HYUNDAI is continuing its shift upmarket with a new version of its large Santa Fe SUV.
Due out in September and with prices starting from no more than the current model, the newcomer is seven-seat only, bigger than before and is now available with an eight-speed auto transmission.
Upgrades include improvements to interior trim and on 4x4 models an all new four-wheel-drive system with a multi-mode drive pattern.
It all adds up to a compelling proposition from the Korean car maker at a time when SUV sales are booming.
The new Santa Fe range now comprises eight models with prices starting from £33,425 for manual, two-wheel-drive version and topping out at £43,595 for a high specification Premium SE auto 4x4.
All versions are powered by Hyundai's 2.2-litre CRDi diesel engine which develops 200bhp and complies with the latest European emissions regulations.
As such it is good for a 0 to 60 acceleration of around 9.4 seconds, tops out at 127mph and officially it is rated at between close on 50 to the gallon for two-wheel-drive manual models and 45.6 for the top range 4x4 auto. Emissions run from 150 to 164g/km.
Almost three inches longer than before at 15ft 7ins long and with a wheelbase extended by a similar amount, the cabin is roomy and in five seat configuration boot space now ranges from 547 to 1,625 litres - a backpack more than before.
However, it is on the road where the greatest improvements have been made and the new Santa Fe is surprisingly quiet in everyday use.
We have just sampled a top specification Santa Fe 4x4 automatic and it lacks for little coming with a head-up display, an eight-inch touchscreen with sat nav and full connectivity and a host of safety aids including blind spot and rear traffic alerts plus pedestrian detection systems.
The car also came with plenty of creature comforts including a panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats and an around view camera system which is handy when manoeuvring and a useful aid off road.
Premium SE models are auto only but also available in two-wheel-drive set up costing from £41,795.
We saw an average of 34mpg over a mixed run and that's about par for the course for a large SUV with automatic transmission.
A step forward for the Santa Fe is the introduction of what Hyundai calls its HTRAC 4x4 system which allows drivers to choose between sport, comfort and eco settings.
It also allows for the torque to be locked manually to give a 50-50 drive at speeds of up to 19mph. Above that, torque distribution is automatic although on our route we did not have the chance to experience that.
In addition to seven seats, all versions of the Santa Fe come with roof rails, rear parking sensors and camera and dual zone climate control in addition to heated front seats.
They are also fitted with automatic emergency braking systems, lane keeping technology and a ‘smart' high beam function which automatically dips the headlights at night.
In terms of styling, the new models are vastly improved and feature a nicely sculpted nose set off with a large honeycomb finish to Hyundai's trademark grille.
The same is true at the rear where there are plenty of lines in the design, LED rear lights and a purposeful-looking diffuser all set off with some bright highlights.
A power operated tailgate and a high-end Krell sound system are also standard features on the top range car and all in all the Santa Fe has matured into a very capable and well appointed model - good enough to rival the likes of a BMW or Audi with ease.