Hyundai Santa Fe review
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a Honda CR-V rival that offers tonnes of space and the option of seven seats
The original Hyundai Santa Fe was the car that kick started the South Korean manufacturer's rise towards becoming a credible competitor to more established brands. The third-generation car takes that formula and builds on it impressively well, with a much more style-conscious design, a high-quality interior and even more space for up to seven people. It may not have the premium badge of the Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but it has a great-value price tag, generous specifications, is practical and handles well both on and off road. It’s better looking than the latest Honda CR-V, too, and while the Santa Fe is not a serious 4x4, it makes a great large family car.
Our choice: Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium 7 Seat
Hyundai has given the Santa Fe smart and distinctive lines, with angular headlights at the front, a bold trapezoidal chrome grille and a window line that kicks up as it runs towards the rear of the body. Like any SUV, it's more imposing than a regular family car tahnks to its large dimensions, but the design is deliberately rounded, making it look less obviously like an SUV than some alternatives. It’s not quite as good looking as rivals like the BMW X3 or Audi Q5, but it’s more distinctive than the Honda CR-V and its sister car, the Kia Sorento. The interior looks good but some trim materials are not made of the same high quality plastics as others.
There's a choice of gearboxes – six-speed manual or six-speed automatic – but only one engine: a 2.2-litre diesel. It produces 194bhp, so the Santa Fe is surprisingly fast for a car of its size - and with the more responsive manual gearbox it'll cover 0-62mph in just 9.8 seconds. Hyundai has tuned the Santa Fe’s suspension especially for UK roads, so the ride is soft, smooth and comfortable on all surfaces. However, the trade-off is quite a lot of body roll in corners. Grip is good, though, with the added bonus of four-wheel drive ensuring you can get where you need to go in any weather, and there's some off road ability, too. The gearbox is notchy, though, and rivals like the Mazda CX-5 offer a sharper driving experience.
The all-new Santa Fe received a full five-star rating when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. What’s more, it received a very impressive 96 per cent for adult occupant protection and it scored maximum points in the side barrier test. That’s because the third-generation Santa Fe is fitted with all of the latest safety kit, including front, side and full-length curtain airbags. All versions come with ESP and seatbelt reminders, too. There's also the reassurance that comes with four-wheel drive in wet or icy conditions. The five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty shows Hyundai's confidence in the mechanical robustness of the Santa Fe. And if you sell the car before the warranty has run its course, the next owner can benefit, too. The new Santa Fe hasn’t yet featured in the Driver Power reliability survey, but Hyundai as a brand finished seventh in the 2012 results - ahead of more expensive manufacturers like Mercedes, Porsche and Volvo.
Space in the front and second row seats of the Santa Fe is good, while the option of a third row of seats makes the car a viable alternative for those who want something different to a boxy MPV. The third row seats aren’t the easiest to get into but they are spacious enough, making short trips possible even for adults. Boot space is fantastic – 969 litres with seats in place, rising to a cavernous 2,247 litres with them down. Rearranging the seats to make the most of this space is a painless process, too, with the second and third row chairs dropping flat with the pull of a toggle or lever. The Santa Fe is available with either two or four-wheel drive. The latter uses an intelligent system that directs power to all four wheels when you need it, or two when you don’t to improve efficiency. Its towing capacity is 750kg unbraked and 2,500kg braked, while a new Trailer Stability Assist system will reduce the car’s speed by limiting torque and braking individual wheels if necessary.
There’s no escaping the fact that the Santa Fe is a large car with a powerful diesel engine. But given its big SUV dimensions, it’s actually fairly reasonable to run, with fuel consumption of more than 40mpg and low CO2 emissions helping to keep annual road tax bills in check. Prices have risen quite substantially for the new car, but if you look at specifications, the Santa Fe still offers decent value-for-money. The new look, more upmarket interior and strong demand for SUVs should help keep residual values high, particularly if you opt for a seven-seat model. As with all Hyundais, the Santa Fe includes a fully transferrable, five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. Plus if problems do arise, Hyundai's routine servicing costs are low.