Hyundai raises the bar

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By Nick Jones

The latest version of Hyundai’s Santa Fe looked mightily impressive sitting on my drive.

No longer is it the poor-man’s choice of 4x4, no sir, instead, it’s gunning for the big boys at the top of the pile but with a budget to suit everyone.

Can it succeed? I was about to find out.

Launched some five year’s ago now, the Santa Fe was seen as a bit of an effort to push Hyundai into the 4x4 sector.

It was rather sparse and cumbersome but offered great-value along the way.

The latest version looks to have moved the Santa Fe a few notches further from utilitarian to luxury.

Externally, it looks very smart indeed wrapped in its new skin. And inside, the interior has been pushed up a few notches too.

The waistline looks higher now, making the car seem a little more aggressive, and there’s a cutaway section in the bumper (below the chrome-ringed grille) which gives it a sportier look.

The wheels are meatier too and just about everything is colour-coded.

At the rear things are not as shapely as they are front but the rear light lenses are attractive and give the Santa Fe a distinctive look.

Power for the Hyundai comes from a 2.2-litre diesel engine that churns out 194bhp – quite a lot from a relatively small-capacity engine methinks – and gives the Santa Fe a strong acceleration feel and excellent mid-range pulling power for overtaking.

It also has an impressive torque figure of 420Nm from low down in the rev range, something you usually expect from six-cylinder engines, not four. It hits 60mph in under 10 seconds and has a potential top speed of just under 120mph. The choice of a manual or six-speed automatic shifter is also a welcome choice.

On a long run you can achieve nearly 40mpg and emissions are around the 180g/km mark.

I have to say the ride quality is pretty well sorted too; the McPherson struts up-front and the multi-link rear springs have been set up for an enjoyable ride, a compromise between sport and comfort.

The car also has an electronic four-wheel-drive system that sends power to the rear wheels when it detects slippage and has a ‘lock’ facility for use when off-roading.

Inside, the car has the option of seven-seats (which will please the family) but only children will be able to endure the rearmost seats for anything other than the shortest trips.

With the five-seat version the boot is vast (it has nearly 1,000 litres volume) and it has the facility of under-floor storage.

Choose to drop all the seats and the space more than doubles to over 2,200-litres.

The Santa Fe looks like Gok Wan has been in here, but despite the facelift the prices have stayed relatively static.

Style and Premium entry-level models cost £21,495 and £23,245, which puts them into serious money and brings the likes of the Toyota RAV4 et al into play.

Equipment levels are high with Style versions giving you smart 17in alloy wheels, a good stereo with CD, air conditioning, parking sensors and electric windows and airbags galore; Premium models add 18in alloys climate control, leather, heated seats and the option for the seven-seater is good value at around £800.

Yet again Hyundai has raised the bar on its Santa Fe 4x4 and is no longer playing second-fiddle to offerings from other manufacturers.