CONFESSION time – this is the first Hyundai I’ve not felt self-conscious driving.
Yes, I know that marks me out as an utter brand snob, but I’m not unusual in this country – the surge in sales from prestige marques shows that the majority of us feel the same way.
And, let’s face it, cars from South Korea have lacked the pedigree to make them an automatic choice among the more established brands.
But the new Santa Fe is changing that perception. Here is an SUV powered by a modern diesel engine with sleek styling, decent interior and an all-round feel of being infinitely better than anything to have ever before come out of the country.
Looks-wise, the Santa Fe is pure European with its slanted back headlights and chunky rear end styling.
With SUV sales in the fleet sector up by nearly 10% this year, it’s a look you need to tap in to this profitable market.
The styling manages to escape some of Hyundai’s more quirky offerings from the past, and also brings some elegance to a sector where butch is the norm.
On the inside the transformation continues, with a stylish dashboard featuring a dominant centre console.
With a metallic background and some wooden trim finish this lifts the pervasive darkness of the rest of the interior.
Everything has a quality feel to it, except the seats. Our test car came with a strange material which featured ribbed stitching and after a few miles behind the wheel the seat fabric became scratchy and irritating.
But that’s the only moan about the driving experience, because everywhere else it is as good as the very best in the sector.
The diesel engine is refined and, with 150bhp, offers decent performance. The ride is also comfortable, erring on the softer side to soak up bumps through the long travel suspension.
And, for a car of this type, it handles competently, too, offering little in the way of body roll during cornering.
As an all-round package the Santa Fe is hard to fault, and with the option of making it a seven-seater for just £600 more, it should have a wide appeal.
However, even in entry-level trim it is relatively expensive – costing £1,000 more than a Sport-spec Honda CR-V.
P11D value £20,762
CO2 emissions (g/km) 193
BIK % of P11D in 2006 28%
Graduated VED rate £195
Insurance group 13
Combined mpg 38.7
CAP RV (3yr/60k) £6,700/32%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k) £472
We don’t like
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
WE’VE chosen entry-level models costing around £20,000 for this test, although a cheaper Honda is available in SE trim. The Nissan is also available as a two-wheel drive version. The Sorento leads the way on front-end price and costs exactly £1,000 less than the Hyundai.
Santa Fe: £20,762
EMISSIONS AND TAX RATES
WITH easily the lowest CO2 emissions, the Honda offers drivers the lowest company car tax bills, costing a 40% taxpayer £171 a month. The Hyundai is the next cheapest, costing the same driver £194. The Nissan and Kia will both cost £197 a month in BIK tax.
Santa Fe: 193g/km/28%
THE Honda is likely to be the cheapest to service, maintain and repair over three years/60,000 miles, costing £2,142, or 3.57ppm. The Nissan runs it close but the two South Korean cars lag well behind thanks to higher garage labour rates and more expensive tyres.
CR-V: 3.57(pence per mile) £2,142 (60,000 miles total)
X-trail: 3.81 £2,286
Sorento: 4.33 £2,598
Santa Fe: 5.22 £3,132
THE Honda leads the way on fuel costs, returning a claimed 42.2mpg on the combined cycle. This will result in a diesel bill of nearly £6,500, or 10.76ppm, over 60,000 miles. None of the rest get close, with the second-placed Hyundai nearly 1ppm further back.
CR-V: 10.76 (pence per mile) £6,456 (60,000 miles total)
Santa Fe: 11.73 £7,038
X-trail: 12.20 £7,320
Sorento: 12.37 £7,422
CAP estimates the Honda will retain 42% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. The CR-V’s closest challenge comes from the Nissan, which will retain 39%. The Kia will retain 33% and the new Santa Fe a lowly 32% – its high front-end price counting against it.
CR-V: 19.50 (pence per mile) £11,700 (60,000 mile total)
X-trail: 20.22 £12,132
Sorento: 21.56 £12,936
Santa Fe: 23.10 £13,860
WITH best-in-test performances in each of the running cost sections, it’s no surprise that the Honda wins outright. At a shade under 34ppm to run, the CR-V has a huge running costs advantage over the other three – especially the Santa Fe which is more than 6ppm more expensive.
CR-V: 33.83 (pence per mile) £20,298 (60,000 miles total)
X-trail: 36.23 £21,738
Sorento: 38.26 £22,956
Santa Fe: 40.05 £24,030
WHILE the Hyundai Santa Fe impresses in many areas such as quality, looks and driveability, there’s one aspect in which it disappoints. With a running cost figure of just over 40ppm it costs a not inconsiderable 6ppm more to run over a typical fleet lifecycle than the CR-V. Factor in the Honda’s excellent engine, build quality, much cheaper benefit-in-kind tax bill and more prestigious badge and it is the clear winner here.