Hyundai Santa Fe review
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a great alternative to rivals like the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008, Kia Sorento and Nissan X-Trail. It’s a talented family car that combines space, comfort, great levels of standard kit and a fairly decent drive.
Sadly though, Premium SE models are considerably more expensive than an equivalent version of the Kodiaq – almost £6,300 more, in fact.
1 Feb, 2019
With a much bolder appearance than the previous generation Hyundai Santa Fe, the latest car has a look that’s inspired by the smaller Hyundai Kona, with a large hexagonal grille, slim headlights, plus new bumpers and redesigned tail lights. Wheels range from 17 to 19-inches and sit within obligatory pumped-up wheel arches. The overall look is one of a more upmarket offering than before, and one that compares favorably to handsome, fashion-forward rivals like the Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq.
The usual array of silvers, greys and blacks make up the bulk of the car’s colour palette, with Lava Orange, Stormy Sea blue and Horizon Red offering welcome splashes of colour. We’re particularly fond of Rain Forest – a greenish-blue metallic grey. Metallic paint is optional across the range; all models get chrome and dark chrome-coloured exterior trim, with Lava Orange and Phantom Black models boasting more dark chrome trim elements.
The makeover continues inside where the Santa Fe’s vast cabin gets a curvaceous dashboard, comfortable seating and up-to-date infotainment displayed on a 7.0- or 8.0-inch screen, depending on trim level. SE models come as standard with black and grey cloth upholstery, while higher-spec Premium and Premium SE models gain swathes of grey, black or burgundy leather, matched to faux leather trim on the dashboard and door cards, offering a more luxurious feel. The Peugeot 5008 feels a little more exciting inside in terms of design, but the Hyundai is a match for the Skoda Kodiaq in terms of overall quality.
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Entry-level SE models get the aforementioned cloth upholstery as standard, adding a leather steering wheel and gearknob, adjustable seats with lumbar support, dual-zone climate control and an automatically dimming rear-view mirror. 17-inch wheels are standard, too.
Premium models get 18-inch alloys, but most changes are on the inside. Leather upholstery is added along with its matching faux leather dash trim, while there’s cloth trim on the A-, B- and C-pillars. Both front seats gain heating and full electric adjustment including height and lumbar, while the outer middle-row seats are also heated.
SE Premium tops the range. 19-inch alloys are the biggest change on the outside here, while memory and ventilation functions are added to the front seats inside. Manual rear door blinds are fitted, as is a panoramic glass sunroof with electric tilt and slide functionality.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The Hyundai Santa Fe comes as standard with one of two infotainment systems. SE models feature a 7.0-inch centrally mounted touchscreen display for the car’s audio and connectivity options, while Premium and SE Premium models get a fully fledged 8.0-inch system with sat-nav and online connectivity services. Annual map updates for the car’s sat-nav (if fitted) are provided for at least 10 years.
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As in other Hyundai models, the system is clear and simple to use, offering easy control over audio, connectivity, navigation and vehicle set-up. Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition is standard, as are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – effectively negating the need for a step up to a model with sat nav for Google Maps users. The touchscreen system is used to control most functions, but steering wheel buttons can be used to operate phone and audio systems.
SE models come with standard analogue dials, but further up the range a digital display is added, flanked by analogue auxiliary readouts. This display lacks the flair of Peugeot’s all-digital i-Cockpit system and it’s not quite as clear and sensible as the Kodiaq’s Virtual Cockpit. Overall, Hyundai’s effort sits somewhere between the two, which isn’t a bad place to be.
Standard SE models come with an unbranded sound system with six speakers, but Premium and SE Premium Santa Fes are fitted with a 10-speaker system developed by American hi-fi brand KRELL. It features a subwoofer and external amplifier for deeper bass and improved sound quality.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is available with one engine – a turbocharged 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel with 197bhp and 440Nm of torque. SE models are two-wheel drive only, with a choice of a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. Premium models get the option of four-wheel drive with both gearboxes, while Premium SE models have the same choice of two or four driven wheels but are offered with the automatic only.
Even on rough British B-roads, the Santa Fe impresses with a great sense of composure. The car’s body is very well controlled, remaining flat and unruffled by surface imperfections; body roll in corners is well-contained and – on our car’s 19-inch alloys – grip levels are high for a car of this type. The standard self-levelling suspension is well-damped and makes all journeys a relaxing experience.
A drive mode selector helps set up the Santa Fe for most road conditions, moving torque around the car’s HTRAC four-wheel drive system to find the most grip or save fuel. In Eco mode the Santa Fe reverts to two-wheel drive, while Sport mode splits torque 50/50 across the front and rear to maximise grip and traction. Comfort softens the car’s responses, while Smart enables an automatic switch between modes depending on the driver’s inputs.
