MOTORS REVIEW: Hyundai Santa Fe

This Korean giant goes all American

IT is some years since I was in the United States but the one thing I do recall was a trip to White Castle.

Something about the blue and white décor that didn’t quite sit right with a Rotherham lad brought up on the occasional treat of a McDonalds stuck with me.

So did the sheer scale of the advertised meal options.

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For just a few dollars it’s the sort of place where you could buy a litre carton of Cola with a straw stick in the top and many of the combinations served included upwards of five burgers — seemingly for an individual diner — if I remember rightly.

I recall this because there is something about the way the Hyundai Santa Fe over-delivers in terms of scale and specification, and cup holders that would probably accommodate those one-litre drinks cartons, that feels a little indulgent.

That I drove it to the Manchester Arena with my six-year-old to be told “We’re all American today!” by a whoopin’ and hollerin’ announcer at the Monster Jam monster trucks show only served to feed the simile still further.

At 4,770mm in length the latest Santa Fe is 7cm longer than the old model and, as such, splits the difference between a Land Rover Discovery Sport and the full-blown, seven seat Discovery.

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That the Korean contender comes with seven seats as standard and can be bought for £33,450 makes for a whole lot of metal for the money.

With the two rearmost seats folded flat all that space equates to a 547 litre boot, while folding the three in the second row will ably service a tiprun with 1,625 litres of load space.

A 200PS 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is standard and delivers claimed fuel economy of 44.8mpg and 164g/km CO2 emissions alongside a conservative 9.3-second acceleration to 62mph and 127mph top speed in the four-wheel-drive automatic guise tested here.

For the first time Hyundai offers front-wheel-drive in the latest Santa Fe, but I tested the £43,9835 Premium SE automatic range-topper, fitted with the brand’s latest HTRAC four-wheel-drive system, which allows you to vary the default torque bias from 50:50 front-to-rear or entirely to the front front-drive (to boost fuel economy) at the press of a “Drive Mode” button.

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A fairly average 185mm and the inability to tow a braked trailer of over two tonnes remain an Achilles heel of the Santa Fe, though, in terms of its usability as a rugged everyday workhorse.

Where this car is in its element is as flexible family transport, though, a slightly premium-leaning MPV with an elevated view.

From the outside, the new Santa Fe’s face ensures that it delivers a dose of road presence, with a pair of high-mounted slim LED daytime running light clusters drawing attention from the much lower headlights to deliver an almost concept car-style face.

At the rear end twin exhausts give a premium look, along with the 19- inch alloys that come standard with the Premium SE.

Inside, the Hyundai’s design continues to impress.

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Quilted stitching to the upper portion of the leather trim seats is a premium touch in a cabin which features plenty of standard kit and design intrigue thanks to a curvaceous dashboard.

Like its Kia sister brand, Hyundai tends to be pretty aggressive with its standard trims, meaning there’s plenty of premium kit on the Premium SE range-topper.

A panoramic sunroof, heated and cooled leather seats, a sat-nav infotainment system featuring smartphone mirroring technology and a KRELL ten-speaker sound system and a 360-degree “birds eye view” reversing camera are standard.

Then there’s the semi-autonomous lane keeping technology which will steer the car on the motorway, autonomous emergency braking and a rear cross traffic alert which warns of approaching cars when reversing out of a parking space.

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Loading the boot is also made easier thanks to an electric boot and buttons to recline the second row of seats.

As ever, gaining access to the rearmost two seats of an SUV remains a compromise, with a fold and slide movement required to fold the rear seats and rear passengers properly into position.

Once situated, though, the space available is pretty good.

The Santa Fe does a decent impression of a premium SUV on the move.

With a cabin that is packed with premium technology further enhanced by pretty impressive refinement.

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There can be a fidget around town, but the suspension generally works well, although I did feel the subtle affects of people sat further back in the car during cornering.

Hyundai’s eight-speed gearbox did frustrate a little with its tendency to hesitate from a stand-still, sometimes provoking a firmer prod of the accelerator to allay panic that you might not get away swiftly enough to join moving traffic.

Once up and rtunning, though, the 2.2 litre engine felt muscular and good for its claimed performance.

I really enjoyed my time with the Santa Fe.

While there are cheaper seven-seat rivals out there in the form of the Nissan X-Trail and Skoda Kodiaq, it’s a car that came with a no-nonsense trim and the feel of a car that meant business.

North America loves ’em, too…

Surely any nation that invents sevenburger lunches and 1,500HP monster truck-based stadium entertainment can’t be wrong… Right?