The third-gen Hyundai Santa Fe is the most butch-looking iteration of the family SUV yet, but is the confident styling backed up by all-round quality? CAR has driven the range-topping Premium version to find out.
Just how much Hyundai Santa Fe do I get for my money?
Though the Santa Fe starts at £25,850, our ‘Premium’, all-the-trimmings test car comes in at £30,670. In said specification, it’s a versatile, well-equipped workhorse. There's full-time all-wheel drive, seven seats, and on our test car, an extensive haul of standard equipment. Touchscreen infotainment with sat-nav and reversing camera is joined by Bluetooth, automatic lights and wipers, heated leather seats, parking sensors, climate control, an electric handbrake and cruise control.
What's the cabin like?
Materials are on a par with Japanese rivals, if not up to the level of German quality Hyundai would like to emulate. There are a couple of ergonomic clangers, too. Why, for instance, is the largely pointless steering mode toggle (choose from Comfort, Normal and Sport) given pride of place on the wheel, yet the far more oft-used fuel filler cap release is hidden in the door handle? It smacks of an afterthought, as do the air-con controls positioned for passenger rather than driver ease-of-use.
As you’d expect, it’s roomy inside. Seating six-footers in the second row will give your passengers no cause for complaint, and there’s decent room for the kids in the rear-most seats, though they do of course eat into the 516L boot (the seats, not the children.) Access to the third row is restricted by the second row seats only flipping their backrests forward half-heartedly, as opposed to a full tuck-and roll manoeuvre.
Five-seat Santa Fes have a 565L load bay: drop the second row backrests and the seven-seater offers 1615L to the five-seater’s 1680L.
Browse secondhand Hyundai Santa Fe cars for sale
Is the Santa Fe any good to drive?
The 2.2-litre diesel engine is a fine powerplant: exceptionally smooth for a four-pot derv, and manages to lug the car's chunky two-tonne kerb weight. The outright power figure of 194bhp looks underwhelming, but 311lb ft of torque is what’ll be doing the hard work – more’s the pity it’s only on tap from 1800-2500rpm. Plus, most of our driving was undertaken one-up. Load the Santa Fe to seven-up capacity with assorted paraphernalia and you might find yourself wishing to trade some mechanical refinement for a touch more low-rev urge. We averaged 38.2mpg: a two-wheel drive version would doubtless improve thanks to around 100kg less weight, and reduced drivetrain friction. Hyundai claims the front-driver Santa Fe (only available as the entry-level ‘Style’ mode, will run 47.9 miles on a gallon of the black stuff.
Economy will suffer to the tune of 4.8mpg if you pick the £1705 automatic gearbox, but it's a worthwhile sacrifice to avoid the clunky six-speed manual, which is a right old wrist-sprainer when cold.
For the most part, the Santa Fe is unremarkable and fairly relaxed to drive, with commendably suppressed wind noise, and well-sorted ride comfort, thanks partly to the high-profile sidewalls of the standard 18in alloys' tyres. Don’t be fooled into thinking this SUV is a true ‘Sports’ Utility Vehicle, though – understeer, body roll and brake dive betray the fact you’re not buying BMW X5 dynamics for X3 money here. But, doesn’t the world have enough crashy-riding, wannabe-sporty cars already? The Santa Fe is one of those most ‘Fit For Purpose Utility Vehicles’, which is no criticism.
How does the Santa Fe compare on value to its rivals?
Main rival to the seven-seat, 4x4 Santa Fe is the Kia Sorento, which costs £29,095 in like-for-like spec – in fact you can have an automatic version for £75 less than the manual Santa Fe. Both boast extensive warranties (Hyundai's is five years with unlimited mileage, with Kia's a headline-grabbing seven). Those carrots should be enough to tear you away from ideas of snapping up a two-year old Audi Q7 or Land Rover Discovery instead...
Also in the Hyundai's crosshairs is the Mitsubishi Outlander: click here to read CAR's 2013 model review. Honda’s CR-V is CAR’s current family crossover champion, and is now on sale with an impressive 1.6-litre diesel engine, but can only be specced as a five-seater.
There’s no doubt Hyundai’s Santa Fe is better than ever – you get the bluff SUV looks and MPV-beating practicality repertoire, wrapped up in an unintimidating package. At more than £30,000 as tested, it’s no longer an overt bargain, though it’s still a lot of new car for the money. That said, we suspect spending £28,450 on the two-wheel drive ‘Style’ Santa Fe would be the sweet spot of the range.