Hyundai makes it easy to downsize from pricier seven-seat SUVs with the new Santa Fe.
Hyundai's relatively new naming policy of using letters like 'i' or 'iX' before a number (eg i30, iX35 or i40) has been suspended for the seven-seat Santa Fe as it was seen as too strong a brand in itself. The new, third-generation Santa Fe looks far more imposing and purposeful than the outgoing machine. It is longer (+40mm), wider (+5mm) and 45mm lower, too. Hyundai has used its 'Storm Edge' design language to deliver a very good-looking and well-proportioned SUV.
The front end, in particular, is very striking. It is beefy and clearly designed with North America in mind. The headlights sit high in the front wings while other lights sit lower. The grille is now very smart- looking. All of the new design features combined to make the Santa Fe look, as Hyundai says, 'Modern Premium'. Even the homage to BMW's X3 in the 'C' pillar works well. Currently in the US, SUVs outsell cars; without doubt Hyundai is catering to this market with such an imposing look.
Inside the cabin you'll find seven seats, but the rear two seats are strictly for the kids. Not only is headroom restricted, but also access. I had to do some stretching beforehand to get in and have a bruise on my shin from the climb! Otherwise, the cabin is bright and spacious with great all-round visibility. The boot is now 10% bigger and, of course, the seats fold flat to make the SUV even more practical.
The driving position is first rate, too. Most points of contact feel good but some of the trim plastics look better than they feel. It is really only here that you can see how the Korean firm has managed to deliver Santa Fe at a sub-premium price.
Under the hood there is good news for buyers in that the revised 2.2-litre diesel engine is now more fuel-efficient (+12%) and delivers more power. Front-wheel drive versions will make up 50% of sales but for those who need the extra traction, two four-wheel drive (on-demand) versions are available.
The ride is excellent and set up for comfort. You can hustle the Santa Fe along without any surprises. The cabin is reasonably quiet for such a big space. There are three electronically controlled steering assistance modes you can choose from but really they aren't needed, as the normal setting is fine.
Prices start at €36,995 for the two-wheel drive-only version. Standard equipment is very good and somehow Hyundai manages to make other more premium brands look positively stingy. Three trim levels are being offered: Comfort, Executive (4X4, Leather etc.) and Premium (auto with lots of extras).
Hyundai says it is Ireland's fastest-growing car brand (up 92% in the last two years) and fresh models like Santa Fe and i40 are certainly not going to slow it down.
Santa Fe is a tempting seven-seat SUV that really looks the part.