Motors

Hyundai Santa Fe: Quality control

Hyundai's new Santa Fe masters the seven-seat family SUV brief with style and quality, says William Scholes

Hyundai Santa Fe

HYUNDAI knows what it is doing when it comes to SUVs, directly hitting the bullseye when it launched its family-friendly Tucson in 2015, writes William Scholes.

It was the right car at the right time. Arriving in showrooms just as the SUV trend really caught hold, the Tucson was well placed to capitalise on customers’ insatiable appetite for a style of car that now accounts for more than a third of registrations.

Irish punters were particularly wowed by the Hyundai’s qualities. It has consistently been the top-selling car in the Republic for a couple of years and routinely tops the sales charts in the north.

The appetite for five-seater family SUVs is simply greater than that for their larger - and more expensive - seven-seat brethren, which goes some way to explaining why Hyundai's largest SUV, the Santa Fe, has not had the same impact as the Tucson.

As well as being one of the more handsome large SUVs, the last Santa Fe was a fine car in its own right.

But with more competition than ever in its sector, Hyundai has had to pull out all the stops to make sure its new Santa Fe can take on rivals like the Skoda Kodiaq and Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Designed in Europe, the big Hyundai is still a good looking car with a strong, sporty stance. A headlamp and daytime running light arrangement similar to that found on the Kona small SUV further help to make the Santa Fe stand out.

Hyundai Santa Fe

But it is the Santa Fe's air of quality that probably makes the biggest impression. It is one of those cars that feels as if it has been properly built from well-chosen materials, and thus conveys durability.

It is also evident in the Santa Fe's excellent refinement and calm, unhurried driving demeanour. Comfort, not cornering, is king here - and that is exactly what most people buying a large family SUV will want.

There is a sense of confidence and control to the way it goes about its business that is highly appealing.

Rivals might over a wide range of engines and transmissions but Hyundai has kept things straightforward by offering only a 2.2-litre diesel turbo that produces 197bhp and 325lb.ft of torque.

This sort of unit, it seems to me, still makes eminent sense in a vehicle of this sort, despite what the anti-diesel lobby might suggest.

The Santa Fe's air of quality probably makes the biggest impression. It is one of those cars that feels as if it has been properly built from well-chosen materials, and thus conveys durability

It is available with front-wheel-drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, but an eight-speed auto or four-wheel-drive - or both - are also offered.

The four-wheel-drive system is as advanced as you would expect of a new model, varying the torque distribution and braking power of the front and rear wheels according to conditions.

It also allows the driver to select different modes which each have different characteristics. 'Eco' by default sends 100 per cent of torque to the front axle, but can send up to 20 per cent to the rear if slip is detected.

'Comfort' directs between 65 per cent and 80 per cent of torque to the front wheels, corresponding to 35 per cent and 20 per cent to the rear.

The 'sport' mode varies between 65/35 per cent and 50/50 per cent front-to-rear.

There is a further '4WD lock' mode, designed for the trickiest conditions, which holds a 50/50 split at speeds of up to 19mph.

Whatever transmission combination you go for, top speed is 127mph and the benchmark 0-62mph sprint takes 9.5 seconds.

Depending on version, CO2 emissions range between 150g/km and 164g/km, with the most frugal variant achieving 49.6mpg on the combined cycle and the thirstiest 44.8mpg.

A car like the Santa Fe is, of course, rather less about mechanical fireworks than it is about more the prosaic qualities that distinguish a family car, such as practicality and safety.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

It follows the class-norm in that the rear-most third row of seats is best suited for children, both in terms of access and leg- and headroom.

Even lanky adults won't have cause to complain about being cramped in the front or middle seats.

Wherever you end up sitting, there is more space for your head and knees than in the last Santa Fe, and the boot is larger too.

This is a well equipped car, too. Smartphone mirroring, a bunch of USB and 12 volt sockets to charge phones and other devices, Bluetooth, cruise control, electric folding door mirrors, parking sensors, self-levelling suspension, air conditioning and automatic wipers are among the standard equipment on the entry SE trim.

The Santa Fe has a reputation as a strong tow car, and so it continues with the new model, which has a 'trailer stability assist' feature to help prevent 'snaking'

Stepping up to Premium and Premium SE brings goodies like a head-up display, wireless phone charging, a heated steering wheel, electrically-adjusted leather-trimmed seats, an electric-powered tailgate and more.

A veritable arsenal of safety kit is offered on the Santa Fe, including something Hyundai calls 'rear occupant alert'.

This monitors the back seats to detect passengers and alerts the driver when leaving the car in case they have left anyone behind...

'Rear cross traffic alert with brake assist' not only warns the driver if a car is approaching when reversing out of a parking space, but also applies the brakes automatically to avoid a collision.

Lane-keep assist and autonomous emergency braking with bicycle detection features.

The Santa Fe has a reputation as a strong tow car, and so it continues with the new model, which has a 'trailer stability assist' feature to help prevent 'snaking'

Cars with a manual gearbox are rated to pull a 2.5 tonne trailer, with automatic cars limited to 2 tonnes. A trailer wiring package is standard.

The Santa Fe is a highly accomplished car, and this is reflected in its price, which ranges from £33,425 for a front-wheel-drive SE manual to £42,410 for a loaded-with-everything Premium SE with four-wheel-drive and the eight-speed auto gearbox.

This £40k SUV, then, is not a bargain basement vehicle, as Hyundais of old were, but a very well put together, top quality family seven-seater.

The Santa Fe masters its brief and as such is highly recommended.

Hyundai Santa Fe

AT A GLANCE

Hyundai Santa Fe Premium 2WD automatic

Price: £38,995. As tested £39,685 with metallic paint at £690

Engine and transmission: 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel turbo, eight-speed automatic gearbox, front-wheel-drive; 197bhp, 325lb.ft

Performance: Top speed 127mph, 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds

Fuel consumption and CO2: 48.7mpg (combined), 153g/km

Car tax: £830 in first year, then £140 annually

Benefit in kind: 35 per cent

Euro Ncap safety rating: Not yet tested

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe

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