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Santa Fe has the best bits of SUVs without being showy.

YOU know, the cleverer car manufacturers out there might just have found market niches that at first seem completely unintuitive. The McLaren MP4 is the supercar for people who are embarrassed by supercars. The Ford S-MAX MPV sold to people who wouldn't be seen dead in an MPV. And this car, the Hyundai Santa Fe is an SUV for people who wouldn't normally entertain the prospect of one.

Most SUVs have been a bit showy; rather unnecessary vehicles that hint at pretences of rural affluence or urban bling. The Santa Fe has always been cut from rather different cloth. This third-generation model, introduced in 2012, might be a sharper looking thing than both its forebears but it remains a vehicle that's about good ideas and common sense first and foremost. You'll buy one of these if you value its utility. That and the fact that there's nothing about it that's annoying. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but if you're going to spend three years in its company, it's a value you'll greatly appreciate.

Its rivals have looked and learned from the Santa Fe's quiet rise to success and have upped their game accordingly. Does the latest car have enough ticks on the plus side of its ledger to make a convincing case for itself? Let's find out.

The Santa Fe is one of those cars that has become progressively better looking throughout its existence and this third-generation car hits all the right notes. The front end features a big grille and a high pedestrianfriendly bonnet line, with all of the lights and intakes a stylised trapezoidal shape. It looks agreeably expensive. Jump inside and the good news continues. We're getting used to some very smart Hyundai interiors these days and the Santa Fe doesn't deviate from that script one iota. There seem to be quite a variety of materials used on the fascia but the overall look and feel is attractive, the dash being dominated by a central screen flanked by these big air vents. Then you've got stereo and ventilation controls below, with quite a few of these functions replicated on the steering wheel. The four-wheel drive running gear controls are mounted just to the right of the steering wheel.

The three-berth middle row slides back and forth which is a boon when you've got adult passengers behind you but the middle row of seats don't tumble which means that if you do specify your car with the two occasional seats in the back, access isn't as good as in some rivals. On the plus side, those rearmost seats do fold very neatly away into the floor, which means a decent amount of space in the boot when you're travelling in five-seater mode. Luggage space has been increased by 37mm in depth over the previous generation model, yielding a capacity of 534 litres with the front five seats upright.

The Hyundai Santa Fe has improved and improved fast. Its predecessor was a really solid vehicle that now looks a great used buy, but this one has stepped it up more convincingly than we thought possible.

In fact it's a great choice if you've never really considered an SUV before. It's not showy or offensive. In fact it marries all the best bits of SUVs, namely their space, versatility and ease of ownership with the refreshing lack of drama of a normal big family car. Although there's no choice when it comes to engines, UK buyers can decide whether they want front or four-wheel-drive and five seats or seven. Plus there's auto or manual transmissions and a range of trim levels, so Hyundai have most customer eventualities covered off. If you've got a family, have room in your life for one car and need one that'll discreetly go the distance without a hiccup, you need to try the Hyundai Santa Fe. Then try its rivals. I'm guessing you'll be back at the Hyundai dealer before too long. It's that good

CAPTION(S):

14 14 HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2.2 CRD Premium SE 5dr (seven-seater). Hyundai warranty until August 2019, one owner, spare key supplied, six speed, panoramic roof, touchscreen satellite navigation with Map Care, parking guidance system and premium sound system. Full leather, 19in alloy wheel with locking wheel nuts, dual-zone climate control with humidity sensor and Ioniser, heated front seats, rear air-conditioning, privacy glass, rear-view parking camera, 9k, black, half-leatherPS26,995

14 63 MINI 1.6 ONE 2dr convertible. MINI warranty until March 2017, one owner, spare key supplied, Media pack = Satellite navigation & Bluetooth, 18"Alloys, TLC pack = free servicing at any Mini dealer until Feb 2019, Multi-function sport steering wheel, silver touched truffle hood, Front arm rest, Phone USB audio interface, On board computer, six-speed, Radio BOOST CD with AUX-In Connection in Centre Console Storage Compartment, manual air conditioning, 9k, ice blue.PS13,995
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:1U8NM
Date:May 17, 2015
Words:809
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