Hyundai Santa Fe is heading upmarket

Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe
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With far sharper styling, some fantastic equipment on offer and a punchy 200PS 2.2-litre diesel engine, 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. It’s hard not to be impressed.

The Santa Fe rides on a modified version of the Sonata chassis, with the same wheelbase as before and no great innovation in the basics. It’s a specially UK-tuned MacPherson strut front end and a multilink rear suspension, but delve a little deeper and there are some interesting details. There’s self-levelling suspension as standard on seven-seaters, a Flex Steer System that delivers normal, sport and comfort steering modes, plus the drive system is interesting. As expected, 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. Those who expect a little more of their 4x4s will like the fact that in especially slippery conditions, such as muddy off-roading or driving on snow or ice, four-wheel-drive can be selected with the push of the ‘lock’ button, delivering a 50/50 power split at speeds up to 25mph. There’s also an economy-oriented front-wheel drive car offered.

Engines? Hyundai unveiled one petrol and two diesel engines, but we’re only scheduled to get the flagship motor remaining the 2.2-litre ‘R’ all-aluminium diesel powerplant. This has actually had its peak torque output dialled back a little in the interests of emissions but it’s nothing you’d notice. It makes 200PS of peak power so it’s got some kick to it.

Customers get to choose between a six-speed manual or six-speed auto gearbox, both fitted with an extra tall cruising gear for economy. The automatic is innovative as it’s fitted with a flat torque converter.

The latest Santa Fe isn’t quite the sort of car that will have pedestrians bumbling slack-jawed into pavement furniture but it’s undoubtedly a good looking thing. It has that inherent rightness to its proportioning that’ll make it tricky not to throw a glance over your shoulder when you lock it and walk away. Most importantly, choose an upscale version and it looks – and there’s not really a better word for it – expensive.