Hyundai Santa Fe

Premium SE 2.2 CRDi

Hyundai Santa Fe, side, static
Hyundai Santa Fe, front, off road
Hyundai Santa Fe, front
Hyundai Santa Fe, side
Hyundai Santa Fe, rear
Hyundai Santa Fe, interior
Hyundai Santa Fe, boot
Hyundai Santa Fe, upright

IN some ways watching Hyundai's progress over the last decade has been like watching a small child grow, mature and ultimately flourish.

The first models I drove were okay but had their drawbacks. Put simply they were good value but a little rough around the edges and lacked in terms of quality, sophistication and overall refinement.

The intervening years have been characterised by progress that has been at time gradual and consistent and at other times rapid.

Whatever the case, whereas once upon a time Hyundai were chasing the tails of European and Japanese rivals, they have now pretty much caught up - and in many ways are competing on a level playing field.

Hyundai's cars might not represent the cheap as chips options they once did but they do still represent value for money - the only difference these days being that they come in a quality package that doesn't involve buyers making any compromises.

The Santa Fe has always been a popular model and the previous generation version proved a big seller in the UK market.

The latest version should see that trend continue, as it's a vehicle in which Hyundai has got pretty much everything right.

For starters it looks good and definitely fits in the bracket of being one of those sleek and stylish SUVs thought more of as a crossover than a traditional SUV.

An imposing and purposeful front end combine with a rising window line at the back to create a vehicle that certainly demands to be noticed. And crucially it manages to achieve its sporty profile without compromising in terms of practicality.

This car is slightly longer than its predecessor - by 30mm - a tad narrower - by 10mm - and sits a lot lower thanks to a significant height reduction from 1,760mm to 1,680mm.

On the inside the cabin is roomy and given height has been reduced it's impressive that the designers have managed to create an extra 11mm of headroom.

There's a third row of two seats which fold flat into the boot floor, though there's also the option of a five-seat version. Access to the third row is tricky and they offer limited legroom - though the middle bench does slide forward. Essentially they're designed for occasional use or transporting children.

With all seats in place the boot will still manage to hold a family shop or a similar quantity of bits and bobs, but comes more into its own with the rear seats folded.

Switchgear, instrumentation and fit and finish are some of the impressive features in the current Santa Fe. While the switchgear and plastics aren't quite up to Germanic levels of sophistication and quality they still impress. Past Hyundais were often let down by designs and materials that could verge on the garish and gaudy but this is no longer the case.

Although there is just one engine available - a 2.2-litre diesel - buyers can opt for six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, two-wheel or four-wheel drive and three trim levels.

This automatic seemed to do the job well and the automatic is a huge boost to overall ease of driving, even if fuel economy is somewhat compromised and emissions are noticeably higher.

The gutsy 2.2-litre diesel mated to the smooth automatic gearbox makes for a capable performer overall and power is delivered smoothly and efficiently.

Obviously it's no sports car but the Santa Fe has power-a-plenty and also stands out for being an easy car to drive.

There's the expected degree of pitch and roll at times, but generally it goes around corners fairly well and offers a comfortable ride.

Overall there's little to find fault with in the Santa Fe and the added bonus of Hyundai's fiver-year unlimited mileage warranty. And, although this range-topping model might have what looks like a fairly hefty price tag, an entry level manual front-wheel drive five-seat Style model will set buyers back a more modest £27,800.

FAST FACTS

Hyundai Santa Fe Premium SE 2.2 CRDi

Price:£35,430

Mechanical:194bhp, 2,199cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via 6-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 118mph

0-62mph:10.1 seconds

Combined MPG:41.5

Insurance Group: 20

C02 emissions: 178g/km

Bik rating: 31%

Warranty:5yrs/unlimited miles

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