Hyundai Santa Fe review | CAR Magazine

Hyundai Santa Fe review

Published: 31 May 2023 Updated: 24 October 2023
Hyundai Santa Fe
  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
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  • 3 out of 5

► Costs up to £45,000
► Genuine seven-seater
► We’re also running one as a long-termer

The Hyundai Santa Fe is available as a diesel or hybrid in the UK, priced from around £43,000. It’s a smart choice and its talent runs so deep that it muscles into CAR magazine’s list of the best hybrid cars of 2023.

The latest version is a smart update of a successful formula: a family-focused SUV that won’t cost the Earth and that is equipped with the kind of spec that makes it well equipped for daily life.

Hyundai Santa Fe review

This is aimed squarely at the inhouse rival, the Kia Sorento, as well as family favourites such as the Skoda Kodiaq and Nissan’s X-Trail.

Hyundai’s piled on the posh here, moving the 2023 Santa Fe further upmarket. In fact, those prices are decent-spec Land Rover Discovery Sport money and well into VW Tiguan Allspace (Biguan) territory.

This has been justified by liberal use of leather and soft-touch plastics in the admittedly far smarter cabin, though you’ll still spot some cheaper-feeling finishing if you poke around a bit.

Outside the styling’s been tweaked to make the Santa Fe look brawnier while maintaining Hyundai’s cascading grille up front, and an extended wheelbase with shorter front and rear overhangs means its dimensions remain similar but interior space has been improved.

Sounds great, but what’s the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe’s like to drive?

For this market? Difficult to say. We drove a 2.0-litre diesel that was impressive enough, but also not coming anywhere near the UK in right-hand drive. We’ll be treated to a torquier mild-hybrid 2.2-litre diesel with a variable-geometry turbo and 194bhp, but thanks to its heavy kerbweight its performance figures make for somewhat dull reading: 0-62mph in 9.3sec and 126mph all-in. It should tow a good amount though…

What we did sample was Hyundai’s latest transmission, which is an eight-speed torque-convertor auto feeding twist through to a revised part-time AWD system. This operates in front-driven mode only if you’ve switched the car to Eco mode, but sends 35% rearwards in its Comfort setting to maintain optimum cornering stability.

If you’re feeling frisky then dial up to Sport for up to a 50:50 torque split depending on conditions, but don’t expect Stelvio levels of engagement here, despite the slightly spikey ride quality on the largest-available 19” alloys. The Santa Fe is damp rather than dazzling; the uninteresting steering offering no more than a half a crossword clue’s worth of a hint of what’s happening under the front rubber. 

And anyway, here’s a learned prediction on the number of actual buyers who’ll engage Sport mode more than once: None.

That’s not the idea. Instead Santa Fe’s a practicality paragon, fine for families with safety on the synapses. And in this respect things look much rosier. The wheelbase has been extended to 2765mm and this has unlocked a vast amount of space inside.

Is it a genuine seven-seater?

Actually, unlike a lot of modern attempts – namely the Skodiaq and the Biguan – the rear bench is useable for normal-sized humans. We tested it in seven-seat mode and found realistic room for six big ugly blokes to sit together in comfort. It’s only the middle seat on row two that’s a little tight, but even so it’s a valiant effort, with acres of headroom on offer even with the panoramic sliding glass roof. That second bench slides on rails quite a way fore and aft, so there’s decent adjustability to cater for most requirements.

The boot ranges from handbag-sized in seven-seat mode to Hindenburg proportions with all five back perches all folded away.

On the subject of airbags, among its six are curtains protecting third-row occupants should the worst happen.

But it shouldn’t, because (surprise surprise) there’s a load of autonomous kit on board to stop you coming a-cropper. It’s not quite Nexo levels of impressiveness, but works more smoothly than a lot of other firm’s current efforts. Lane-keeping, adaptive cruise and auto-braking form the core, and it’s only Subaru’s Eyesight system that feels properly ahead of the curve here.


The Santa Fe doesn’t represent a bold step into the unknown for Hyundai. Instead it’s an iterative improvement on what was already an impressive package. It’s more practical than ever with a far smarter look, all the safety kit modern family buyers will want and doesn’t drive badly either.


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