According to Hyundai it cost the company $155m to develop the new Sante Fe over a period of 26 months.
This SUV rides on a 2.7m-long wheelbase, which is 8cm longer than its predecessor. This enabled an increase of 15cm, 5.5cm and 5cm in the overall length, width and height, respectively. As a result, the cabin offers more front and rear legroom and headroom than the outgoing model.
It comes with an all-new 2.2-litre with a power output of 110 kW at 4 000 r/min. There are also a 2.7-litre V6 petrol model which kicks out 140 kW.
The Santa Fe's new electronically-controlled 4-wheel drive system automatically routes power to the wheels that have the best traction.
And the driver-selectable 4WD lock provides a continuous 50/50 torque split between front and rear wheels during off-road situations.
Hyundai says that the Santa Fe's chassis was extensively revised to attain a more refined sedan-like ride.
The predecessor's double wishbone rear suspension was dropped in favour of a multi-link setup resulting in reduced noise and vibration. When the vehicle is fully loaded or pulling a trailer, an innovative self-leveling system automatically levels out the vehicle height without requiring external power.
While carrying over the Macpherson strut front suspension, the caster angle was increased to improve stability while optimizing the overall strut geometry.
The vehicle features a third row of seats which can be easily stowed away and fold flat into the floor.
Other thoughtful design touches include power adjustable pedals, rain-sensing automatic wipers, trip computer, heated side mirrors plus a front windscreen de-icing system.
Hyundai South Africa has declined to comment on when the new Santa Fe will go on sale here, but we expect it to arrive in the third quarter of 2006.