What's it like?
It doesn’t feel as big as it looks – or is – for a start. It’s a big car - not far off as long and wide as a Range Rover Sport – but feels fairly agile for the class.
The steering is direct and blessed with a surprising amount of feel - there’s no point-and-guess that you get with many wallowy seven-seater SUVs. Speaking of wallowy, there’s no escaping the Santa Fe’s body roll, but it’s controlled and gradual rather than sloppy and clumsy. It’s no Seat Ateca - it’s a whole class bigger for a start - but it defies the class standard of not being particularly fun to drive.
The new eight-speed automatic gearbox makes largely smooth, unnoticeable shifts, although the lack of dual-clutch option means they’re not as smooth as they could be.
At motorway speeds, there’s little complaint from the suspension, although a UK drive could bring out some flaws we’ve yet to see, given the state of our Tarmac compared with Barcelona’s. It’s certainly more settled over what bumps we encountered than the Skoda Kodiaq, mind.
Wind noise is the biggest audible flaw, but even then there’s not an upsetting amount.
Otherwise, the cabin is peaceful and attractive. Closer inspection of some interior trim reveals it to be a little more imitation luxury than genuine plushness (reach lower down than usual to feel where it gets cheaper), but that could be the trade-off for a decent level of practicality. Even the rearmost seats are suitable (just) for adults, who’ll only begin to think about complaining on longer journeys.
Equipment such as air conditioning for the rearmost passengers and easy folding of the second-row seats at the touch of a button show that the Santa Fe’s third row is less of an afterthought than many five-cum-seven-seaters, although some more time (and money) could be spent on the infotainment system. It’s a floating unit atop the dashboard, and is frustratingly unintuitive to use at times, while the graphics feel fairly dated.
Should I buy one?
That could be the sticking point. See, where other brands, such as Skoda, start their seven-seat SUVs at a price beginning with the number two, the Tucson starts at £33,425, and is priced, as tested in predicted bestselling Premium Automatic 4WD spec, at £40,795.
There’s not much wrong with the Santa Fe from what we’ve gleaned here, but a class based on value and metal-for-money demands perhaps a better starting price than £33,425. The Nissan X-Trail, for instance, starts at just over £28,000. For comparison, the bells-and-whistles Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 190 Sport Line 4x4 5dr DSG is £37,450.