Hyundai Santa

Believe in Santa

Don’t dismiss the Hyundai Santa Fe as a big Korean pile of derivativcncss – merely Hyundai’s take on a pound shop Land Rover Discovery. It’s so much better than that. It’s a bit of a family car triumph, in fact – and justifies no longer being a conspicuous bargain.

The best bit is the seating. All UK-spec Santa Fes have space for seven, and the rear row, while being best suited to pre-teens, is clever. Access is via big doors and easy- folding seats – one lever, sensibly sprung.

But once the kids are back there, they’re not trapped until an adult comes to release them (sorry). I lyundai’s put buttons on the top of the backrest to unlock the mechanism and allow the cherubs back out without assistance.

The handles and levers feel tough and substantial. The straps to pull the rearmost chairs up from the 547-litre boot are long and strong. People who have kids, and have been frustrated by cars not catering to them, have sussed this out. An SUV it may be, but the Santa Fe is a terrific MPV.

Up front, the ergonomics are very VW (i.e. ideal), even if the materials aren’t. Hut 1 lyundai is moving away from tinny plastic masquerading as metal, and the tightness of finish itself is impressive. So is the storage (12 bins in all). And Hyundai’s own-brand eight-inch touchscreen knocks 1 londa’s and Nissan’s into a cocked hat. Did we mention the five-year warranty?

Meanwhile, the team in charge of setting up how the Santa Fe drives seems to have spent lots of time in an Audi Q7. It’s uncanny. Like the bigger, pricier, uglier German, the Santa Fc shuns pretenses of sportincss and concentrates instead on refinement. So, the 2.2-litre diesel is quieter than before (a hybrid’s inbound) and it’s marshalled obediently by the eight-speed automatic (a six-speed manual is standard lower down the range). Wind noise, for a big bus, is banished impressively. And the ride isn’t just quiet, it’s pliant, but with enough control that the kids who’ve helped themselves to the rear seats won’t get seasick.

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