A small gripe is the Santa Fe’s steering, which remains heavy regardless of the selected drive mode and is pretty devoid of feedback.
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Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
We tested a top-spec Hyundai Santa Fe Premium SE with four-wheel drive and an auto ‘box. The 2.2-litre diesel is refined on the move but with plenty of low-down power when needed, while the automatic gearbox is smooth and quick in its operation and perfectly calibrated to suit the big SUV’s comfortable character. Performance is not scintillating, but perfectly adequate for most daily situations.
What you get in terms of performance is fairly typical for a large SUV – two-wheel drive, manual gearbox versions manage 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, with automatics dropping to 9.3 seconds. Four-wheel drive Santa Fe models manage 9.5 seconds and 9.4 seconds with manual and automatic gearboxes respectively. Top speed is 127mph across the board.
Buyers looking for outright performance from their diesel-powered seven-seat SUV will be better served by the Skoda Kodiaq. The 187bhp diesel version with a DSG automatic gearbox is a keen performer, but for a similar price to our top-spec Santa Fe test car with some options added, a Kodiaq vRS with 237bhp, 500Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of just seven seconds could be just the ticket for those looking for a little extra performance.
The Hyundai Santa Fe was awarded a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, scoring an impressive 94% in the adult occupant category and 88% for child occupant safety. The Santa Fe joins the Kona, Tuscon and Ioniq Hybrid in Hyundai’s five-star club. Rivals from Skoda, Peugeot and Nissan are all five-star cars too.
Part of the reason for the Santa Fe’s great rating was its selection of standard active safety equipment. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is standard across the range and has pedestrian detection capabilities, while hill start and descent control systems are also standard, along with lane departure warning with lane-keep assist.
Premium models add rear-cross traffic alert and a blind-spot detection system that can actively intervene by applying the car’s brakes on either side to try to avoid a side-swipe accident. SE Premium models add similar technology to the rear-cross traffic system for an extra safety net when reversing.
It's too soon to tell how reliable the latest Santa Fe will be, but given its excellent build quality and Hyundai’s good reputation for reliability, we have few worries in this department. Hyundai finished 15th out of 26 brands in our Driver Power 2018 survey, ahead of Ford, Peugeot, Audi, Mercedes and BMW, to name a few.
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All Hyundai models come with an unlimited mileage, five-year warranty that’s amongst the very best in class – especially if you plan to keep your Santa Fe for more than the average two or three years or so. Neither the Skoda Kodiaq nor the Peugeot 5008 can match this, with the former supplied with a standard three-year/60,000-mile policy and the latter a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
The Santa Fe also comes with one year of free 24-hour roadside assistance anywhere in the UK or Channel Islands, plus five free annual vehicle health checks.
Hyundai’s usual servicing pricing applies to the Hyundai Santa Fe, albeit with a £20 surcharged as applied to the larger vehicles in its range. A base service costs from £119, an interim service starts at £189 and a full service costs from £249. Optional MoTs at each service add £40 if required.
Hyundai has a range of servicing payment options; a handy online quotation system can help make budgeting to run the Santa Fe easier.
All Hyundai Santa Fe models come as standard with seven seats, much like its Peugeot 5008 and Skoda Kodiaq rivals – though the Nissan X-Trail can be had with a choice of five or seven. In this company, the Hyundai’s rearmost bench seems a little tight and is best suited to children. By contrast, the Santa Fe’s front and middle-row seats are very roomy.
The driving position is excellent, especially in models further up the range with the fullest range of electric adjustment – it’s very easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. Visibility is similarly good for a car of this type; there’s a larger glasshouse than in the Peugeot 5008 and low-speed maneuvering is made easier by the standard rear camera, or simpler still by the SE Premium’s 360-degree camera system.
The Santa Fe is a practical proposition, not least thanks to its wealth of clever interior features. The glovebox is large, the cabin is strewn with useful cubby holes and in the rear there are two USB slots and a 12V power outlet for charging all manner of devices. Front and rear armrests are standard; the former boasts a storage compartment, while the latter has two cupholders. The front cupholders are well located and of a decent size – much better than those of the Peugeot 5008, which get in the way - especially in combination with a manual transmission.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is almost exactly the same size as its two closest rivals, the Skoda Kodiaq and Peugeot 5008. All three measure 4.7 metres in length, give or take a couple of centimetres; the Hyundai is the widest at 1.89 metres, while the Peugeot is the narrowest at 1.84m. The Santa Fe stands slightly higher than the Skoda (1.68 metres) and the Peugeot (1.68 metres) at a shade over 1.7 metres. Despite its size, the Hyundai is still relatively easy to maneuver in a tight spot.
