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Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review: Hyundai Santa Fe

Overall verdict
Has the makings of a great family car, if lacking a little excitement


Comfy, spacious, clever tech


Not very interesting, not as cheap as it was, lack of choice RE engines


What is it?

A really big Hyundai, which in spite of its silly name is actually quite appealing on a practical, family-first kind of level. The Santa Fe is what they call a ‘D-segment’ SUV, which means it competes with the Skoda Kodiaq and Land Rover Discovery Sport. Two cars we like very much indeed.

Mid-sized SUVs like the Santa Fe appeal because they’re usefully smaller, cheaper, more economical and less brash than conventional SUVs like the Land Rover Discovery, Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7. But you still get seven seats – granted in most the two rearmost seats are good only for kids, but who sits fully-grown adults back there anyway? – a lofty driving position, a degree of off-road ability and the ability to tow caravans, horseboxes and so on. And of course there’s the image, which nowadays is even more important than whether the car is, you know, any good.

Image is a thing Hyundai might have struggled with a decade ago, but times have changed. You could argue the Santa Fe is the car that really made Hyundai’s name in the UK. Before its release in 2001 it was known for building reliably cheap hatchbacks nobody really wanted or indeed deserved, but the chunky Santa Fe and its steady march upmarket (which continues with the new fourth-gen car) has overseen a revitalisation of Hyundai’s entire range and, therefore, image.

We always thought the last Santa Fe was a good-looking thing. Not good-looking like a Jaguar F-Type is good-looking, but in a refined, functional kind of way that somehow manages to look almost as modern now as they day it was introduced. The new car wears Hyundai’s corporate look we think much more successfully than the little Kona crossover. Certainly less anonymous than the car it replaces – but who knows how it’ll age.