.
Ride quality and noise levels are excellent, adding to the overall refinement of the Santa Fe, which is arguably among the best in this price range. But do not expect it to be an entertaining drive. Behind the wheel, the Santa Fe is rather dull and detached, but since exhilaration isn’t part of the remit in this class, this cannot be held against it. What it does exceptionally well is offering a smooth, comfortable ride for four adults and two kids on long drives with barely any fatigue once you reach the destination. The 3.5-litre V6 engine has ample reserves of power and torque to handle the Santa Fe’s heft and the eight-speed auto ‘box is smooth-shifting.
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As has been the case with Hyundais and Kias of late, the Santa Fe is also crammed with class-leading convenience features such as a wireless charging pad for mobile phones, and a host of safety features like Blind-Spot Collision Warning, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with pedestrian detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Safety Exit Assist and Speed Limit Info Function.
If all these fail to avoid a crash, then you can find solace in the fact that there are six airbags offered as standard.
Irrespective of whether it’s the flagship or not, the all-new Santa Fe is a fine offering, and with prices starting from as low as Dh94,300 for the 2.4-litre four-cylinder model, going up to Dh128,900 for the V6 variant tested here, it’s also good value for money.