New car review: Hyundai Santa Fe EliteNew Car Reviews Motor Reviews Motor News
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite.
- Santa Fe
- Badge Description
- Sports Automatic
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Car Size
- People Movers
- Fuel Type Description
- Drive Description
- 4X4 On Demand
It's been a busy period for seven-seat sports utility vehicles in recent years and Hyundai has long been part of the mix with its Santa Fe. The lure of a stylish body and diesel engine has proved tempting for those looking to lower fuel bills while still getting all the bells and whistles.
Now there's a new Santa Fe - or, at least, mostly new. There's a new, lighter body and interior matched to the same four-cylinder engines.
For this test we've gone for the diesel that makes up the bulk of sales.
Price and equipment
Priced from $36,990, the Santa Fe isn't a bargain but it has more than enough toys to justify its price tag. Value shines through with seating for seven across all three trim levels - Active, Elite and flagship Highlander.
The diesel engine (standard on Elite and Highlander) adds $3000, while an auto costs a further $2000.
All come with a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, seven airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and driver's knee), alloy wheels, Bluetooth and automatic headlights.
The better-equipped Elite ($45,990) adds leather trim (mixed with some fake leather), larger (18-inch) alloys, smart key with push-button start (while you can leave the key in your pocket, you still have to push a button on the front door handles to unlock the car), electronic park brake, rain-sensing wipers, climate-control airconditioning, rear window blinds, satellite navigation and a larger colour touchscreen that better fills the dash, among other styling goodies.
At $49,990, the Highlander adds electric front seats, heating for the front and middle seats, glass panelling that stretches most of the length of the roof, whiter xenon headlights, LED rear lights and automatic-dimming mirrors.
Another win for the Santa Fe is a five-year warranty and capped-price servicing, with diesel costing $379 to service for the first five years.
The only major issue is the curtain airbags (which protects occupants' heads in a side impact) that don't cover the third row of seats.
Under the bonnet
The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is linear and smooth, with only a mild rumble at idle. There's a muscular 436Nm of torque (it drops slightly to 421Nm for the manual) that's easily accessible from as low as 1800rpm, which is exactly where it makes sense and will be accessed regularly. At 100km/h it's ticking over at exactly those revs and you get the impression the auto's claimed 2000-kilogram towing capacity won't faze it.
Squeeze the throttle from rest and it takes a fraction of a second to respond but once the turbo spins up there's a decent swell of flexible, usable performance. Speed builds steadily and consistently, and there's a usefulness to the engine's flexible spread, which peaks with a handy 145kW.
It works well with six-speed auto although you'll have to revert to the sequential shifter if you want it to hold gears more intelligently in hills or sporty driving.
Fuel use, too, is more than palatable for a seven-seater of this size, with the auto claimed to use an average of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres. And while we found it was closer to 10.5L/100km, it was still good for the style of vehicle.
How it drives
A diet and some extra attention with the suspension tuning have added much needed on-road maturity to the Santa Fe. While it's no class leader in terms of dynamics, it's now more stable and reassuring than the heavy, sometimes lumbering model for which it steps in. In corners it settles from bumps adeptly, while also providing a comfortable-enough ride. The large-ish alloy wheels of the Elite can jolt around over more aggressive speed humps and potholes, but generally the ride is compliant.
The 1.8-tonne heft still makes itself known when you get more eager, with the feeling it's leaning on its nose in corners, something that will have the front wheels sliding wide on slippery surfaces before the stability control gently steps in.
There's a hint of steering kickback on bumpy, higher-speed corners, but generally it's well shielded from unwanted nastiness. Some more feel would be appreciated rather than the sometimes inconsistent weighting at different levels of lock.
Comfort and practicality
There are some nice touches with the Santa Fe that make it feel more expensive than it is, such as the mirrors that fold when you lock the car before unfolding and lighting the ground as you approach the car.
That relies on the sensor key being in your pocket; you still have to press a button on the door handles (only on the front) or the tailgate to unlock all the doors (with others you only need to grab the door handle and open it).
The interior, too, feels upmarket with nice metallic touches and a quality feel to the materials, although the two different plastic grains on the dash clash.
There are quibbles, though; while the trip computer and graphics have good detail there's no digital speedo, and only 10km/h increments on the speedo.
There's also no separate clock and the one in the central screen doesn't always display, depending on what screen it's on.
It makes up marks for a clever seating configuration. The middle row is a 40/20/40 split-fold and there's a centre armrest if only two seats are being used. It can also slide forward and back, depending on space requirements.
Air vents flow to all three rows and those in the back even have their own fan controls. Unfortunately, they get only tiny rear-side windows, making outside vision a challenge.
With all seven seats in use, too, there's precious little boot space, although only five-up reveals a handy flat floor. The third row folds into the floor easily. There's even a retractable luggage blind and a small flap in the floor to house it.
Ford Territory TS
Engine 2.7-litre V6 diesel, 140kW/440Nm, 6-sp auto, AWD
Fuel use/CO2 emissions 8.8L/100km and 232g/km
Pros Punchy, refined diesel; practical interior; above-par ride and handling; strong towing credentials.
Cons Heavy; relatively expensive; no seat-mounted side airbags.
Our score 4/5
Kia Sorento SLi
Engine 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 145kW/436Nm, 6-sp auto, 4WD
Fuel use/CO2 emissions 7.4L/100km and 194g/km
Pros Strong diesel; plenty of gear; stylish cabin; five-year warranty; clever interior.
Cons Foot-operated park brake; feels nose-heavy; curtain airbags don't cover third row.
Our score 4/5
Holden Captiva LX
Engine 2.2-litre turbo diesel, 4-cyl; 135kW, 400Nm
Fuel use/CO2 emissions 8.3L/100km and 220g/km
Pros Sharp pricing; generously equipped; clever cabin layout; gutsy engine.
Cons Fidgety ride; noisy engine; indecisive transmission; cheap cabin plastics.
Our score 3/5
The Santa Fe ticks the boxes for value and style, instantly putting it on the radar of those chasing an occasional seven-seater. And while it's not the sharpest thing to drive, the dynamics are respectable and the diesel engine cements it as a worthy competitor.