Naughty or nice?

We made a list. We’re checking it twice


As many other car makers seemingly aim to make their offerings look more and more alike, Hyundai is steadfastl­y ignoring the memo. The latest Santa Fe joins both the Ioniq 5 and 6 as a vehicle you won’t lose in the supermarke­t car park, thanks to its boxy, angular lines and H-pattern headlight signature. The styling won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Hyundai’s decision to go bold will likely pay off in its attempts to stand out from an ever-swelling crowd of large SUVs aiming for the ‘premium’ buyer.

The same goes for the cabin. Previously solid and hard-wearing but with little in the way of imaginatio­n, the fifth-generation Santa Fe gets a major upgrade with expensive-feeling materials and a plush, clean design with even a hint of Range Rover about the steering wheel. As is the norm now, two 12.3-inch screens (one acting as the digital dash display, the other as the infotainme­nt) take centre stage and deliver a slick interface, yet it’s the presence of physical dials that stands out. Shunning the move to eradicatin­g buttons, the Santa Fe has proper dials for the media and climate controls as well as a selection of shortcut buttons for key functions. Hallelujah.

Although we won’t be getting the six-seat version in Europe, the space for those in row two is exceptiona­l, while even those in the final row won’t feel like they’re sitting in a Wendy House.

It’s hybrid power only, whether that be plug-in or regular hybrid. Hyundai’s still being a little vague with the power figures, but there’s no reason to think the versions we get will be rocketship­s. They’ll have enough power to cart the 2.2-tonne Santa Fe along with no and no excitement.

The hybrid powertrain – with six-speed automatic transmissi­on driving all four wheels – feels respectabl­e if a little oldschool, while the noise could be better. On the smooth roads around Seoul, the ride comfort and refinement are impressive and feel a step up from the previous-gen car.

Throwing it into corners suggests there are far better SUVs available for driver enjoyment, but few potential customers are likely to care. More importantl­y, its steering is well weighted, direct enough and carries a clean, stable line as long as you’re not silly. And if your attention does lapse, myriad driver assistance tech (adaptive cruise, lanekeep assist, collision avoidance etc) aims to keep you safe.

What’s most impressive is that Hyundai’s looked carefully at the previous-generation Santa Fe, identified areas for improvemen­t and carried them out decisively. There’s a bigger wow factor on the outside and the inside, plus more space and tech than ever before – all things that help sell large, practical cars.

There will be many more exciting cars coming in 2024, some of them Hyundais. But as a tool for carrying people safely and comfortabl­y the latest Santa Fe hits the spot. Add in a price that’ll almost certainly significan­tly undercut establishe­d names, plus the impressive unlimited-mile warranty, and you’re onto a winner.

There’s a bigger wow factor on the outside and the inside, plus more space and tech

 ?? ?? Looks like an EV; isn’t
Looks like an EV; isn’t
 ?? ?? Not the angular new Santa Fe’s best angle
Not the angular new Santa Fe’s best angle
 ?? ??

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