We had planned to drive the Santa Fe from the Blue Mountains to Bundaberg in Queensland, and catch up with some old friends along the way.
But COVID put a stop to that. In fact, it’s the second major holiday we’ve had to cancel because of the pandemic — and we are probably not the only ones in that boat.
So, instead of a few thousand kilometres, we managed only to clock up 700km or so behind the wheel in the time we had the car — disappointing, but what can you do?
All is not lost, however, because it’s an opportunity to tell you about the features that make the seven-seater an ideal choice to weather a pandemic.
What’s it cost?
There’s four models, priced from $44,700 plus on-roads.
And they are all available with a choice of 3.5-litre petrol V6 or 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four cylinder engines, all with an eight-speed automatic.
The auto in the V6 is a standard slush box, but the turbo-diesel acquires a dual-clutch style auto — I guess they felt it was a better fit.
If you’re going out (bearing in mind that everyone is encouraged to stay home), then you may as well go out in style — and in this case that equates to the top of the line Santa Fe Highlander 2.2-litre CRDi.
The diesel adds $3500 to the price, but it’s worth considering because it boasts better performance and and uses very little fuel.
That means less fill-ups and that in turn reduces the number of encounters with random, possibly infected strangers.
Premium paint by the way adds $695 and a camel or cognac brown interior is an extra $295.
When you tick the box for the diesel, you also step up from two- to all-wheel drive, and that’s reassuring to know if things really go south.
With Multi-Terrain modes to take the guess out of off-roading, you and the family will be able to go bush with confidence, leaving civilisation behind.
Other worthwhile features include climate air conditioning, with rear outlets and controls — plus a cabin air filter to keep out the nasty germs.
Unfortunately, the filter is a standard one, but can be replaced by an aftermarket PM2.5 rated filter from one of the big auto parts retailers.
The power tailgate also comes into its own for click/drive and collect at your local shopping mall, another potential source of infection.
But a separate boot is a better option because it provides total isolation, so probably best to fit a mask before you hit the button.
Stay in the car, push the tailgate release and they can place your groceries in the rear, without any need for social contact.
There’s also a 12 volt outlet provided in the luggage area for a car fridge. You have got one, haven’t you?
Of course, you’re probably thinking a heavy duty 4×4 might be a better option at this point.
But hey, let’s not get carried away.
I for one would be reluctant to give up Nappa leather, ambiente lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, heated steering wheel, driver seat memory and that ginormous sunroof — which brings back memories of the ‘chariot’ from TV’s Lost In Space.
The 360 degree monitor is also handy to warn of any approaching hostiles, while the big 10.25-inch touchscreen comes with voice control, built-in navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
That’s plenty of entertainment to while away the hours while you’re waiting in one of the many long queues for a COVID test.
There’s also Qi wireless phone charging and premium 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio.
Rear DVD screens would have been nice addition to keep the hostiles in the back quiet.
Standard driver assistance includes Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist with Junction Turning (FCA-JT), Driver Attention Warning (DAW) and Blind-Spot Collision Avoidance-Assist (BCA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA) and Smart Cruise Control (SCC) with Stop & Go.