SUV of the year

THERE have been a number of new arrivals to the large SUV class in the past 12 months but none has been able to knock the Hyundai Santa Fe off its top spot.

A year on from its maiden win, the stylish and capable Hyundai continues to prove that the Korean brand is now a serious player in the mainstream marketplace. For instance, it has the sort of eye-catching exterior styling you’d expect from a much more expensive premium machine, while the interior effortlessly blends desirability and versatility.

At the heart of its appeal, as a family-friendly SUV and its ability to accommodate seven people, thanks to the addition of a neat pair of rear seats that fold out of the boot floor. If carrying capacity is your top priority, then there’s always the five-seat version, which boasts a vast 585-litre load bay.

Yet there’s style to match the substance because the Hyundai’s interior is eye-catchingly designed and finished with top-notch materials, while all versions come with enough equipment to shame a luxury limousine.

There’s also a choice of two and four-wheel-drive transmissions — the latter gets useful additions for off-roading such as a differential lock and hill descent control.

The Santa Fe’s qualities shine through on the road, too, where you’ll discover assured handling, an absorbent ride and decent refinement. Further highlights include a high-set driving position that gives you a commanding view of your surroundings and the choice of precise six-speed manual or unobtrusive automatic gearboxes.

On this evidence, it’s not hard to see why the Hyundai has maintained its grip on the large SUV class.

Now in its third generation, the Hyundai Santa Fe SUV is available as either a five or seven-seater, thanks to its top-quality interior, practicality and generous kit.

Overall then, the Santa Fe is a solid all-round big family car. That’s why it won the award for Auto Express’ Best SUV too. The Hyundai Santa Fe was also awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.

It scored an impressive 96 per cent for adult protection and as standard, it comes with seven airbags, a strengthened body shell and electronic stability control (ESP).