Recommended. Smooth, well equipped and attractive - but, inevitably, not as cheap as it used to be.
If you chart Hyundai's plan to go from bargain basement brand of the 1980s to global superpower in the 21st century, the Santa Fe shows that the company has definitely passed the half-way point. The Santa Fe is probably the first of its cars that people could genuinely aspire to putting on their driveway: not as much as they would aspire to a Land Rover, certainly, but a car that would definitely make them feel good about themselves.
The Santa Fe certainly looks like an SUV in the £30k range - but that is the issue. It actually is mostly in that price range, with prices running from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. That makes it perhaps 10% cheaper than direct rivals from more premium brands, so the Santa Fe is going to have to compete on ability, not simply on price.
Can it do it? Certainly, the first impressions are good. The exterior looks confident rather than contrived, which always used to be the problem with more expensive Korean cars in the past. They used to add lots of little flourishes to try and make it look more expensive - which had exactly the opposite effect. Once inside, the positive vibe continues. The dashboard looks much more upmarket compared to the previous generation and certainly well in keeping with its price tag.
Of course, the amount of kit is one of the main attractions of any large Hyundai. Even the entry-level model is fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, heated, part-electric front seats and reversing sensors. When you get to the top of the range, you are greeted with Panoramic sunroof, Xenon headlights, fully electric seats and a tyre pressure monitoring system.
The good news is that the Santa Fe does not disappoint on the road. It does not have the fluidity of a Range Rover Evoque, but it is one of the more comfortable mid-sized SUVs to drive. The ride is generally good, reflecting the fact that this car is designed for everyday usability rather than the odd high-speed blast down a favourite A-road. The handling is best described as unobtrusive. It is not so poor that it irritates, nor so good that it inspires. Top of the range models get the choice of three levels of power assistance for the steering, but it is hardly worth bothering with. 'Sport' just makes the steering out of character with the rest of the car: the Santa Fe is all about making comfortable progress reasonably swiftly. There is little to be gained from playing at sports cars.
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