Korean car company, Hyundai is getting even better at making cars – and its Santa Fe model is one of the most attractive SUVs in its class. But is it any good? Motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay, drove one for a week to find out.
The seven-seater motor is good looking – but we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, if you disagree with me, that’s cool. What isn’t subjective are numbers. I’m talking about the car’s performance, in terms of speed and economy. The Santa Fe will return 46.3mpg on average and reaches 62mph in 9.0 seconds. Top speed is 126mph. During my week, I didn’t quite get the official mpg quoted, but 40mpg still isn’t bad for a weighty SUV.
The budget interiors of old are long gone and Hyundai is now up there with German premium brands. Leather seats are now in and soft touch materials replace the scratchy plastics of yesteryear. Load space and room for occupants is also excellent, as is comfort for up to seven people. I have three kids, so with five already in the car, I found it great to shove the two smallest kids in the third row of seats, so Granny and Grandpa could join us all for the ride.
Loading the boot up is easy, too. The Santa Fe has a massive 585 litres of space when the two extra seats are folded away. Collapse the main rear seats, and you get a van-like 1,680 litres. Obviously, room shrinks drastically when all seven seats are in use, but there’s still space for a few bags and a tot’s folded buggy.
When it comes to handling, the Santa Fe doesn’t wobble like a jelly as it used to in corners. The modern-day model has been built for British roads, so it’s suspension expects the evil twists and turns, and lumps and bumps our small island’s road network contains. The featherlight steering is a little lacking in feedback, but it’s useful when parking or manoeuvring in tight spaces.
When off the tarmac, the Santa Fe’s four-wheel-drive does a good job. It means you can tackle sand, mud and gravel with confidence. In the real world that meant me taking my kids to a children’s farm. Hardly hardcore off-roading – but, because of the raised ride height, I wasn’t worried about ripping the front valance off the car, or getting stone chips in the lower body work. The 4×4 ability of the Hyundai also means it’s a top car for gripping well in soggy weather and trudging assertively through snow.
There’s only one power unit across the range – and that’s a big 2.2 turbo diesel engine. It can be mated to a manual or an automatic transmission. I had the manual gearbox, which is a bit lumpy to use. It’s not a deal-breaker, though – I just think SUVs are less effort to drive with an auto ‘box. That said, mpg drops to 42.2 when the cogs change themselves. But, auto or manual, the large diesel lump pulls the Santa Fe along swiftly and relatively quietly.
You can choose from a trio of trims: SE, Premium and Premium SE. Hyundai gave me the top level to drive. This Premium SE version is the classiest (and most expensive) Santa Fe. It builds upon the generous kit already shoehorned into the entry model, which includes: cruise control, parking sensors, a leather-bound steering wheel, Bluetooth and heated front seats. Additional goodies in the flagship car encompass keyless entry, xenon headlights, front parking sensors, a glass roof and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a top SUV to buy or lease. It’s got the looks, it’s got the space, it’s also powerful, comfortable and efficient enough for real-world UK use. What’s more, the up-to-date Santa Fe is jam-packed with kit and, thanks to its 4×4 talents, it’ll tackle wicked weather as well as the rough stuff. Why not contact Perrys Luton and Dunstable Hyundai to arrange a test drive?
Pros ‘n’ Cons
- Handsome √
- Comfortable √
- Practical √
- Great Grip √
- Manual Gearbox X
Fast Facts (Premium SE 7-Seater – as tested)
- Max speed: 126 mph
- 0-62 mph: 9.0 secs
- Combined mpg: 46.3
- Engine layout: 2199cc 4-cylinder diesel turbo
- Max. power (PS): 200
- CO2: 161 g/km
- Price: £37,080