In-depth reviews

Hyundai Santa Fe review - Engines, performance and drive

There’s just one diesel engine available, but it’s perfectly suited to the task

The Hyundai Santa Fe is available with one engine – a turbocharged 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel, producing 197bhp and 440Nm of torque. All models are four-wheel drive only, with the Premium version delivering its power via either a six-speed manual or eight-speed auto transmission. However, you can only order the the Premium SE with the auto 'box.

Even on rough British B-roads, the Santa Fe impresses with a great sense of composure. The car’s body is very well controlled, remaining flat and unruffled by surface imperfections; body roll in corners is well-contained and – on our car’s 19-inch alloys – grip levels are high for a car of this type. The standard self-levelling suspension is well-damped and makes all journeys a relaxing experience.

A drive mode selector helps set up the Santa Fe for most road conditions, moving torque around the car’s HTRAC four-wheel drive system to find the most grip or save fuel. In Eco mode the Santa Fe reverts to two-wheel drive, while Sport mode splits torque 50/50 across the front and rear to maximise grip and traction. Comfort softens the car’s responses, while Smart enables an automatic switch between modes depending on the driver’s inputs.

A small gripe is the Santa Fe’s steering, which remains heavy regardless of the selected drive mode and is pretty devoid of feedback.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

We tested a top-spec Hyundai Santa Fe Premium SE with four-wheel drive and an auto ‘box. The 2.2-litre diesel is refined on the move, but with plenty of low-down power when needed, while the automatic gearbox is smooth and quick in its operation and perfectly calibrated to suit the big SUV’s comfortable character. Performance is not scintillating, but perfectly adequate for most daily situations.

What you get in terms of performance is fairly typical for a large SUV – the four-wheel drive Santa Fe models manage 9.5 seconds and 9.4 seconds with manual and automatic gearboxes respectively. Top speed is 127mph across the board.  

Buyers looking for outright performance from their diesel-powered seven-seat SUV will be better served by the Skoda Kodiaq, with the 187bhp diesel version with a DSG automatic gearbox a keen performer. For a similar price to our top-spec Santa Fe test car with some options added, a Kodiaq vRS with 237bhp, 500Nm of torque and a 0-62mph time of just seven seconds, could be just the ticket for those looking for a little extra performance.

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