The facelifted model also gets new Terrain modes, such as Snow & Mud, although unremarkable approach, departure and breakover angles suggest limited proper off-road ability.
As with many hybrids, on the move this new Santa Fe gives you a useful electric stab of torque when you push the accelerator, which makes it feel a little more responsive than it otherwise might. And in general, it’s an easy thing to drive; the controls are nicely tuned and there’s body control to spare. It handles securely.
What frustrates is the lack of sophistication when the engine fires up, which happens after the car has pulled off the mark in EV, which it does neatly and quietly, and by default. The transition is smooth enough in terms of power delivery, but the engine burbles loudly at low revs, a bit like the old Fiat Twinair engines, only with none of the charm.
This powertrain also seems less potent than its claimed combined maximum effort of 227bhp and 258lb ft. The finer turbodiesels in this class feel comfortably more punchy, and so while Hyundai’s hybrid set-up can supposedly achieve 40.4mpg, it’s not particularly good for much else, despite being reasonably well-mannered at a steady cruise.
Ride quality is also average at best, despite the new underpinnings. There’s nothing plain uncomfortable here, but on its passive suspension the Santa Fe’s heavyset low-speed gait never truly settles. It’s always reacting to something, and this doesn’t improve at cruising speeds.