Hyundai has been one of the most aggressive over recent years in terms of launching new car models: the latest to join the range is the Santa Fe. The third-generation soft-roader is a crucial model in the Hyundai range: the Santa Fe is the UK’s biggest-selling Hyundai. So no pressure then when it came to designing it.
So important is the UK market for the Korean’s SUV, that despite the fact it’s a global car, the UK version is built on its own, unique chassis tuned specifically for the demands of our potholed roads.
It’s a good looking piece of kit, with a newfound confidence and boldness. Ok, it has a grille which looks like a large, gaping hole, but strangely, when you see one in your rear-view mirror, it somehow morphs into a stylish modern-day soft-roader.
The newcomer is 30mm longer than the model it replaces, increasing it to 4690mm. In contrast, width is down by 10mm and the height is also reduced, from 1760mm to 1680mm. The result is an appearance which oozes greater dynamism.
Torsionally it’s also 15% stiffer and the 194bhp 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine sends power all four wheels. As in keeping with many of its rivals, a two-wheel-drive variant will be offered for the first time in the UK.
Hyundai predicts 70% of buyers will go for the optional six-speed automatic gearbox. But while it’s smooth, it also makes a large dent in the fuel consumption figures when compared to the manual version.
Ok, time for a comparison. You’ll get 47.9mpg with the Santa Fe 2WD manual, plus CO2 emissions of 155g/km. Step up to the 4WD system, which sends power to the back wheels when it’s required as the fronts slip, and you still get a healthy 46.3mpg and 159g/km.
The auto — available only with the 4WD — will give you just 41.5mpg, while at the same time sending the CO2 figure up to 178g/km and dropping the economy to 41.5mpg.
Considering the auto version will set you back an extra £1570, it makes you wonder why so many opt for it rather than the robust, light and easy manual.
All Santa Fe models bound for the UK will have the three-row, seven-seat spec. And considering the car is narrower and lower in height, the designers deserve a pat on the back for increasing the headroom by 11mm and adding a extra 45mm legroom for middle row occupants.
One criticism is the Santa Fe would have benefitted by having tumbling seats in the second row. The lack of them means access to the rear is awkward.
Those rearmost seats are cleverly folded away in the boot, and are ideal for occasional use.
The boot itself is fairly cavernous when the third row of seats is hidden away: with the second row in place it’s over a metre long. Fold the middle row away and that increases to two almost metres.
The well-designed and practical interior has been brought up-to-date with the addition of little chrome-effect inserts and modern touches. That, in addition to a significant improvement in quality materials, means the cabin’s a relaxing place to be.
In many ways — and this is intended as a positive — the new Santa Fe drives like a normal family car, which is essentially exactly what you would want.
For a car so big, it’s effortless to drive, plus it’s unobtrusive, well-mannered and effective. Ok, it’s not going to set new benchmarks for handling, but that’s not what the Santa Fe is about.
Coming with a five-year warranty as standard, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is worth checking out, especially if you’re considering something like a Land Rover Freelander or a Honda CR-V.
Prices have risen when compared to the outgoing model, but with the range starting at £23,801 for the 2.2CRDi Style 5dr 7seats, and rising to £28,471 for the 2.2CRDi Premium 5dr 7seats Auto with Media Pack, it still significantly undercuts the bulk of the opposition, while delivering competitive standards.