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Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium 4WD Auto 7-Seat

Click to view picture galleryHyundais old Santa Fe, launched
  back in 2006, became the company
  best-selling car in the UK. Not many
  companies can say a full-size SUV is
  the most successful model in their
  range. And now Hyundai is hoping
  its new-for-2012 Santa Fe can make
  inroads a little further up-market...

UP-MARKET? YUP: the new car has edged up in price but it's also physically larger and boasts styling that's much more sophisticated and resolved
which is what you need in the image-conscious SUV market.

There's now only one engine on offer: a pleasingly refined 2.2-litre diesel with 194bhp on tap. That's enough for fairly sprightly performance, but it's the massive 322lb ft of torque that really impresses. This is available at between 1,800 and 2,500rpm, so in practice all you need to do is keep the engine spinning in this band and the car just chugs away. And if you ever need to tow anything, this would be an excellent choice.

Most buyers will opt for the automatic transmission version, as tested here. However, it comes with a penalty over the six-speed manual in several respects. Firstly, it costs an extra 1,700. It's also thirstier (41.5mpg versus the manual's 46.3mpg) and emits more CO2 (178g/km versus 159g/km for the manual 4x4). All of which means higher running costs. Oh, and it's slightly slower: the manual version gets to 62mph in 9.8 seconds; the auto takes 10.1.

“Beautifully easy to drive,
with very well-placed controls, a commanding
driving position and
a three-setting
Flex Steer system...”
The Santa Fe is beautifully easy to drive, with very well-placed controls and a commanding driving position. The Flex Steer system has three settings: Comfort, Normal and Sport, but in practice all are fairly light.

This is a big car, and you're always aware of it —
and not just when it comes to parking. Talking of which, thanks to poor visibility I think the rear-view camera that's standard on Premium models is an absolute must.

Around bends, the Santa Fe rolls rather too readily, so you never feel totally confident. The flipside is very comfortable suspension that boasts plenty of travel for the occasional bit of off-roading.

Speaking of which, the Santa Fe is one of the new breed of large SUVs that don't necessarily come with four-wheel drive. It's possible to buy a base-spec Style level model with front-wheel drive only —
and in the process lop 1,400 off the price.

There's enough headroom up front for a freakishly tall basketball player, while space in the back will beat many vans (534 litres with five seats in place; 1,615 litres with all the rear seats folded). If you want seven seats, that'll be an extra 1,200.

The middle-row seats can slide back and forth to boost passenger legroom or luggage space, or help you get into the rearmost seats. You'll need all the help you can get, as those two backmost seats are awkward, uncomfortable and only really suitable for children. But that's par for the course among SUVs.

“There’s enough
headroom up front for a
freakishly tall basketball
player, while space in
the back will beat
many vans
Korean cars have traditionally suffered from poor-quality interiors, but the Santa Fe's is notably plusher than before.

OK, it's no Audi in terms of material quality but the leather trim that's standard on Premium models feels great and the general fit and finish are excellent.

Trim levels kick-off with the Style, which has standard 18-inch alloy wheels, AirCon, Bluetooth and an MP3 audio system.

Premium trim adds climate control, touchscreen SatNav, rear parking camera and roof rails, while the top-spec Premium SE additionally has 19-inch alloys, Xenon headlights, keyless entry, panoramic sunroof and automatic parking.

While I was driving the Santa Fe, I kept thinking to myself how much this was like an Audi Q7 —
only for 8,000 less. Then again, perhaps the biggest competition comes not from plush German brands but from sister company Kia, whose new Sorento is, under the skin, virtually the same car as the Santa Fe but has a seven-year warranty (versus Hyundai's five-year one). — Chris Rees

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium 4WD Auto 7-Seat | 31,895
Maximum speed: 118mph | 0-62mph: 10.1 seconds | Overall MPG: 41.5mpg
Power: 194bhp | Torque: 322lb ft | CO2 178g/km