Adding an expensive plug-in hybrid powertrain to a big, practical workhorse that we’ve long rated for its metal-for-the-money value might seem like a risky tactic, but it has actually made the Hyundai Santa Fe something of a rarity.
This is a full-size family SUV that keeps its seven-seat layout even if you have it in company car-compatible plug-in hybrid form, and it retains a sub-£50,000 price tag.
If you need a business car that will keep your tax bill down during the working week while also doing wonders with the family at weekends, the Santa Fe’s case is now stronger than ever.
All of the things that have made this car such a sensible buy for so many years still apply, but here Hyundai has brought the Santa Fe right up to date while adding extra refinement and desirability.
The car continues to combine four-wheel drive and decent off-road capability with proper, adult-appropriate seven- seat passenger space when you need it or, alternatively, generous boot space (571 litres in five-seat mode, 1649 litres with all rear seats folded) when cargo-carrying is the priority.
With all of the four-cylinder diesel engines now replaced by petrol-electric hybrids, towing capacity has taken a bit of a knock: 1350kg on a braked trailer is all the PHEV version is rated to manage, the cheaper hybrid slightly more at 1650kg.
Compared with the old Santa Fe diesel’s 2500kg rating, that might make this car less of a default pick for caravanners, but it’s one of very few black marks overall and only an issue for those who tow the largest, heaviest trailers.
The look and feel of the Santa Fe’s interior have taken big strides. Plush-looking satin-chrome trim and solid-feeling switches and secondary controls make the latest Santa Fe inviting in a way few of its predecessors have been able to manage, giving it more of a premium SUV ambience.
Digital technology is very well represented, too. Powertrain refinement is generally excellent and drivability is good.
Working that hybrid powertrain hard isn’t a rewarding exercise and will cause the car’s luxurious mask to slip – but drive the Santa Fe in the laid-back style that it’s given to and it will strike all the right notes for a big family holdall, with a real-world electric range sitting somewhere between 25 and 28 miles, depending on driving style and the pattern of usage.
If you think that big cars can’t be frugal, that well-priced, hard- working SUVs can’t feel plush or inviting, or that plug-in hybrids impose too many compromises to be useful in real-world family motoring, the Santa Fe stands ready to show you different.