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The Top Gear car review: Hyundai Santa Fe

£27,760£36,705
7/10
Overall verdict

For: 

Big move upmarket without hurting value too much, strong drivetrain, plenty of equipment, better economy

Against: 

Could the jump in prices be too much for some?
Vastly improved third-generation model – and the old one was good...

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Our choice

Hyundai

2.2 CRDi Style 5dr [7 Seats]

£24,375
N/A
42mpg
9.80s
194bhp
176g/km

What we say: 

The latest Santa Fe might just be all the car you ever need. Think cut-price Discovery

What is it?

The Hyundai Santa Fe was the car that helped the brand break through in the UK. Before Santa Fe, it was known for offering cheap econoboxes. By launching the eye-catching, chunky-look SUV, the brand immediately gave itself credibility. Two generations on, it’s continued to sell in big numbers and has watched over a range of cars that’s been transformed.

Now it’s the Santa Fe’s turn for revitalisation. This third generation does all the practical, horsebox-towing stuff that the old one did. Only now, it has also moved upmarket and become much more civilised and sophisticated. Just look at it: any remaining excuses needn’t be made any longer.

Driving

The Santa Fe is offered with a 2.2-litre turbodiesel, to which you can add manual or automatic transmission with front- or four-wheel drive running gear. It’s a good engine to base the range around, proving smooth, willing and more than up to the challenge of hauling nearly two tonnes of SUV. Torque is what makes something like this relaxing on the move, and pleasingly, the Santa Fe has plenty – 311lb ft, in fact.

Also, UK models have been given a unique RHD suspension setup. Good job, because the LHD proved, while decent, a bit too keen to hop after hitting a bump, as if the damping wasn’t firm enough (and if it got the jitters in Europe, imagine how it would fare over here…). Otherwise, general spring stiffness seems OK and the Santa Fe proves as upmarket and near-premium to drive as it looks.

On the inside

The upmarket vibes continue inside. Hyundai has rolled out some very impressive interiors in recent years and the Santa Fe continues that trend. The high-position high-resolution centre screen is attractive, the dials are clear and high standards of finish are matched by impressive standards of build quality.

It can be bought in either five-seat or seven-seat guise, with the rear seats folding easily. Pity that the rakish side shoulder-line blocks the view out for kids, but the driving position is high and commanding, so at least you’ll be OK. Need we say that equipment levels are extremely high? Probably not. It’s what you expect from a Hyundai, after all.

Owning

This is a great value large SUV: prices start from £26,000. 2011 was the second-best year for UK sales, and given how this car is so competitively priced, we can only see that continuing. At an impressive 46.3mpg, it’s more economical than before too, saving you even more cash. Then there’s that five-year warranty… bargain? We certainly think so.

Highlights from the range

Title 0–62 CO2 MPG BHP Price
The fastest
2.2 CRDi Premium 5dr [5 Seats]
9.8s 159g/km 46.3 194 £30,360
The cheapest
2.2 CRDi SE 5dr [5 Seats]
9.8s 159g/km 46.3 194 £27,760
The greenest
2.2 CRDi Premium 5dr [5 Seats]
9.8s 159g/km 46.3 194 £30,360

Wildcard

How about something completely different?

Wildcard

8/10

Ford S-MAX

£23,075£34,745
Need to shift lots of people, but not bothered about 4x4? Have a look at a Ford S-Max or Renault Grand Scenic