Way to Santa Fé: 'facelift' shows it ain't broken so no need to fix it
I have seldom taken a 'revised' car for a test drive with fewer changes to consider. To be honest, I was more concerned with re-acquainting myself with the Hyundai Santa Fé than assessing major developments. In some ways the Santa Fé has been overshadowed by the success of the smaller Tucson - the country's most popular vehicle.
The other reason for wishing to re-sample was that it is frequently mentioned when people talk seven-seater SUVs. I would have held it up as an example of a less expensive mid-SUV than the larger and newer Ford Edge, for example.
Admittedly, comparisons can be odious; the Edge is bigger and has demonstrably more cabin space - but only for five adults.
The Hyundai has seven and the third row is not the pigeon-hole I feared it would be. There is, as I know from queries here each week, a steady demand for 'occasional' seven-seaters such as this.
My test car had all-wheel-drive and was specced to the gills, narrowing the gap on price with the Edge to a few grand. Far more realistic, however, are the less opulent 2WD versions which start at around €40,000. Another key competitor around that mark is the KIA Sorento 7-seater AWD which outsold the Santa Fé in the first seven months of the year.
The Hyundai has a 2.2-litre diesel which invokes €390 road tax for manual and €750 (ouch!) for automatics (regardless of 2WD or 4WD). The 2WD auto is new and aimed at meeting demand, apparently, for such a transmission.
Standard spec on the entry-level Comfort 2WD (from €39,995) includes reverse parking camera, 17ins alloys, electric/folding mirrors etc. Way up the scale is the one I had on test: Premium 4WD Auto (from €53,745). It had leather upholstery (nice colour contrast), 18ins alloys, panorama sunroof, lane departure warning, stop/start etc. Visually they have tweaked a little here and there but not so much you'd really notice.
I'd baulk at the 4WD auto price/€750 tax but seven seats for around €40,000 for the 2WD manual is decent value.
Okay, I found the suspension a bit soft and wallowy but what mum or dad is going to drive it like me? It's a straightforward, comfortable car with plenty of room and an easy-to-use interface. It cruised easily and quietly. In town it didn't feel overly large and was easy to park.
It has been around a while too, which should mean niggling problems have been well ironed out. It did a lot of things well without fuss. The tailgate needs a better way to be pulled down and access to the third row of seats faces the perennial challenge of getting in and out.
But as a car for everyday family use, it answers a lot of questions: not least the one with the € sign in front if you choose carefully.