It was only a few short years ago that everyone and their dog was focused on unleashing ever-expanding three-row car-based SUVs. And while the current trend towards compact and subcompact SUVs has taken some of the attention away, there are still new extra-large rivals waiting to hit the stage.

The oft-rumoured and oft-delayed player from Volkswagen should break cover soon, and Jeep has confirmed a reborn Wagoneer – hopefully with some form of wood paneling – is in the pipe too. Honda is hoping its heavily revised Pilot will capture even more customers with design cues upsized from its CR-V. Those will join the all-new 2016 Kia Sorento, and recent Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer, both of whom are becoming common sights in parking lots around the country.

Hyundai’s decision to abandon the forgettable Veracruz and replace it with two lengths of Santa Fe – regular-sized Sport with four-cylinder power and three-row XL with V6 only – seemed pretty ingenious. Customers flocked to them both given their good looks and great value.

For 2015, the company has tweaked the latter with some welcome – although hard-to-spot – updates.

Only a few seasons into its current form, and parts of the XL, like the upright front grille, LED running lights and big fog lights are aging nicely. Others, like the slightly bulbous taillights with LED innards, and confluence of lines around the large D-pillar less so. And compared with some of the excellent wheel designs found elsewhere in the Hyundai family, I can’t find much love for the split five-spoke alloys on my tester.

The front seats are eight-way power adjustable, with a great amount of travel, and ones that fit a diverse number of body sizes well. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is nicely sized with secondary controls for audio, cruise and info screens, and offers both tilt and telescoping customization.

As a passenger, the environment is nicely executed. The Limited model includes handsome stitched heated and cooled leather seats, and soft materials on the dash and doors. The small pieces of wood trim are innocuous, and the checkmark-shaped centre vents frame the large eight-inch touchscreen display. The top trim also brings a built-in navigation system and upgraded 10-speaker 550-watt audio system with a plethora of USB and 12-volt charging ports.

The six-seat version offers more comfortable captain’s chairs in the second row, which were heated in my tester. It’s also substantially easier to access the third row, which remains more for smaller kids thanks to their short cushions and tighter foot well. Anyone feeling claustrophobic will also appreciate the enormous full-length glass moon roof, which brings wonderful sunlight into the dark interior.

Connect with