ASPHALT AND BATTERIES

A BIZARRE PICTURE OF DOMESTIC BLISS IN BULLY’ NEW HYUNDAI

GED BULMER

HYUNDAI SANTA FE HIGHLANDER

Price as tested: $61,490

This month: 578km @ 11.7L/100km

EDITOR Inwood’s desire to revamp the look, feel and editorial direction of your favourite motoring magazine extended to every nook and cranny of this august organ. And so the edict to writers in this long-termers section was to step it up a level and ensure that every update has both a bespoke focus and an accompanying photographic record.

No problem: I had a brand new Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander gleaming in the driveway, and all the requisite familial accoutrements to bring to life a moment of suburban bliss. But to properly sketch this picture of clichéd domesticity, we really needed a pooch.

It occurred to me that somewhere in a long-since discarded toy box, buried beneath headless Barbies and broken fairy wings, slept Biscuit, the batterypowered pup. With a king’s ransom of D-cells wedged up his clacker, Biscuit would sit up and beg, lie down and sleep, shake hands, wag his tail, bark, whimper – basically do everything short of fetch … or crap on your floor.

Which explains the photo, but you’re probably also wondering about the car. It’s lovely, thanks, even if we did have to wait six weeks for this top-spec version (in Stormy Sea blue) to arrive on a slow boat from North East Asia.

It seems the Korean giant’s impressive new seven-seater is proving popular. And why wouldn’t it, loaded to the gills as it is with all manner of safety, comfort and convenience features, which in this trim includes a sprightly 147kW/440Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder, mated to a responsive eight-speed auto. Add to that styling that looks like it’s just stepped out of the pages of European Central Casting, and both a five-star ANCAP safety rating and a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

If you really want to spoil yourself, this top-of-the-range diesel-only Highlander AWD costs $60,500 and boasts a list of standard kit as long as a Sydney train trip on New Year’s Eve. Options are few, but we’ve ticked the coloured leather trim and premium paint box ($695), plus the $295 Burgundy interior option which brings carbonfibre-effect inserts, and suede on the pillars, sun visors and headlining. And before you ask, no, the suede is not blue.

Styling wise, it’s a handsome beast, with a simpler, cleaner profile than its fussily folded and creased predecessors, utilising tasteful fillets of carbon-effect detailing on the grille and elsewhere. The prestige overtones carry on inside, where improvements in design and material quality are evident.

However, as you’ll see elsewhere in the COTY coverage of this issue, there were some valid questions raised about the price gulf between this Highlander and lesser variants in the Santa Fe range and as to whether a Hyundai SUV can even carry a $60K price tag.

On the exposure we’ve had to the Santa Fe thus far, I have to say my view is ‘yes’, and that on spec and visuals alone, it aces the family friendly brief.

GED BULMER