Hyundai Santa Fe: car review
An appealing SUV with a powerful engine and roomy cabin
What is it?
The new Santa Fe is the third generation of Hyundai’s 4×4. It promises better economy, lower emissions and a more practical cabin than before. Sharper styling is matched to sharper handling, with UK-specific settings for the suspension.
Would it help me stay safe?
We’d say so, yes. All cars have seven airbags and an ‘active’ bonnet which should reduce pedestrian injuries in a collision.
Who should buy it and how much does it cost?
If you want to sit up high and have space for the family the Santa Fe should very definitely be on your shortlist. Prices start from £25,495.
Our review: Good Motoring, Winter 2012
DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
There’s only one engine available with the Santa Fe, a 2.2-litre diesel. There’s no arguing with the performance. With 194bhp and 311lb/ft of torque (322lb/ft with the automatic transmission), there’s more than enough poke to get this big 4×4 moving at quite a rate. The engine pulls with determination even from low revs, so even if you’re lazy about changing gear the Santa Fe doesn’t complain.
The six-speed manual gearbox isn’t as slick as some, but it’s certainly not obstructive. Even so, Hyundai expects the automatic gearbox to be more popular. The six-speeder swaps ratios smoothly and has a manual override for drivers to take charge themselves.
Show the Santa Fe a twisting country road and it stays neat and composed for a car with a kerbweight knocking on the door of two tonnes. Damper settings which have been chosen specifically for UK roads give a firm, tied down feel over dips and crests. Keen drivers will definitely prefer the BMW X3, but the new Santa Fe is certainly more fun than the old car.
At lower speeds there’s a stiff edge to the Santa Fe’s ride, but it’s far from uncomfortable. Head onto the motorway and impressive stability at speeds suggests the Hyundai will make a fine choice for anyone with a boat, horsebox or caravan to pull.
For the most part the cabin is a quiet, even at the legal limit, but wind noise from around the door mirrors is intrusive.
SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Hyundai hopes to hold on to the Santa Fe’s existing customers while attracting buyers who might otherwise have spent their money in an Audi or BMW showroom. That’s reflected in the effort which has gone into the cabin, which is more practical than before and looks and feels more expensive.
There’s a choice of five and seven seat versions. Anyone in seats one to five has acres of room to stretch out, and the middle row seats slide back and forth and recline.
The seven-seater’s third row is not especially roomy and the thick rear pillars give a claustrophobic feel. However, Hyundai has taken the trouble to provide air vents for those cooped up in the back. What’s more, if those in the middle row cooperate and slide their seats forward a little, adults should manage long drives without too much discomfort. However, getting in and out of the third row is awkward as the second row seat bases don’t tip forward out of the way.
With seven seats in place there’s little room for luggage but as a with the rearmost seats folded away there’s 516 litres. Tip the middle row down and the luggage capacity increases to 1615 litres. Go for the five seat model and those figures increase to 585 litres and 1680 litres.
While we’re listing the Santa Fe’s practical features, it’s worth noting that every version comes with a full-sized spare wheel.
That kind of practical detail probably won’t excite an Audi buyer, who will be more interested in the cabin’s new-found design flair and soft-touch plastics. To some eyes the dashboard may look a little fussy, but there’s no arguing that the standard of finish has taken a big step forward.
Every car comes with seven airbags to help protect driver and passengers should the worst happen, and stability control to make then worst less likely. There’s also Trailer Stability Assist to help counter a ‘snake’ when towing.
At the time of writing the Santa Fe hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but Hyundai is predicting a five-star verdict. The NCAP score for pedestrian protection should be boosted by the Santa Fe’s Active Hood System, which lifts the bonnet up to put more distance between the pedestrian and the engine.
Visibility to the front and side is fine, but the thick rear pillars get in the way when reversing.
The new Santa Fe may be more expensive than the old car, but Hyundai argues that there’s £1500 worth of extra kit on the entry-level Style model. It comes with air conditioning, 18-inch alloys, Bluetooth, cruise control, electric front and rear windows, front fog lights and rear parking sensors.
Step up to Premium for dual-zone climate control, electrically folding door mirrors, leather seat facings, rain-sensing wipers, roof rails, an uprated stereo, touch-screen sat-nav, a rear-view camera and a parking guidance camera.
Premium SE models add larger alloys (19-inch), electric driver’s seat height adjustment, front parking sensors, headlight washers, keyless entry, a panoramic sunroof and xenon headlights.
All seven-seat models have self-levelling suspension, which isn’t available on the five-seater.
Forget the days when Hyundai was a budget brand. The Santa Fe has moved upmarket, and the prices reflect that.
The rises can be softened by choosing the two-wheel-drive version, which costs £25,495. It achieves 47.9mpg and emits 155g/km of CO2, according to official figures.
The cheapest four-wheel drive is £26,895. Fuel bills shouldn’t be too different, with the promise of 46.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 159g/km.
If you want to keep costs down, think twice about the auto which returns 41.5mpg and emits 178g/km.
Insurance group ratings are lower than those of most competitors, and every car comes with Hyundai’s five-year warranty package.
An appealing SUV with a powerful engine and roomy cabin.
AT A GLANCE:
Performance: 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds
Tax: Band G (£170)
Verdict : 4/5
(Figures for 2.2 CRDi Premium 7st)