Current Mileage: 1,490
Following the current trend for upsizing models, the new Santa Fe, due in early 2006, is set to rival the BMW X5 for size, although it will have to take a big leap to rival it for quality, power, aspirational appeal and refinement.
Consequently the current Santa Fe now sits in a bit of a blind spot in the Hyundai model line-up. The new Tucson is based on the same platform, and will be a more obvious rival for the likes of the Toyota RAV-4 and Land Rover Freelander when the larger Santa Fe is introduced. In the very competitive and every increasing medium SUV sector, the Tucson would seem to make more sense.
But there is something about the Santa Fe which still appeals. The styling may not be as sharp or sleek as the Tucson and the handling is a little on the soft side, but it has a lot of road presence and the recent facelift which included new front and rear lights and bumpers have kept it looking modern.
Unfortunately our main gripe with the Tucson – it’s fuel economy, or rather lack of it – looks as though it will continue to be a gripe with the Santa Fe. With the same 2.0-litre diesel engine and four speed automatic gearbox the economy is nowhere close to achieving the manufacturer’s claimed 40mpg, even with lots of long distance cruising.
The interior is fairly uneventful but seems good quality with no squeaks or rattles apparent yet. The leather seats are comfortable and there is noticeably more driver and passenger space than in the Tucson.
But where the Santa Fe really scores points is with its equipment levels.
Cruise control, ABS, leather seats, driver passenger and side airbags, heated mirrors and seats, electric sunroof and alloy wheels are all standard.
With prices starting at £17,995 for the diesel with a manual gearbox it’s a lot of car for a reasonable amount of money.
Price: £19,990 (as tested)
Engine: 2.0-litre CRTD, 111bhp, 192lb-ft torque
Performance: 0-62mph 14.9sec; top speed 103mph
Efficiency:39.8mpg (comb), 246g/km CO2
Transmission: 4sp automatic
Servicing: 10,000 miles
Optional extras: Privacy glass, satellite navigation
CAP RV (3/30):£6,550 (35%)
Rivals:Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V