From £25,850
A big step forward for Hyundai, only spoilt by under-performing engines and disappointing motorway refinement.

What's new? Bigger in dimensions and aspirations than the car it replaces, Hyundai hopes the new Santa Fe will tempt buyers out of their Volvo XC90s, BMW X5s and VW Touaregs. A very ambitious hope.What's it like? It gets off to a good start. There is much to like about the Santa Fe’s clean, European-influenced styling, although it is a touch derivative. Inside there is ample room for five, or seven with the optional collapsible third row of seats. Upfront the dash isn’t as elegant or well finished as you’d find in a German or Swedish rival, but not far behind. The design is clean and ergonomically efficient, while the materials are of good quality.The new Santa Fe certainly feels larger than its predecessor on the road. Good points are a ride which remains cosseting and settled whether on road or lumpy gravel tracks, and a four-wheel-drive system which ensures good traction in slippery conditions. Shame that the steering is overly light and inconsistently weighted.Just two engines will be available when the Santa Fe goes on sale next month. The unresponsive and thrashy-sounding 2.7-litre V6 petrol is best avoided, especially as it comes with a four-speed automatic. The 147bhp 2.2-litre diesel is far better, being quieter and subjectively quicker. It also comes with a positive-shifting five-speed manual ’box, with a five-speed auto as an option.For the most part the Santa Fe is pretty refined. The diesel engine is hushed and little road noise penetrates the cabin, although an unacceptable amount of wind noise creeps in above 60mph.Should I buy one? The range starts at £20,995 for the diesel – this is £2800 more than the current cheapest Santa Fe, yet the new model is bigger and far better. Placed against Hyundai’s target competition, the Santa Fe looks cracking value: to get a similarly equipped Volvo, VW or BMW you’re looking at a invoice starting with a three. But who is Hyundai kidding? These cars offer more prestige, more powerful engines and better refinement. But for those who want to join the big-4x4 crowd but don’t have the money, the Santa Fe is a fine alternative.Jamie Corstorphine

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