The Hyundai Santa Fe is a household name for Ireland’s motorists as it was one of the first models sold by the brand when it first came to our shores. As the sister car to the new KIA Sorento we can safely presume it will be very good. The 7-seater Santa Fe is spacious, comfortable and quite handsome. We’re testing the new 5+2 in its greenest plug-in hybrid guise this week with a CO2 figure of just 37g/km. In this form where it can run in zero emissions mode for the school run yet also do the run to the relation at the weekend without the need to charge up. It has all wheel drive too, so has the South Korean giant built the perfect family car for right now!
As an SUV inspired MPV the Santa Fe cannot really do a lot with its silhouette. That said Hyundai’s designers (it has some of Europe’s best on their books) have enjoyed delivering a very aggressive and stylised front end that certainly fills the mirrors. A giant grille and unique light clusters mark the Santa Fe out from the crowd. Around the body there are interesting styling design creases and other features that make it shape appealing. The Santa Fe has a long wheelbase and this give the machine good proportions and a nice on-street, substantial presence.
The cabin is huge and flexible. The dash is modern with the usual large centre-mounted touch screen you’d expect. The digital drivers display has a contemporary appearance and is customisable. The centre console house the new six-speed automatic gearbox. The gearbox doesn’t feature a lever rather it has a few large push buttons. Backlit letters on the buttons tell you in no uncertain terms what gear you are selecting. My only gripe is the selection is not as definite as it is using a lever and more than once I lurched back a bit when I thought I had shifted from R (reverse) to D (drive) – my bad and you soon learn to allow a little time for the gear selection to register.
The centre cubby and oddments storage is very good – I managed to pack a light jacket into the centre underarm storage area. The dash layout is generally pleasant and clear, this helps deliver a relaxing stress-free driving experience. Cabin space overall and the level of comfort for occupants is very impressive. The middle row seats can tilt and access to the rear two seats is not a problem for kids and young adults – older adults (cough) will need to do a few strecthes. The new Santa Fe comes with a host of convenience, safety and driving aids that premium rivals would find hard to match. Connectivity is excellent with even an app that allows remote locking/unlocking and programmable charging through its ‘Bluelink’ connected car services (executive Plus only). Apple CarPlay and Android Auto feature. The ‘Krell’ 10-speaker audio system is superb.
Power from our 1.6 litre T-GDI plug-in Hybrid is sufficient, with a very smooth deliver. The rechargeable battery, positioned under the front passenger seat, has a 13.8kWh capacity. The 66.9kW/90hp electric motor combined with the ‘SmartStream’ petrol engine’s 180hp delivers a total system output of 265hp. The PHEV Santa Fe can cruise and overtake with ease. The driving position is commanding and this helps particularly with night driving or in heavy rain with forward visibility. The suspension delivers a comfortable ride with all manner of road imperfections dealt with quite well. Next to a premium rival at a similar price point the Santa Fe was superior in all aspects bar when a more spirited driving experience was called for – but in a family car that is seldom the case. There is a selectable drive mode setting and paddle shifters but why bother! The level of standard equipment (e.g. heated steering wheel and heated seats front and rear) combined with the car’s excellent ride comfort had me reaching for the Hyundai’s keys before the premium machine’s 9 times out of 10.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-In costs from €53,445 (Executive Plus). Hyundai Santa Fe diesel pricing starts from €61,895 for the 2WD 2.2 litre Executive Plus auto (the 4WD version cost from €63,895).
The Hyundai Santa Fe’s main rival does not come form Germany but in fact South Korea and its own sister brand KIA. The plug-in hybrid Santa Fe is without doubt an excellent family car with the ability to be as green as users want it to be. it is also capable in bad weather with a drive system that can tackle all the road conditions you can throw at swell as off road. A rotary select allows you choose the surface you are traversing and the car will seek out the best way to deliver traction through sand, mud or snow! We liked the Santa Fe a lot.