Weekend Courier - - Driveway - Shauna Anderson

IMAGINE a world where kids didn’t scream and bicker in the back of the car; where par­ents could shut off the squab­bling and re­lax, lis­ten to mu­sic or, heaven for­bid, talk to each other.

You’ll never es­cape the con­stant re­quests to stop for a Happy Meal but you can re­cap­ture that pre-chil­dren mo­tor­ing bliss. I dis­cov­ered this when our fam­ily tested a Hyundai Santa Fe over the school holidays. It seems sep­a­ra­tion is the key. In a seven-seater, you can eas­ily spread the kids out a bit in the car and, hey presto, the fight­ing stops.

The Santa Fe is a peo­ple-pleaser, sleek look­ing with­out be­ing racy, not too bulky, not too boxy.

The peo­ple-pleaser theme con­tin­ues in­side. So much so that my lit­tle peo­ple (aged 10, eight and six) squealed with de­light when they opened the door and clam­bered on to the char­coal leather.

Fea­tures in­clude heated front seats, dual-zone air­con­di­tion­ing, seven-inch touch­screen with smart­phone mir­ror­ing via An­droid Auto and Ap­ple CarPlay, sixs­peaker au­dio, key­less en­try and start, and a pair of 12V plugs and a USB ca­ble in­put.

This SUV will suit a fam­ily of up to five that needs that ex­tra row of seats for short trips. The sec­ond row, which comes with two Isofix points for child seats, is large and spa­cious.

It was a treat for me to spread my kids out, though the third row is quite small.

The trade-off for us­ing the third row of seats, as with many of these SUVs, is that the boot space is pretty small com­pared to other fam­ily cars.

That said, if rat­tling around the city is your thing, the Santa Fe comes with plenty of cup hold­ers and a deep cen­tre con­sole bin.

If you can seat all your kids in the sec­ond row and fold down the third, it’s a dif­fer­ent story. There is enough room for sev­eral scoot­ers, a Bar­bie bike, a bor­der col­lie pup and a bag jammed with snacks.

The Santa Fe is a smooth, com­fort­able drive, with a rea­son­ably tight turn­ing cir­cle. Rear park­ing sen­sors and re­vers­ing cam­era add to the safe and prac­ti­cal feel.

Hyundai’s stan­dard SmartSense pack­age comes with a pile of fea­tures.

Among them are HAC and DBC (hill­start as­sist con­trol plus down­hill brake con­trol), VSM (ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity man­age­ment), ATCC (ad­vanced trac­tion cor­ner­ing con­trol), AEB (au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing) and so on.

The acro­nym I like best, how­ever, is ASPAS, or ad­vanced smart park­ing as­sist sys­tem.

The ASPAS, not just a safety fea­ture, is also a stress-saver.

When it comes to fam­ily cars, the be-al­land-end-all is sim­ply the price.

The Santa Fe High­lander we drove isn’t cheap – at a whisker over $60,000 drive­away – but when you con­sider a top-of-therange Ja­pa­nese seven-seater will set you back more than $70,000, it’s good value.

The Hyundai Santa Fe High­lander.

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