Hyundai Santa Fe 4x4 full 9 point review
All Santa Fe models are four-wheel drive and have the same 2.2-litre diesel engine, so the only choice you need to make is a manual or automatic gearbox. We’d go for the automatic – it’s quite slow to change gear, but in everyday meandering it’s smooth enough and it suits the Santa Fe’s big, lazy SUV feel. The engine is a little flat at low revs, but it pulls strongly and with no sudden surges as the turbo kicks in, making the Santa Fe usefully faster than rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail.
Ride & Handling
The Santa Fe's supple suspension and high-profile tyres help it soak up big bumps remarkably well. Unfortunately, they also mean its body leans over dramatically in bends. To make matters worse, the steering is remote and inconsistently weighted, so it's difficult to judge where the front tyres are pointing and how well they're gripping. Still, driven sedately, the Santa Fe is comfortable, stable and relaxing.
The engine sounds gruff under acceleration, although the noise dies down at higher speeds, at which point you’re more likely to notice the sound of the wind rushing over the door mirrors. There’s noticeable vibration through the pedals and steering wheel at low speeds, too. The standard manual gearbox is notchy, whereas the optional automatic shifts smoothly and sensibly most of the time.
Buying & Owning
Go for a high-spec model – as most people do – and the Santa Fe looks pricey compared with rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail. Even discounts don’t bridge the gap. It’ll also cost a bit more to run, due to its less economical engine, while higher CO2 emissions mean that company car tax is comparably expensive. It’s not all bad news, though: the Santa Fe holds its value well and there are often good finance deals available on it, so by class standards it’s not an overly expensive private buy.
Quality & Reliability
Perceived quality has traditionally been a Hyundai weakness, but the Santa Fe feels solidly put together and features smart cabin plastics and slick switchgear, although the silver plastic highlights look a little tacky. The Santa Fe wasn’t included in the latest JD Power customer satisfaction survey, but Hyundai as a manufacturer did extremely well for reliability. You also get the reassurance of a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.
Safety & Security
Every Santa Fe comes with seven airbags and a host of electronic driver aids, including stability control, hill-start assist and Trailer Stability Assist. However, you can’t get some of the more advanced aids such as blind-spot warning and automatic emergency braking, which are available on some rivals. The Santa Fe received the full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test. Standard security kit includes an immobiliser, deadlocks and locking wheel nuts, but no alarm.
Behind The Wheel
The heavily styled dashboard can look a little confusing at first glance, but most of the controls are clearly labelled and simple to use. There’s lots of adjustment to the comfortable seat, including electric lumbar adjustment on all models. You also enjoy an elevated view out, but there are big over-the-shoulder blind spots due to the Santa's Fe's thick rear pillars and tiny, upswept rear side windows.
Space & Practicality
Hyundai offers a five-seat Santa Fe with a huge load bay, but it's worth paying extra for the seven-seat version, which has two third-row seats that fold up from the boot floor. These are cramped for six-footers, but small adults and kids will be fine for short journeys, and they don’t impact on boot space when they’re folded down. You access these seats only from the passenger side, though, which won’t be ideal every time. There’s loads of head- and legroom in the first two rows of seats.
Even entry-level Style models come with alloy wheels, reversing sensors, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and voice control. That’s a good amount for the money, so it’s what we’d go for. Mid-level Premium trim adds heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, a reversing camera and touch-screen sat-nav. Range-topping Premium SE cars also get electric driver’s seat adjustment, keyless entry and go, front parking sensors and a panoramic sunroof.