Santa Fe buyers can choose between front- and four-wheel drive and manual and automatic gearboxes. However, the only engine option is a 194bhp 2.2-litre diesel that feels gutsy as long as you keep the revs above about 1500rpm. A 148bhp 2.0-litre engine may be added to the range later.
The Santa Fe's supple suspension and high-profile tyres help it soak up big bumps remarkably well. Unfortunately, they also mean its body leans over dramatically in bends. To make matters worse, the steering is remote and inconsistently weighted, so it's difficult to judge where the front tyres are pointing and how well they're gripping.
The engine is quiet at all speeds and there's little road noise. However, the Santa Fe's huge door mirrors generate a bit too much wind noise on the motorway. The standard manual gearbox is disappointingly notchy, whereas the optional auto shifts smoothly and sensibly most of the time.
The Santa Fe looks a bit pricey compared with rivals such as the Chevrolet Captiva and Mitsubishi Outlander. However, running costs should be similar; the two-wheel-drive manual model averages 47.9mpg and the four-wheel-drive manual 46.3mpg, while the four-wheel-drive auto manages 41.5mpg. Good discounts are available, too.
Perceived quality has traditionally been a Hyundai weakness, but the Santa Fe features smart cabin plastics and slick switchgear. Hyundai doesn’t have a particularly good record in the annual JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but you do get the reassurance of a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty.
Every Santa Fe comes with seven airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, including stability control and Trailer Stability Assist. In addition, the bonnet is automatically raised by 60mm in the event of a collision with a pedestrian to help minimise head injuries. The car has received the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests. The list of standard security kit includes an immobiliser, deadlocks and locking wheel nuts.
The heavily styled dashboard can look a little confusing at first glance, but most of the controls are actually clearly labelled and simple enough to use. You also get an elevated view and lots of adjustment, but there are big over-the-shoulder blind spots due to the Santa's Fe's thick rear pillars and tiny, upswept rear side windows.
Hyundai offers a spacious five-seat Santa Fe with a huge loadbay, but it's worth paying extra for the seven-seat version, which has a third row of seats that fold up from the boot floor. These are cramped for six-footers, but small adults and kids can fit without too much discomfort and they don’t impact on boot space when they’re folded. There’s loads of head- and legroom in the first two rows.
Even entry-level Style models come with alloy wheels, reversing sensors, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and voice control. The mid-level Premium trim adds heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera and touch-screen sat-nav. Meanwhile, range-topping Premium SE cars also get electric driver’s seat adjustment, keyless entry and go, front parking sensors and a panoramic sunroof.
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