It's almost as if Hyundai wants us to believe this is a next-generation model, but it's only a mid-cycle update.

If you’re thinking it’s too early for the Santa Fe to get a facelift, you’re not alone. The current generation of the South Korean midsize SUV made its debut only two years ago, but it appears Hyundai is already working on a nip and tuck. Since this is our first batch of spy shots with the updated model, it means an official release is unlikely to happen anytime soon, so look for a debut sometime next year.

Our spies caught a heavily disguised prototype conducting winter testing in the middle of nowhere while wearing a surprisingly large amount of camouflage. The thick disguise might trick some into believing this is an all-new Santa Fe, but we’re dealing with a typical mid-cycle update to keep the SUV fresh in a hugely competitive segment. That said, Kia and Hyundai have been implementing some massive changes to some of their recent models when the time came for a facelift, so it’s not out of the question the revised Santa Fe will go through some major styling changes.

Gallery: Hyundai Santa Fe facelift spy photos

Halogen lights on a vehicle that’s far from being the entry-level model in Hyundai’s vast lineup are not exactly appealing, but this is only a prototype. Although not visible in the adjacent spy shots, we know for a fact a different test vehicle wearing South Korean license plates was spotted recently and it had LED daytime running lights shaped like a “T.”

It looks like the taillights will also be going through some changes, and we’re expecting both front and rear bumpers to be redesigned. Those wheels don’t look particularly nice because they appear to be steelies with hubcaps, but it goes without saying there will be lots of alloy wheel designs to choose from on the production model.

Hyundai and Kia have made it crystal clear the two will be launching hybrid and plug-in hybrid derivatives of their Tucson, Santa Fe, and Sorento SUVs this year. It will be interesting to see whether the electrified powertrain will be launched before the facelift or to coincide with the refreshed model’s launch.

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