Hyundai Santa Fe firing on all cylinders

THE Aussie family sedan may be on the way out but it seems we’re not quite over six-cylinder power.

Despite the availability of strong, frugal diesels in most large SUVs, plenty of buyers are still opting for petrol engines.

Toyota’s Kluger lacks a diesel variant but remains the second-best selling large SUV, which has prompted Hyundai to put a toe back in the water in the segment with a new V6 petrol version of its Santa Fe.

The company earlier dumped its V6 petrol Santa Fe but has released a special edition run of 300 V6s to celebrate 30 years in Australia.

The new 3.3-litre V6 puts out a healthy 199kW and 318Nm of torque but that’s not the special edition’s only plus.

It is priced at $39,990 drive-away, cheaper than the four-cylinder petrol Santa Fe.

That price includes leather-appointed seats, metallic paint, 19-inch alloys, rear privacy glass and dual-zone airconditioning.

Hyundai boss Scott Grant said that depending on how the model is received, the company might look at other limited edition runs or “add it to the line-up as a permanent feature”.

He said that for many women on the school run “a petrol is still more appealing to fill up at a bowser than a diesel”.

He also believes a V6 Santa Fe may tempt people stepping out of the Falcon, Territory and Commodore as local manufacturing draws to a close.

The special edition is a front-drive version of the Santa Fe.

There is a gentle tug at the steering wheel under hard acceleration and you can chirp the front wheels if you’re too enthusiastic with the accelerator but ultimately Hyundai’s engineers have done a good job of harnessing the extra power.

On the open road, it’s easy to see why Australians fell in love with six-cylinder power.

Unlike in a diesel, throttle response is instantaneous when you’re on the move, which allows you to make the most of short overtaking lanes on country back roads.

The sound under full throttle is also more satisfying, while the six-speed auto is slick-shifting, creating a sportier feel than the average family wagon.

The official label claims an average fuel economy of 9.6litres/100km; we logged about 11.0/100km on our highway run, although that was fully loaded with five adults and, in the 516L of boot space, their luggage.

On the whole, the rest of the Santa Fe engineering package is up to the job of dealing with the extra power.

The steering is well weighted and the suspension keeps the big wagon planted through the bends despite the body lean that’s typical of high-riding SUVs.

The 19-inch wheels on our test car meant the Santa Fe didn’t soak up the bumps as well as other versions we’ve driven.

However, the ride is still comfortable over all but the most pockmarked of surfaces.

The parking brake is an old-school foot-operated job and there’s no built-in satnav, but the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto means you can hook up your smartphone and use Google Maps, which works well.

Verdict: The V6 Santa Fe is an attractive, well priced alternative for those who can’t yet wean themselves off six-cylinder petrol power.