The engine and automatic gearbox of the Hyundai Santa Fe are well matched. The motor’s 322lb ft motivates two tonnes of family SUV in a thoroughly obliging fashion, although that's true whether you opt for the six-speed manual or the elastic delivery of the torque converter auto.
When pulling away from a standstill, you don’t need to push the right-hand pedal very far to get the seven-seater’s mass moving; apply about half throttle, wait for a second or so and a healthy wad of urge is provided to the wheels.
The torque converter ’box thoroughly justifies its selection in some 70 percent of models sold in the UK. It slips a little initially, but in a predictable fashion and only when useful, and thereafter seems to deliver every last bit of motive power from crankshaft to road. It also seldom asks for a longer pause than you’re willing to allow it in doing so.
The manual six-speeder feels mechanically robust and is light and easy to use, and will be the prefered option for motorists on a budget as running costs are significantly lower.
The torquey character makes the Santa Fe surprisingly effortless to drive for one so big – one of the reasons why it’s such an agreeable car. It’s no more engaging or sporting to drive than the previous one, but that’s something we’d celebrate. It’s quietly effective but, more important, it’s well mannered, unobtrusive and easy to drive – which is exactly the kind of temperament you want in a family car.
The engine is as well isolated as any you’ll find in this class, and both wind and road noise are low.
Those who tow will approve of the way this car eases up to speed, using that little bit of transmission slip to its advantage. The auto option reduces this car’s braked towing capacity (2.5 tonnes in manual, just 2.0 in auto) but not enough to matter to most people.
In slippery conditions, the 4x4 system shuffles drive seamlessly. You never detect excess slip at either axle until the going gets very tough indeed. It’s so good that locking the centre diff seems to add little to the car’s ability to drive over mud and sand.