The Hyundai Santa Fe is a large SUV that continues the firm’s tradition of offering a lot for reasonable sums. It is available with five or seven seats, and all models use a 2.2-litre diesel engine and four-wheel drive.
Rivals include the Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq. You might also think of the Santa Fe as a more spacious, similarly priced alternative to Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Here’s a list of pros and cons.
Space in the Hyundai Santa Fe
There are no two ways about it, the Santa Fe is a vast SUV. This bodes well for its potential as seven-seat family transport. Sure enough, even the rearmost two seats are near enough full-size items. They just enough headroom for an adult to be comfortable. And decent legroom provided in the second row of seats isn’t slid all the way back.
You also get enough boot space to carry a folded baby buggy or a few bags of shopping. This is helped by being able to store the parcel shelf under the boot floor. My only significant complaint is that access to the third row isn’t terribly easy. But, the same can be said of other seven-seat SUVs too.
With the third row of seats folded away (a simple process) boot space is impressive. Although a Kia Sorento is bigger still, and although you don’t get three separate seats in the second row, the Santa Fe is still just about wide enough to accommodate three adults.
Up front, this is a spacious SUV with plenty of storage.
Comfort in the Hyundai Santa Fe
Unlike some SUVs, the Santa Fe makes no pretensions about offering a sporty or dynamic drive. Instead, it provides the kind of soft suspension once typical of a large 4×4. This works both for and against it, for at low speeds and at a gentle pace the Santa Fe is pleasant. Up the ante, however, there’s so much movement in the body that occupants can end up being thrown around.
Road and wind noise are well controlled up to motorway speeds, but the 2.2-litre diesel engine is not the quietest around. It lacks the smooth sound of a V6.
Plenty of adjustment in the seats and steering wheel means it’s easy to find a good driving position. The air-conditioned and heated seats, plus heated steering wheel on top-spec versions add a welcome touch of luxury. That even those in the rearmost seats can choose their own air-conditioning settings puts the Santa Fe in line with rivals.
Dashboard Styling of the Hyundai Santa Fe
If the Santa Fe’s dash lacks much in the way of gloss or excitement, it is certainly very functional. With simple analogue dials flanking a large clear trip computer that gives details of fuel economy, miles covered and average speed.
In the centre of the dash is a responsive 7-inch touchscreen system with an excellent satnav. Although, the traffic updates are nowhere near as slick as you’ll find in a Skoda Kodiaq.
The same can be said of the quality of materials, which although clearly built to last lack the tactile appeal of those in the Skoda.
Driving Ease of the Hyundai Santa Fe
Climb into an SUV of the Santa Fe’s size and you might expect to find a smooth shifting automatic gearbox. However, while that is indeed an option, many buyers opt for the cheaper six-speed manual. It has a springy clutch pedal and notchy gearchange that doesn’t scream of sophistication.
Limited visibility at the rear three quarters and wide windscreen pillars at the front also make you fully aware of the Santa Fe’s size. This big SUV is not the easiest of vehicles to guide through narrow urban environments. Thankfully rear parking sensors and a reversing camera are standard. Top-spec versions also come with front proximity sensors.
Although far from quiet when pushed, Hyundai’s 194bhp, the 2.2-litre diesel engine does at least provide a decent burst of acceleration when required, so overtaking is rarely a problem. However, this car is also proof that acceleration alone is not enough to make a car fun to drive, because the Santa Fe’s slow and vague steering, heavy body and plentiful lean ensure it is not one for being thrown into corners. Even putting the steering into ‘Sport’ mode adds little other than a bit more weight to proceedings.
Reliability of the Hyundai Santa Fe
That you can buy a large and fairly luxurious seven-seat SUV with the reassurance of a five-year warranty would be enough for top marks were it not for the fact Kia offers an additional two years of cover on the similar Sorento.
The Santa Fe achieved the best result in fuel economy tests of 46mpg as a manual or 42mpg as an automatic, which is somewhat lacklustre against the Skoda Kodiaq and admittedly slower Nissan X-Trail.
The same can be said of the kind of economy you’ll achieve in normal driving, which ranges between 32mpg with the car fully loaded and 39mpg with just a driver on board for a longer journey.
Safety in the Hyundai Santa Fe
An autonomous emergency braking is included as standard. This system, which can spot a potential collision with the car in front and automatically apply the brakes to avoid it, has been shown to drastically reduce front into rear crashes but is only available on automatic versions of the Santa Fe at present.
That said, all models include seven airbags, and advanced safety features such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitors and adaptive cruise control, which can hold a set distance to the car in front, can also be specified.