The Santa Fe compares pretty well against other seven-seat SUVs against the clock. Fully fuelled and two-up, the Hyundai went from 30-70mph through the gears in a commendable 8.7sec. By way of comparison, the Land Rover Discovery Sport (188bhp, 325lb ft, 1863kg) we tested in 2015 was 0.3sec slower; the Skoda Kodiaq (148bhp, 251lb ft, 1751kg), on the other hand, was 1.4sec off the Santa Fe’s pace.
That the Hyundai can more than hold its own against two of our class favourites demonstrates that it’s certainly not wanting in terms of real-world performance. And while the manner in which that performance is delivered is as far from exciting as you’d expect it to be in a car of this kind, there’s enough of it to give this Santa Fe a gentle aura of strength, and to convince you that it could be put to work towing quite willingly.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is, for the most part, smartly calibrated and allows you to tap into the Santa Fe’s 325lb ft well of torque – which is spread from 1750- 2750rpm – quite easily and with little delay. Hitting the kickdown switch while rolling will see it downshift in an urgent enough fashion, while the subsequent upshifts as the pace gathers are executed dextrously.
The only time the automatic ’box seemed to falter in its ability to direct torque to the driven wheels was off the line, where a heavy right foot would unearth a touch of slip before properly hooking up. That said, the Hyundai still managed 0-60mph in 9.3sec, which just about beats par when compared with its rivals.
Engine refinement and isolation are impressive, too. While there’s little here to mask the fact that there’s an obviously diesel-powered engine under the bonnet, at a steady 70mph cruise our sound gear measured cabin noise at 64dB. That same equipment, at the same speed, took readings of 67dB in both the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Skoda Kodiaq.
If you run the crankshaft all the way up to maximum revs in fourth gear, that sense of civility will be significantly diminished. The engine’s certainly not a rangey or particularly flexible one, but it’s not allowed to become too obstreperous by a gearbox that has shifted up before 4250rpm comes around.