The Hyundai Santa Fe Elite offers an attractive package for those in the market for a seven-seat SUV.
As a mum there are certain things I look for in a car and at first glance the Hyundai Santa Fe would appear to tick all of the boxes on the practical side of that list.
Family friendly with seven seats and that high SUV driving position that seems to now top the list of 'needs' for the average Aussie parental unit looking for a family hauler, the Santa Fe is an appealing option.
As well as the practical side though, looks and a bit of fun are also on my list. How does the Santa Fe stack up in the 'cool' stakes? I don't want to cross that line into 'daggy, but I don't care what it looks like, so long as it does the job' mindset.
The Santa Fe is, in my opinion, a good looking SUV. The Elite variant is the mid-spec and has a few little extras over the Active base model, like 18-inch alloy wheels, stamped scuff plates and chrome finishes on the exterior.
Climbing into it for the first time, the first thing I noticed was the huge air-vents bordering the sides of the seven-inch display - they look like alien-insect eyes. The interior features satin-chrome touches, carbon fibre effect finishes and large, easy to use buttons, leather seats and an electrically adjustable driver's seat. Though the buttons are big, the shape of the dash and centre console remind me of Robert Downey Jnr's Iron Man mask.
The styling is a little unnerving and though distinctive, it's very angular and dominates the interior.
The cabin is large and airy, with plenty of space for passengers of all sizes with luggage of all shapes. Lucky, because my first job was to collect a bunch of 13-year-olds and deliver them to their chosen location to film a school project.
My daughter, plus three ring-ins all piled in, with school bags, musical instruments, sporting equipment, slushies and snacks.
Needless to say, the Santa Fe could easily accommodate the gaggle of giggling girls and their associated paraphernalia.
We settled in for a 20-kilometre ride and while the girls played with the audio system (with a choice of radio, MP3, CD player, USB and bluetooth connectivity), I was able to enjoy the drive.
The 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine purred along nicely, it produces 145kW and 421Nm of torque and is no slouch. Our test model had a six-speed automatic transmission with on-demand all-wheel-drive.
There are four variants in the Santa Fe range, a 2.4-litre petrol only in Active spec, and a 2.2-litre diesel engine in Active, Elite or Highlander spec.
As always, you'll pay extra for the diesel. Starting with the Active petrol variant at $38,490 before on-road costs, the Active diesel adds $3000, stepping up to Elite attracts a $7000 premium on top of that, while the Highlander tops the range at $53,420. Read the full pricing and specification list here.
There are a few perks with the Highlander, like 19-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, park assist and lane departure warning, but the Elite still gets extras like an electronic park brake, auto dimming rear-view mirror, push button start, satellite navigation, rain sensing wipers and LCD centre display, as well as the rear-view camera and rear park assist that's standard across the line.
It's an impressive list that almost negates the need to jump up to the top spec to get fancy features at your fingertips.
Through the duration of the working-week, the Santa Fe proved to be comfortable and an easy urban commuter. Around town you'll hear the diesel churning along, but it's not intrusive.
Out of town however, the diesel drone isn't anywhere near as noticeable. The weekend involved a trip out of town, purely just to get out of town.
Of course the young ones wanted to ride in the third-row, and there is a bit of a trick to getting past the second-row. If previous second-row passengers have moved the seats back to get comfortable, it's difficult to pop the third row up. Easily fixed though, and something to keep in mind if you're going to use the third row regularly.
The second row is a 40/20/40 split with the passenger side able to fold and slide, but the driver side only folds. A tip to remember is that there is a release on the top of the middle row seat that allows it to fold and slide, the lever at the seat base only folds the seat making it hard to squish through the gap if you forget (or can't find) that elusive top release lever. Not the easiest third-row access mechanism on the market.
It was a pleasant surprise to find the under-floor storage compartment in the boot - very handy!
I wouldn't go so far as to say the Santa Fe is luxurious, but it certainly does the job of a family SUV well, despite there being a few minor annoyances to get used to. Nor will it satisfy any serious need for speed, but it looks smart on the road and overall it's practicality wins hearts.
But... I am looking forward to testing the new sportier looking Santa Fe SR.