With the exception of the rare Genesis executive saloon, the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV is the most expensive and luxurious car offered by the South Korean brand. While it boasts leather seats, four-wheel drive and a punchy 2.2-litre diesel engine as standard, the lack of an ‘entry-level’ model means the Santa Fe is quite expensive to buy.
Rivals like the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Nissan X-Trail and Mitsubishi Outlander offer a wider choice of engines and better fuel economy, too. The Kia Sorento SUV manages to be about £3,000 cheaper than the Santa Fe, despite using the same diesel engine.
That 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel is powerful enough to get the Santa Fe from 0-62mph in just nine seconds, while fuel economy of 46.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 161g/km (making road tax £185 a year) are reasonable rather than noteworthy. This engine does give the Santa Fe good towing ability, plus there’s the option of an automatic gearbox – although specifying this sees the car’s fuel economy drop to 42.2mpg and road tax jump two bands to £230 a year.
On the road, the Santa Fe is surprisingly enjoyable to drive for a large SUV. It’s not quite as much fun as the Mazda CX-5, but it does a good job of insulating you from potholes and poor road surfaces without suffering too much body lean in corners.
Inside, the Santa Fe is spacious for both driver and passengers. It’s a five-seater as standard, with the option of turning it into a seven-seater for about £1,000. The dashboard is well built and the controls are easy to use, but it lacks any real design flair compared to rivals. There are also some scratchy plastics on display, which is disappointing given the Santa Fe’s relatively high starting price.
At least standard equipment is very generous. The Santa Fe is only available in two trim levels – Premium and Premium SE. Both come with heated leather seats, split-folding rear seats, Bluetooth phone connectivity, cruise control, rear parking sensors and air-conditioning. You also get rain-sensing windscreen wipers, roof rails and a touchscreen sat-nav system with a rear-view parking camera.
Upgrading to Premium SE (which is only available with seven seats) will leave you wanting for little. This top-spec trim gives you larger 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, hands-free boot opening, power-adjustable ventilated front seats and a panoramic sunroof.
Choosing Premium SE with the automatic gearbox sees the Santa Fe nudging £40,000, though. For than money, you could have a well-specified Land Rover Discovery Sport – a more desirable and superior car that’s likely to retain more value on the secondhand market.
In terms of reliability, the current Santa Fe didn’t feature in our 2015 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but Hyundai’s 21st-place finish (out of 32 carmakers) indicates a below-average ownership experience. You do get a five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty as standard, though, so Santa Fe ownership should cause you few sleepless nights. A five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP adds further peace of mind.