It's pretty good to drive, with a strong, refined engine and good body control
The cabin is solid and classy, and the dash controls are easy to use
A long rosta of electric driver aids plus seven airbags
A five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty helps allay any worries
Five-seaters a huge boot as well as loads of space for passengers
Even basic cars are really well equipped, and going up a level brings plenty of treats
The only engine on offer is a 2.2-litre diesel that's generally gutsy and fairly quiet, which makes the Santa Fe a relaxing motorway cruiser. It's decent enough to drive at slower speeds, too, with supple suspension that only jars over nastier bumps. The steering can occasionally feel a bit heavy but it's well weighted on the whole. Buyers can choose between front- and four-wheel drive, and between a manual gearbox and an automatic one which is pretty smooth though sometimes just a touch slow to change gear.
The cabin plastics feel a touch cheap, but although the dashboard is heavily styled the controls are easy to find and use. There's lots of adjustment for the driver's seat and the steering wheel, but the front head rests jut forward, leaving your neck at an awkward angle. The five-seat Santa Fe has a huge loadbay but it's worth paying extra for the seven-seat version which has two more seats that fold up from the boot when needed and have no effect on the load space when folded. These are cramped for adults, but kids and small adults can sit here comfortably enough, although there are no Isofix points here; these are reserved for the outer seats of the middle row. There's loads of head- and legroom for the front five occupants.
There are plenty of gadgets as standard: even entry-level Style models come with Bluetooth and voice control, plus air-con and reversing sensors. Mid-level Premium trim adds heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera and touch-screen sat-nav, while Premium SE cars include electric driver's seat adjustment, keyless entry and start-up, and a panoramic sunroof.
Hyundai doesn't have a particularly good record in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey; peace of mind comes instead in the form of a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. Every Santa Fe comes with seven airbags, including curtain 'bags that extend to the rearmost pair of seats, and a host of electronic driver aids including Trailer Stability Assist. The Santa Fe achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, including 96% for adults and 89% for child safety. An immobiliser and deadlocks help protect against thieves.
The Santa Fe looks a bit pricey compared to rivals such as the Mitsubishi Outlander and Chevrolet Captiva, but it's also a considerably better car, with unbeatable space and comfort for the money. It also comes with a five-year warranty which helps give it decent residual values; paying extra for the additional two seats will also help get you a good price when you sell on. Running costs are fairly reasonable: the two-wheel-drive manual model averages 47.9mpg while the four-wheel-drive auto manages 41.5mpg. Overall this is a huge, practical and comfortable SUV that's easy to live with and practical to drive.