What is it?
There is now another reason to consider the already-successful Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, because the Korean manufacturer is offering a two-wheel drive version for the first time.
That’s permanent two-wheel drive, of course, because on four-wheel-drive versions, power only gets transferred to the rear axle during adverse road conditions, so Santa Fes that spend their days on shopping expeditions rather than Arctic ones are operating predominantly in front-wheel drive anyway.
We were very impressed with the Hyundai Santa Fe's all-round abilities when we road tested the four-wheel-drive version late last year. We found it mixed a little bit of quality, desirability and dynamism with the versatility and practicality for which we loved the previous-generation car.
The two-wheel-drive version aims to build on those attributes. Available in five or ultra-practical seven-seat configuration but only in the base ‘Style’ trim level and with a manual six-speed gearbox, this Santa Fe is powered by the range’s only engine, a 2.2-litre oil-burner with 194bhp and 311 lb ft.
The five-seat Santa Fe offers 585 litres of luggage space with the rear seats up and 1680 litres with them folded. The seven-seater adds a pair of fold-flat seats (which are adequate for children but slightly cramped for adults) and the boot capacities fall to 516 and 1615 litres.
Calling the Style trim level ‘base’ is probably a misnomer, for it is well equipped and includes 18in alloys, heated front seats, air-con, privacy glass, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control as standard. Our five-seat test car adds just one option, metallic paint at £495.
What is it like?
Like its four-wheel-drive sibling, this front-drive Santa Fe offers good ride comfort and a hushed driving environment, which combine to make it very pleasant and easy to drive.
The handling is adequate, and feels slightly defter than the four-wheel-drive version, although some body lean during cornering remains.
The steering offers little feel, and even switching between the three modes offered by Hyundai’s Flex Steer adjustable system doesn’t compensate for the deficit of connectedness between steering wheel and asphalt.
The five-seat car seen here is 66kg lighter than the equivalent four-wheel drive version, a saving that contributes to a 0-62mph time that’s more than half a second faster, at 9.4sec.
Of course, the Santa Fe isn’t designed to be a rocket away from the traffic lights, and of more interest is the economy gain: a claimed 47.9mpg on the combined cycle represents an improvement of 1.6mpg over the greenest four-wheel drive variant, and CO2 falls slightly from 159g/km to 155g/km.
Our test on varied roads around Surrey yielded an indicated average of 41.9mpg; it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for careful motorists to achieve a figure closer to mid-40s.
Should I buy one?
With the latest Santa Fe range taking a step up in terms of cost compared to the previous-generation car, this model expands the affordable end of the model range by requiring less initial outlay and potentially offering lower running costs than the four-wheel-drive versions.
Hyundai reckons this two-wheel-drive crossover will make up just a small percentage of sales, yet it represents an interesting option for frugal motorists who desire hard-wearing, high-riding family transport but concede that they are rarely, if ever, likely to drive their Hyundai up the side of a mountain.
And if Britain’s annual dusting of winter snow causes you sleepless nights, the £1400 you’d save over the cost of the cheapest four-wheel-drive version could potentially be spent on winter tyres instead.
Hyundai Santa Fe Style 2WD 2.2 CRDi
Price £25,495 0-62mph 9.4sec Top speed 118mph Economy 47.9mpg CO2 155g/km Kerb weight 1863kg Engine 4 cyls, 2198cc, diesel Power 194bhp at 3800rpm Torque 311 lb ft at 1800-2500rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual