Review: Hyundai Santa Fe

A robust model for family adventures

14 Aug 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Lots of interior space

  • Large boot with easy loading access

  • Stylish and modern design

Cons

  • Steep price tag

  • Gear change can be notchy

  • Recalls for the airbags

Our expert rating

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a mid-size four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle (SUV). The car is in its third incarnation, and has been so popular that, at times, Hyundai has had trouble supplying demand.

Indeed, the South Korean motor manufacturer has become skilled at making you feel in safe hands. From the satisfying “thunk” the Santa Fe’s doors make when you close them, to the muffled diesel rattle on start up. You quickly realise the Hyundai is made of stern stuff.

Performance

From 2012, the Hyundai’s gutsy 2.2-litre 194bhp turbo diesel engine has come with a smooth-changing six-speed automatic or manual gearbox, which helps make the motor more than capable of punchy overtaking manoeuvres.

It can get the Hyundai Santa Fe through the 0-60mph barrier in 9.8 seconds, which is quick for a car of this size. In truth, you can have fun if you detour from the straights and take on the twisty country lanes. For an SUV with 4x4 credentials it’s also fairly economical, returning an average 41.5mpg.

Hyundai Santa Fe - interior

Ride and handling

For a biggish vehicle, the latest generation Santa Fe is surprisingly easy to weave through city streets and it will happily tour at 70mph on the motorway all day. The steering is direct and well weighted at all speeds.

There’s only slight body roll on bends, but that’s acceptable, given its lofty structure. Grip levels are impressively high and the Hyundai’s behaviour is self-possessed. Four wheel drive provides plenty grip on slippery roads, too.

Hyundai Santa Fe - side view

Interior space

There is a seven-seat and a standard five-seat model, so the Santa Fe is a highly versatile, comfortable and spacious motor. It will seat five adults and there’s room for two extra little people in the third row of fold-away seats.

The sizeable boot is square and low, meaning it’s easy to load up. In fact, it’s a perfect family-cum-business vehicle.

Hyundai Santa Fe boot space

What to know before you buy

Hyundai had to recall almost 200,000 Santa Fe SUVs from 2007–2009 model years, because of fears that the front passenger airbags may not deploy in a crash due to a possible problem with the occupant classification system.

The system gauges the size of a passenger and, based on that, whether an air bag should be deployed. A software update rectifies the problem, so if you’re buying an older Santa Fe you should ensure this work has been carried out. On a less serious note, you might want to avoid versions of the Santa Fe with leather seats if you have small children and pets, as these could get damaged and start to make the car look worn before its time.

Hyundai Santa Fe - alternative cars

Alternative cars

The Santa Fe is on a par with versions of Honda's CR-V, Nissan's X-Trail, Mitsubishi’s Outlander and Toyota's RAV4. For example, the Hyundai also beats more upmarket vehicles, such as Volvo’s original XC90 on its plentiful equipment inventory alone.

Overall verdict

As well as the occasional dirt track excursion, the Santa Fe will help you out with, say, caravanning adventures for the whole family. It has an impressive towing capacity and, to make life easier, trailer stability assist is part of the gadgetry get-up too.

With its elevated height, four-wheel-drive and robust body, the handsome Santa Fe Premium has much in its favour to handle the road less travelled. It is no hard-core mud-plugger but it has the toehold of a traditional 4x4 and the manners of a normal car, while a high level of kit adds more than a splash of splendour.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall