HYUNDAI SANTA FE HIGHLANDER Price as tested: $61,490 This month: 605km @ 10.5L/100km

FOR MANY families, the decision to upgrade to a seven-seat vehicle is taken soon after news of the impending arrival of a new addition. That third child never eventuated for us – unless you count a pampered and slightly deranged Cavoodle named Bailey – but the extra pew has always held some allure, if only for when extra kids or rellos need to be accommodated.

On the occasions when the Santa Fe’s third row has needed to be deployed we’ve found it pleasingly easy to use.

I’ve been doing this motoring caper long enough to remember the hernias and slipped discs that came with the territory (no pun intended) of some of the early third-row arrangements, including the contortionist manoeuvres required just to get back there. But when I do send our kids scurrying like spiders to the third row to make way for a friend or a grown-up, there’s only a modest amount of whingeing, easily drowned out by the Santa Fe’s 10-speaker Infinity audio system.

Access to the 50:50-split third row is enabled via the 60:40 split-fold second row, which collapses and slides forward effortlessly at the touch of a button.

You wouldn’t direct Nana to “g’won, git back there”, but anyone short of an NBA point guard and with a modicum of spinal flexibility should be able to manage it, with a grip handle to help.

Hyundai has avoided that epic fail inflicted on us by some vehicle importers, and sited the shorter side of the split-fold second row seat on the passenger side, where you’re most likely to want to embark or disembark passengers. The presence of ISOFIX anchor points in the outboard seats of the second row is another win.

Individual air-vents for the second and third rows, and twin USB ports in the rear-centre console reduce the risk of back-seat internecine warfare.

The fact the third row folds neat and flat into the floor when not in use can’t be overstated, since we do far more driving four-up with a boot-load of luggage than six- or seven-up. Being able to use all 547 litres of luggage space without packing around humps or bumps has been medically proven to reduce dad’s blood pressure.