Rather than try to feel sporty to drive like some SUVs, the Hyundai Santa Fe focusses on being relaxing instead. Sadly, you can only get it with one engine – a 2.2-litre diesel
Every Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a 200hp 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, but you can choose between manual and automatic gearboxes and two or four-wheel drive.
The quickest model in the range is the two-wheel-drive automatic version that’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds. A mere tenth of a second behind it are the two-wheel-drive manual and four-wheel-drive automatic models, while the four-wheel-drive manual Santa Fe takes 9.5 seconds. You can hardly call this performance exciting, but the Santa Fe has more than enough poke to accelerate down a motorway slip road or overtake slow-moving traffic.
In terms of fuel economy, Hyundai claims cars fitted with an automatic gearbox will return slightly more than 47mpg – although in normal driving conditions you can expect to see a figure in the region of 35mpg. This isn’t particularly impressive when you consider a Skoda Kodiaq with a 2.0-litre diesel engine and an automatic gearbox will happily return 45mpg in real-world conditions.
All the extra driver assistance features on top-spec cars really help take the stress out of long drives and even make this gigantic seven-seater fairly easy to park
Cars fitted with four-wheel drive produce more CO2 and cost more to buy. As a result, only consider a four-wheel-drive model if you live somewhere prone to particularly poor winters or plan to regularly tow a heavy trailer.
The eight-speed automatic is impressively smooth around town and doesn’t lurch in stop-start traffic. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as responsive as the dual-clutch unit you can get in the Kodiaq and Tiguan Allspace, so takes a few seconds to kick down when you accelerate hard. Cars with a manual gearbox lose out on a few miles per gallon compared with the automatic and aren’t quite as relaxing to drive – especially around town.
The Santa Fe’s tall body and raised seating position give you a great view out. The pillars between the front doors and the windscreen aren’t particularly wide either, so you can easily spot traffic approaching at junctions and the large side windows mean you can make sure the coast is clear before changing lanes on a motorway.
The Santa Fe’s steering is relatively light which helps make this large seven-seater feel reasonably manoeuvrable around town. Sure, squeezing through tight gaps and into small parking spaces is a bit of a tall order, but at least you get a reversing camera as standard across the range. To help make parking as easy as possible, top-spec Premium SE cars get a nifty surround-view camera system that’ll help you avoid scraping your alloy wheels on particularly tall kerbs.
The Hyundai Santa Fe comes with slightly softer suspension than the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq, which helps it iron out small bumps around town. Hit a monster pothole, however, and it tends to buck and bounce more than many sportier alternatives. You’ll find its tall body leans a little more in tight corners than some other SUVs, but not to the point that your passengers will start to feel car sick.
On the motorway, this soft suspension helps the Santa Fe cruise along comfortably and quietly. The large door mirrors whip up a bit of wind noise at 70mph but it’s no worse than in other tall seven-seaters and tyre noise is mostly muted. The diesel engine doesn’t grumble or drone and all models come with cruise control as standard to help give your legs a rest on long drives.
Pick an automatic version and you also get adaptive cruise control as standard that’ll help maintain a safe distance to cars in front and all models come with lane-keeping assist to stop you straying out of your lane on the motorway.
Other standard safety features include automatic emergency braking that’ll perform an emergency stop if it detects a car or pedestrian in the road ahead and, in mid-range Premium cars and above, blind spot detection. These models also get a system that warns you if you’re about to reverse into the path of a moving car and – in versions with an automatic gearbox – applies the brakes automatically. The Santa Fe hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP yet, but these features should help it score highly.