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Driving

What is it like to drive?

No more diesels here. Every version is a combination of engine and electric. We’ve driven the non-plugged hybrid. It consists, as many other hybrids from Hyundai and Kia, of a 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder engine driving through an auto ‘box. Sandwiched between engine and transmission is the motor, so it too operates through all six ratios.

This isn't absolutely the most efficient of the hybrid systems out there. But it'll match a diesel, and it does feel very normal. The engine revs rise and fall as with a conventional automatic (because that's what it is) when you're on the accelerator. When you're going gently it can hand off entirely to the motor, falling still and silent – even up to quite high speeds if you're lifted off or going gently downhill. But since any petrol engine would be pretty quiet at those times, you hardly notice.

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As a petrol auto it's smooth and progressive, if predictably uncharismatic-sounding at full bore. And you're aware this is a two-and-a-quarter tonner it's hauling. Still, the brakes felt perfectly stout enough on the flattish roads of our test.

In normal and eco drive modes the column paddles control regenerative braking; in sport you have control of the gears.

If it's heavy when accelerating, what about when cornering?

The suspension manages that weight pretty well. The steering is well-weighted, has a progressive action, and marries well with the roll angles. In any case, roll, pitch and heave are well contained, at least when it's not full of people. So you're confident in carving neat lines whatever the road.

But let's stress again, it's not a sports SUV and it's not meant to be. That's part of its appeal, frankly.

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The ride is smooth enough, although there's some secondary shimmy from the big heavy tyres. Nothing too bothersome. We didn't get much tyre noise in Korea, but let's reserve judgement because every country's surfaces are different and ours are about the loudest. We did find out the Santa Fe holds its motorway lane serenely.

It comes with Hyundai's usual driver assist suite. There are sentinels all around to try to prevent you biffing into stuff or people. On motorways the lane centring and adaptive cruise work smoothly, and their symbols and switching logic are easy to get your head around, especially with the high-trim HUD.

Will it go off-road?

We didn't try, and it's pretty clear that the road-biased tyres and suspension and lack of crawler gears mean this isn't the aim. Still, the AWD has electrically controlled variable torque split; the traction control system has snow, sand and mud modes, and hill descent control.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Hyundai Santa FE 2.7 V6 5dr Auto
  • 0-6211.6s
  • CO2274.0g/km
  • BHP170
  • MPG24.8
  • Price£18,992

the cheapest

Hyundai Santa FE 2.4 GSI 5dr
  • 0-6211.4s
  • CO2235.0g/km
  • BHP144
  • MPG28.8
  • Price£15,797

the greenest

Hyundai Santa FE 2.0 CRTD GSI 5dr
  • 0-6214.9s
  • CO2190.0g/km
  • BHP111
  • MPG39.8
  • Price£16,792

Variants We Have Tested

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