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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Its butch looks are impressive, as is its space, masses of equipment and great reliability

Against The all-new model, which was launched in 2006, is better in every respect

Verdict The Santa Fe is a competent, well-equipped 4x4 for not very much money

Go for… 2.0 CRTD

Avoid… 2.4 petrol

Hyundai Santa Fe 4x4
  • 1. There's plenty of room for five adults and their luggage
  • 2. Mild excursions off-road are fine, but this is no Land Rover Freelander
  • 3. The clutch on manual gearboxes could sometimes judder, but the problem was solved in mid-2003 by fitting a modified flywheel
  • 4. Check for any signs of off-road abuse, especially underneath
  • 5. Every model has stacks of equipment
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Hyundai Santa Fe 4x4 full review with expert trade views

As the reader reviews on this website show, owners like the Santa Fe, and there's much to like about it. You can start the list with those purposeful, butch looks, the prospect of clockwork reliability, and plenty of room for five adults and their luggage. Then, there are the stacks of equipment to keep them comfortable and safe, a good driving position and, of course, four-wheel drive so you can go off-road if you want to.

Most owners don’t, which is just as well because the Santa Fe is no Land Rover Freelander in the rough. Mild excursions away from the Tarmac are fine, just don’t expect miracles.

It isn’t as good as a Freelander on the road, either. It rolls too much in corners, but it’s competent enough for the undemanding driver, and the soft ride soaks up the bumps. The V6 petrol and turbodiesel are decent performers, too, and help ensure the Santa Fe is a reasonably refined motorway cruiser.

Trade view

John Owen

Good 4x4 but beware of the bronze paint; 2.7 very thirsty

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

The 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol model is the cheapest of the line-up, but it lacks the easy low-down pull of the others and is too noisy when it's worked hard - as it often has to be. We’d pay the extra for either the 2.7 V6 petrol or 2.0-litre turbodiesel.

The V6 has a strong 170bhp and makes a satisfying growl as the revs rise, but that is nicely subdued once you're at a steady motorway cruise. However, its 25mpg makes it suitable for low-mileage drivers only.

For that reason, the 2.0 turbodiesel is our choice. Its 115bhp doesn’t sound much, but this is backed by a forceful 192lb ft of pull, which is far more important in everyday driving. Fuel economy is decent, as well. All models are stuffed full of all the creature comforts and safety kit you could want. The V6 even comes with leather trim and an automatic gearbox.

Hyundai dealers have a huge selection of good examples, but you’ll also find Santa Fes at independent dealers and 4x4 specialists.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Demand fluctuates from month to month, diesel better than V6 to sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Santa Fe was keenly priced as a new car and lost value fairly quickly, so used ones are very affordable.

It’s a 4x4 and they’re complicated bits of kit, but even by class standards, a Santa Fe is costly to maintain. A Kia Sorento, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail and most Land Rover Freelanders will be cheaper. Still, at least Hyundai’s five-year warranty should remove the risk of unexpected repair costs on many used Santa Fes.

Ownership costs were one of the few areas of criticism in a JD Power customer satisfaction survey, and the 2.7 V6 model adds 25mpg thirst to the above-average servicing costs. The four-cylinder 2.4 is only slightly easier on the wallet, at 29mpg. However, the 2.0 turbodiesel should be good for about 40mpg, so there are no complaints there.

The diesel is also the cheapest to insure in group 11, with the 2.7 slotting into group 13 and the 2.4 in group 12.

Trade view

John Owen

Good 4x4 but beware of the bronze paint; 2.7 very thirsty

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Reliability is one of the Santa Fe’s main strengths. On early examples, the clutch on manual gearboxes could sometimes judder, but the problem was solved in mid-2003 by fitting a modified flywheel. That is pretty much the sum of the car's known faults.

Even so, it isn’t designed for serious off-roading, and any Santa Fe that has been used for proper mud-plugging is likely to have sustained damage, so check for any signs of abuse, especially underneath.

For all of its lack of visual appeal, the cabin is solidly bolted together and there are very few reports of electrics giving trouble, but, again, keep an eye out for abuse.

Don’t buy unless there’s a full history of servicing at reputable garages. It’s essential for your reassurance and to improve its resale value, but on Santa Fes younger than five years, it’s vital to safeguard your five-year warranty.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Demand fluctuates from month to month, diesel better than V6 to sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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