Best large SUV: New Car Awards 2014

The Hyundai Santa Fe is the 2014 Auto Express large SUV of the Year, with the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport commended

There have been a number of new arrivals to the large SUV class in the past 12 months, but none has been able to knock the Hyundai Santa Fe off its top spot.

A year on from its maiden win, the stylish and capable Hyundai continues to prove that the Korean brand is now a serious player in the mainstream marketplace. For instance, it has the sort of eye-catching exterior styling you’d expect from a much more expensive premium machine, while the interior effortlessly blends desirability and versatility.

Best 4x4s and SUVs

At the heart of its appeal as a family-friendly SUV is its ability to accommodate seven people, thanks to the addition of a neat pair of rear seats that fold out of the boot floor. If carrying capacity is your top priority, then there’s always the five-seat version, which boasts a vast 585-litre load bay.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium interior

Yet there’s style to match the substance, because the Hyundai’s interior is eye-catchingly designed and finished with top-notch materials, while all versions come with enough equipment to shame a luxury limousine. And while there’s only one engine option, the 2.2-litre CRDi diesel is smooth, punchy and surprisingly efficient. There’s also a choice of two and four-wheel-drive transmissions – the latter gets useful additions for off-roading, such as a differential lock and hill descent control.

The Santa Fe’s qualities shine through on the road, too, where you’ll discover assured handling, an absorbent ride and decent refinement. Further highlights include a high-set driving position that gives you a commanding view of your surroundings and the choice of precise six-speed manual or unobtrusive automatic gearboxes.

If you’re still not convinced, check out the value-for-money prices and excellent five-year warranty. On this evidence, it’s not hard to see why the Hyundai has maintained its grip on the large SUV class.

Our choice:

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi seven-seat 4WD Premium (£31,220)

The 2.2-litre diesel is the only engine, so it’s just a case of picking the right trim. We think the well equipped Premium model in seven-seat 4WD guise is all the SUV you’ll need.

Commended large SUVs

Land Rover Discovery

Land Rover Discovery 2014 action

A recent facelift has helped keep the hugely desirable Land Rover Discovery at the top of its game. Imposing looks, an incredibly practical interior and superb off-road ability are the car’s major calling cards. Yet it’s just as capable on the road, and the V6 diesel serves up effortless performance.

Range Rover Sport

Range Rover Sport SDV8 front action

It’s not the cheapest choice, but the Range Rover Sport’s blend of abilities is hard to ignore. Lightweight aluminium build and clever air-suspension mean agile handling, while the brand’s trademark off-road expertise means few models can compete with a Sport in the rough stuff.

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