THE latest Hyundai Santa Fe is a talented family vehicle that arrived last September and offers loads of space, kit and comfort.
It is a sign of Hyundai's move upmarket that the top models in the range now cost over Â£40,000.
Bigger than the previous model, the Santa Fe is available only as a seven-seater and comes with a choice of two or four-wheel-drive.
The 4x4 system is new and offers a choice of drive modes, while there has also been a leap in the quality of the interior and a hike in equipment levels.
There are eight models in the current range with prices starting at £33,450 and going up to £43,320 for the top of the range model Premium SE Automatic model I sampled.
Powered by the latest version of Hyundai's reliable 2.2-litre CRDi diesel which produces 200ps and meets all the latest regulations, the unit is a bit gruff on start-up but soon settles down.
It powers its way to 60mph in 9.4 seconds before going on to a top speed of 127mph. It can achieve close to 50mpg in two-wheel-drive (2WD) form while the 4x4 auto is good for an average 45.6mpg with emissions of 164g/km.
Longer and wider than before it has bags of space inside and there is room for five adults to travel in comfort along with a couple of kids or small adults in the third row.
Boot space is also excellent with 547 litres available with five seats in use and up to 1,625 litres when the middle row is folded flat.
This top specification Santa Fe 4x4 automatic has it all and comes with a head-up display, an eight-inch touchscreen with sat nav and full connectivity and a host of safety aids including blind spot and rear traffic alerts plus pedestrian detection systems.
The car also came with plenty of creature comforts including a panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats and an around view camera system which is handy when parking and a useful if you choose to venture off-road.
This new model features Hyundai's HTRAC 4x4 system which allows drivers to choose between sport, comfort and eco settings. It also allows for the torque to be locked manually to give a 50-50 drive at speeds of up to 19mph. Above that, torque distribution is automatic.
It is a big vehicle but it handles really well and is as happy on twisting country roads as it is on motorways. It is very refined when warmed-up and surprisingly economical.
As well as seven seats, all versions of the Santa Fe come with roof rails, rear parking sensors and camera and dual zone climate control in addition to heated front seats.
You also get automatic emergency braking systems, lane keeping technology and a ‘smart' high beam function which automatically dips the headlights at night.
The Santa Fe is now very stylish and looks handsome thanks to a nicely sculpted nose set off with a large honeycomb grille. The rump also looks better with LED rear lights, a diffuser and some chrome highlights.
This top model also boasted a power operated tailgate and a premium sound system to provide a feel-good factor.
The cabin may not be up to the quality of the Jaguar, BMW or Audi opposition but it feels well screwed together and built to last.