There’s no scratching your head over engine choice. The only engine is a 194bhp 2.2-litre diesel, which makes the Santa Fe feel as comfortable climbing steep inclines and overtaking on fast country roads as it does pottering around town. It is a little flat at low revs, but it pulls strongly with no sudden surges as the turbo kicks in, making the Santa Fe usefully faster than rivals such as the Nissan X-Trail.
Every version has four-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The gearbox has evenly spaced gears and works well with the engine, but we’d go for the optional six-speed automatic. True, this can be a little slow to respond when you ask for a burst of acceleration, but it’s fine at normal speeds and suits the Santa Fe’s big, effortless SUV feel.
Hyundai Santa Fe ride comfort
Soaks up most of what’s thrown at it
Hyundai’s focus with the Santa Fe was to make it as comfortable as possible – and it has succeeded. It manages to stay composed over speeds bumps and other large intrusions around town, and broken surfaces don’t unsettle it too much.
Get up to motorway speeds and the Santa Fe is similarly impressive, smoothly away most sharp edges well.
In short, when it comes to ride comfort, the Santa Fe has rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Nissan X-Trail beaten.
Hyundai Santa Fe handling
Not the sharpest SUV on the market, but adequate
Hyundai’s intention to put comfort before agility is evident as soon as you carry anything more than moderate pace through a bend. The Santa Fe’s body leans over quite a way, making it feel cumbersome. There’s a bit of body float over particularly big undulations on the motorway, too.
Its steering doesn’t help, either. It’s remote and inconsistently weighted, which makes it hard to judge where the front tyres are pointing and how well they’re gripping.
However, the Santa Fe isn’t really designed to be pushed hard and at least its steering is light enough to make easy work of parking in town. The thing is, a Nissan X-Trail manages this as well, plus it’s sharper to driver at higher speeds, while a BMW X3 is in a different league entirely.
Hyundai Santa Fe refinement
Engine and wind noise are the biggest issues
The Santa Fe isn’t the quietest or most relaxing way to transport you and your family. Engine noise isn’t too intrusive at low revs, but push it beyond around 2000rpm and it becomes gruff. At higher revs, you can also feel a fair amount of vibration through the steering wheel and pedals; in manual models, this comes through the gearlever as well.
The engine has a chance to settle a tad on the motorway, but then you’re more likely to notice the sound of the wind rushing over the large door mirrors.
At least road noise is kept at bay pretty well, while the optional automatic gearbox shifts gear smoothly enough. The manual gearbox has a notchy shift.
Ultimately, a Nissan X-Trail has far better engine refinement than the Santa Fe, while a Land Rover Discovery Sport or BMW X3 do a better job of keeping wind and road noise outside.
This is the sole engine in the range, although it’s more than capable of shifting the Santa Fe when it’s full of your family and their luggage. It’s noisy when worked hard, but is reasonably economical given the car’s size and weight. You can have it with a manual or an automatic gearbox.