With far crisper styling, impressive equipment levels, a chassis tuned for British roads and a punchy 200PS 2.2-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, the latest Hyundai Santa Fe punches its way upmarket on merit.
Customers choose between five and seven seats, manual or auto transmissions and front or four-wheel drive.
We opted to test the 7-seat 4WD variant most UK buyers want. You’ll be hard pressed to find too much wrong with this one. No wonder it’s been Hyundai’s best-selling car in this country.
How an SUV drives is usually pretty far down the priority list after how it looks, what it costs and how much room there is inside. We used to take it as read that an SUV would be about as sharp as serving of refried beans to drive but in recent years we’ve seen the pendulum swing back the other way with ‘sporty’ 4x4s with decidedly brittle ride quality. The Hyundai Santa Fe is different. While it’s a long way from the lax body control of old-school SUVs, it’s not in any way a sharp steer. Don’t take that as a criticism. The UK makes up around a third of all Santa Fe sales in Europe and therefore Hyundai has spent some time and money tuning the suspension of the car to suit our frankly horrible roads.
Like many vehicles of its type, it’s front wheel drive most of the time, but when sensors detect slippage, up to 50 per cent of drive can be diverted to the rear wheels. So far, so predictable. Unlike many ‘part time’ four-wheel drives, the Santa Fe can be locked into 4x4 mode at the touch of a button which is perfect for especially slippery conditions.
Engines? Let’s try singular. We only get a 2.2-litre all-aluminium diesel powerplant but it’s a solid unit.
The Santa Fe is one of those cars that has become progressively better looking throughout its existence and this third generation car hits all the right notes. The front end features a big grille and a high pedestrian-friendly bonnet line, with all of the lights and intakes a stylised trapezoidal shape. It looks agreeably expensive. Jump inside and the good news continues. We’re getting used to some very smart Hyundai interiors these days and the Santa Fe doesn’t deviate from that script one iota.
If you’ve got a family, have room in your life for one car and need one that’ll discreetly go the distance without a hiccup, you need to try the Hyundai Santa Fe. Then try its rivals. I’m guessing you’ll be back at the Hyundai dealer before too long. It’s that good.