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Car of the Year Awards 2023: 7-Seater of the Year
An interior with space for seven people is obviously a prerequisite in this class, but we also expect an upmarket feel, sensible costs, and top-notch comfort and refinement...
Hyundai Santa Fe 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid 4WD Premium
There was once a club in Rotherham that was so small that it had room for just seven people – including the DJ. But what makes the Hyundai Santa Fe special is not the fact that it could take them all home at the end of the night, but that you’ll want it for more than just its practicality.
For a start, its interior is anything but minibus-like; in fact, it’s really quite upmarket. You get heated leather front seats and lots of gadgets, including a 10.3in infotainment touchscreen, wireless phone charging and adaptive cruise control even with the cheapest trim, Premium. That means there’s no need to splash out on the top-spec Ultimate.
The front two rows of seats will take five six-footers comfortably, with more width available than in the rival Peugeot 5008. The third row is generous enough for two good-sized adults, too, providing more leg room than the equivalent seats in the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Toyota Highlander.
Or, if you’ve got more freight than folk to carry, the middle-row seatbacks drop at the push of a button, or they can be slid back and forth to help balance passenger and boot space, while the rearmost seats fold away into the floor when they’re not needed. In five-seat mode, the Santa Fe has as much boot space as most rivals (if not more); there’s room for 10 carry-on suitcases beneath the load cover.
So, what’s this very practical large SUV like to drive? Well, it manages its bulk well through corners and is brisk for such a big car, especially with our pick of the engine range (for private buyers): the 1.6 T-GDi Hybrid. There’s also a pricier plug-in hybrid that sits in a much lower tax band for company car drivers, or a 2.2-litre diesel for extra towing power.
Whichever engine you choose, there’s a good chance it will run and run without trouble, because Hyundai has an excellent reliability record; the South Korean car maker finished in the top five in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey out of 32 manufacturers featured. It’s also worthy of note that the safety experts at Euro NCAP gave the Santa Fe the full five stars when it was tested in 2018.
The elephant in the room here is the closely related Kia Sorento, which ticks all the same boxes. The thing is, though, the entry-level Sorento costs thousands of pounds more and isn’t available in a lighter, more frugal two- wheel-drive version.
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