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The Hyundai’s roofline gives enough space for luggage and third-row passengers, but the boxier Peugeot is probably slightly more practical in this regard. However, most family buyers will not be disappointed by the Santa Fe’s practicality, especially if the rearmost seats are only used for children or for adults over shorter distances.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
There’s not much to complain about in the first two rows of seating – there’s ample space and adjustment in the front for even tall occupants to get comfortable, while the middle row can easily fit three adults abreast – a feat that’s made easier by a flat floor. The Santa Fe has a wheelbase that’s 65mm longer than in the old model and this equates to more kneeroom than before; headroom is ample too.
The Skoda Kodiaq offers more space to its rearmost passengers, but the Hyundai’s 3rd row seats don’t feel as tight as those in the rear of the Peugeot 5008. It’s pretty even in the middle row stakes, and unlike the Peugeot 5008, our top-spec model’s panoramic sunroof wasn’t intrusive for those over six feet tall.
Easily accessible ISOFIX points are provided in the front passenger seat and in the outer middle row seats only; by contrast, the Peugeot 5008 was one of the first SUVs to offer ISOFIX on all three of its middle row seats. The Skoda Kodiaq has two in the middle row, with a front-seat mount offered as an optional extra.
As with most cars in its class, the Santa Fe’s rearmost seats can be split-folded to lay flat and offer a large boot when not carrying seven passengers – 625 litres in this case. The third row seats are easily folded thanks to a pull-tag mechanism.
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The middle row of seats split 60:40 and can be folded forward to give a total of 1,625 litres. The resultant space is a practical shape, with a wide, lipless opening to make loading heavier items easier. There’s also a luggage net and number of hooks to help keep things in place on the move.
The boot space on offer trails the boxy Peugeot 5008’s 780-litre boot when its rear row is folded; the Skoda Kodiaq offers 720 litres with the rear row folded and a colossal 2,005 litres with all five rears folded flat. The Skoda’s boot floor is also flatter and squarer than that of the Hyundai when both rows are folded.
The Hyundai Santa Fe has decent towing credentials, with standard trailer stability assistance and a trailer wiring package. The maximum braked trailer tow weight is 2,500kg in cars with a manual transmission, regardless of the number of driven wheels. Automatic models are limited to a maximum braked tow weight of 2,000kg. If you need an automatic tow car and have more than 2,000kg to tow, a Skoda Kodiaq with a diesel engine and DSG gearbox matches the manual Santa Fe’s 2,500kg braked limit.
The Hyundai Santa Fe’s single 2.2-litre diesel engine is a good performer but has a lot of weight to move around and that impacts economy. Fuel economy is quoted under the latest, more accurate WLTP regulations as 42.8mpg for the manual, two-wheel drive models and 42.2mpg for the automatic two-wheel drive versions, each figure is for SE trim with the smallest 17-inch wheels.
Premium models return 43.5mpg and 42.8mpg in two-wheel drive form with manual and automatic gearboxes respectively; add in four-wheel drive and those figures drop to 40.4mpg and 39.8mpg in each case.
Top-spec models are the least economical thanks to the addition of the largest available 19-inch wheels: 42.8mpg for the two-wheel drive auto and 38.7mpg for the four-wheel drive auto.
CO2 emissions range from 150g/km in the most efficient Premium model with two-wheel drive and a manual ‘box to 164g/km in the Premium SE model with four-wheel drive and an automatic. All models fall within the 151-170g/km range for first-year road tax for RDE2-compliant diesels, meaning a charge of £515 that’ll be rolled into the on-the-road price. After this, you’ll pay £140 per year, plus a £310 surcharge if your chosen model costs over £40,000 including options.
The Santa Fe’s start-stop system is only standard on Premium models and above.
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Insurance costs could be slightly higher than those of the Santa Fe’s closest rivals; SE models sit in group 36, Premium models in groups 39/40 and Premium SE models in group 40. By contrast, the Skoda Kodiaq starts in insurance group 12 and climbs to around group 24 for the most expensive, non-vRS versions.
Depreciation has the potential to be a bit of a sticking point for those choosing the Santa Fe over its rivals, especially in the case of the most expensive models. After 36 months of ownership, a top-spec four-wheel-drive Premium SE model with an automatic ‘box is predicted to lose just over 46% of its value when it comes to trade-in time – that’s the equivalent of just over £20,000.
However, it’s worth noting that top-spec Kodiaq models are only predicted to hang on to around 45-48% of their list price after the same period. Values for the Peugeot 5008 sit at around 41-46%