David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
The Hyundai Santa Fe has a loyal following in caravanning circles. The latest generation is the best yet, provided you're not put off by the relatively high cost. Prices start from £33,425. That buys you an entry-level front-wheel drive model. That's not cheap when the Kia Sorento costs from £30,225 with four-wheel drive. However, Hyundai would argue the Santa Fe's quality, specification and driving experience justify its premium pricing.
Step inside and the overall impression is of a modern and well made interior, although there are some hard plastics on the lower dash and doors. The cabin is packed with tech. Two of the three trim levels come with an eight-inch touchscreen sat nav, mounted high on the dash where it's easy to see without taking your eyes off the road. And the range-topping model has a head-up display which projects information such as the car's speed directly into the driver's line of sight.
The technology isn't restricted to things you can see in the cabin. Safety aids include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition are standard. There's also a lane departure warning system which will gently steer the car back into the lane if it starts to drift out without indicating.
Go for one of the top-end models and the list of driver aids gets longer, with a system which warns if traffic is approaching while reversing out of a parking bay. On the range-topping model this system will even brake if the driver fails to do so.
Highlights for tow car drivers
Tow car drivers haven't been forgotten. A trailer stability system to help combat snaking is standard across the board, as is self-levelling suspension and a rear-view camera – always a great help when hitching up to a caravan.
As well as towing friendly equipment, the Santa Fe has the kerbweight, towing limit and performance to make a heavy-duty tow car.
Two-wheel-drive manual models weigh from 1825-1950kg, depending on specification. The 4x4 versions are likely to be of most interest to caravanners, and these have a kerbweight of 1890-2015kg if you choose the six-speed manual gearbox, to 1895-2020kg with the eight-speed auto.
That gives a minimum 85% match figure of 1611kg for the auto 4x4. The legal towing limit is 2000kg for the automatic, and 2500kg for the manual. The maximum noseweight is 100kg across the board.
Capable engine carried forward
The engine should comfortably pull a big tourer. It's carried over from the old model, but that's no bad thing when it produces a hefty 325lb ft of torque from 1750-2750rpm.
In our automatic test car the 2.2-litre diesel delivered the kind of punch that should make short work of towing a twin-axle caravan. The 'box shifts smoothly, although more eager downshifts would really make the most of the engine's mid-range muscle.
It's not easy to judge whether a car will make a stable tow car on a solo test drive, but the signs are good. The Santa Fe's suspension is firmly controlled and the car corners with little lean, which usually bodes well for stability with a caravan in tow. It's not as crisp to drive as a BMW X3, but it's more fun that you'd expect to steer down a twisting country road.
Around town we'd like a little more compliance, and really sharp bumps are felt and heard with an audible thud. But if that's the price of secure and stress-free towing it's one we'd be happy to pay.
On a lengthy towing journey the whole family will appreciate how roomy the cabin is. Well, so long as there are no more than five of you. It may be a seven-seater, but the third row is relatively cramped, although you can say much the same of seats six and seven in the Santa Fe's rivals.
In the front of the car there's lots of space to stretch out and the kind of high-up, supportive driving position most drivers are looking for in an SUV. Top-spec cars come with a panoramic sunroof, but headroom is plentiful even so.
There's lots of storage space, too, with generous door bins and plenty of room under the driver's arm rest.
Those in the middle row have plenty of room, as well as the convenience of a 12v socket and two USB sockets to keep mobiles and tablets charged up on the go. There's enough legroom for a long-limbed adult to get comfortable behind a tall driver, and the car is wide enough to seat three across the centre row without too much bumping of elbows.
The middle row slides back and forth on runners, so it's possible for those in the middle to trade a little legroom to make those in the back more comfortable.
With all seven seats upright boot space is modest, but with the rear seats stowed there's lots of space for holiday luggage. Clever thinking has gone into the design, such as the space beneath the boot floor to store the parcel shelf when it's not needed.
Respectable equipment count
All models have a respectable list of standard equipment, and range-topping models are downright luxurious. SE cars have 17-inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable lumbar support of the driver's seat, dual-zone climate control, a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Premium cars add more goodies including leather upholstery, LED rather than halogen headlights, hands-free opening of the tailgate, heated front seats, wireless charging of compatible mobile phones and an uprated stereo. Premium SE cars add ventilation to the front seats as well as heating, an around-view camera system to assist with parking, and more.
If the long list of top-spec toys tempts you, keep in mind that the range-topping 2.2 CRDi Premium SE 4WD Automatic costs £43,295. A couple of generations ago the Santa Fe was a very affordable SUV, but that kind of price pushes the Hyundai into the same territory as cars with much more prestigious badges.
Try out a new Santa Fe with Practical Caravan
However, the performance, technology and practicality of the new Santa Fe make it one of the best SUVs you can buy for around £40,000. We look forward to towing with one soon. And if you are free to join us at an exclusive reader event on Thursday 4 October, you could soon be towing with a Santa Fe too...
Practical Caravan is offering readers the chance to tow test the new Hyundai Santa Fe at an exclusive event next month.
The test drives will begin at Broad Lane Leisure's Kenilworth branch. There will also be a presentation on the new Santa Fe by representatives of Hyundai. Attendees will also be able to see Broad Lane's new 2019 range of caravans, including the Swift Fairway dealer special.
The reader test drives will take place on Thursday 4 October, starting at 10am. Anyone taking a test drive will need a full B+E licence, and will have to submit a copy of their licence along with a licence check code in order to attend the event. To meet the insurance requirements readers must be aged between 25 and 70.
All attendees must be happy to give their opinion of the new Santa Fe for a feature in the magazine, and be willing to be photographed. Places on the event are limited to ensure everyone who attends has sufficient time with the car.
A light lunch and refreshments will be provided, but readers must be happy to pay their own travel expenses.
If you would like to attend the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address and phone number. Please also name your current car and caravan, and indicate a preference for a morning or afternoon time slot (individuals and couples will have approximately an hour with the car in total).