I knew what I wanted to drive over Christmas long, long before the season drew close. Before the first snow flake glimmered in the air I had my choice made. Would I like an exotic all-wheel-drive sports car? Yes, but no one would give me one. So perhaps some tough and rugged status symbol to assert my parking-lot dominance in while shopping?


My needs were very simple. It’s Christmas. That means ferrying my family and my in-laws around. I’m on designated-driver duty each season – probably because when I’m drunk I say things I mean to my in-laws – so I need seats for at least six people. I have a small daughter, so I need room for the wrong-and-broken amount of presents she is ruined with each year. And there’s a chance I’ll need to do a run out into cottage country up North. Oh, and in Canada, Christmas only exists to distract you from the snow-blown, frozen hell that is winter.

So I need a six-seater with lots of room, heated seats and steering wheel, and enough all-wheel-drive capability and ground clearance to get me where I need to go. I need, therefore, a 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL. And I got one.

From loading it up with presents to take to my father-in-law’s house, to carting my notoriously fussy sister-in-law around, I planned to put the XL through its paces in a pretty big way.

Hyundai may be transcending its “budget” brand image, but the Santa Fe XL is priced from $34,749 in base AWD form. There’s a FWD model for $29,999 but that is the very definition of a “marketing special”.

This trim was the middle trim, $39,949 Luxury six-passenger. There are seven-passenger variants of both Luxury and Limited trims which are $200 cheaper than their six-passenger counterparts. Top-tier Limited also gets an eight-inch infotainment screen with navigation, plus the option of Saddle Leather, which we loved when we tested it in 2014.

For this Christmas I was saddled (get it?) with only the black leather and the 4.2-inch infotainment screen. Boo hoo hoo. I’m being facetious here. The Santa Fe XL feels really luxurious inside, the black leather is a decent quality, the steering wheel feels well-sized and the overall cabin styling is welcoming and homely. I didn’t even mind the lacquered fake wood in the dash – a material I usually rage about.

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