Hyundai Santa Fe SUV
Price: £25,850 - £34,875
- Excellent modern design
- Huge interior space
- Five-year warranty
- Quite expensive to buy
- Automatic gearbox is poor
- Third-row seat access and space
“The Hyundai Santa Fe is a design revolution, and offers lots of space, but it now comes with a price to match.”
The third-generation Hyundai Santa Fe SUV looks and feels much better quality than the car it replaced and was named Carbuyer Best Large SUV in the 2014 Car of the Year Awards. The exterior is sleeker, while the interior shows a jump in quality that is only matched by the SUV's jump in price – Hyundai is no longer the budget brand it once was and list prices reflect that.
The Santa Fe only comes with a 2.2-litre CRDi diesel engine, with every model except for the entry-level car coming with four-wheel-drive as standard. A manual or automatic gearbox is available across the range, and you can also order the Santa Fe with seven seats – albeit an extra row of tiny, cramped seats that are difficult to get to and sit by very small back windows.
Since the increase in cost, the Santa Fe now sits in the same bracket as the Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander 2, pushing the large SUV increasingly upmarket. But you do get Hyundai's truly excellent five-year warranty, as well as good handling, roomy dimensions and a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, too.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesel-only line-up keeps running costs in check
The Santa Fe surprises here, given that its size and powerful engines, you expect it to cost a lot to run. But the 2.2-litre CDRi diesel is impressively cheap and returns strong economy, boasting 47.9mpg when paired with the manual gearbox - which is great for such a large car. The automatic still manages to return 41.5mpg and the Santa Fe won’t cost that much to tax either, with the manual two-wheel-drive model emitting 155g/km of CO2, and four-wheel-drive versions emitting a not too dissimilar 159g/km. If you do want the automatic, however, the emissions increase to 178g/km, which actually means a large increase in annual road tax. None of that really changes the fact that the seven-seat Santa Fe is one of the most affordable cars in its class to run on a daily basis.
Interior & comfort
New suspension means it's comfortable on the motorway
The Santa Fe is pretty big, so you get a lot of space. It's also really quiet inside, with wind or road noise rarely intruding at any speed. Hyundai has also tuned it specifically to suit UK roads, but with only mixed results – it's very comfortable on the motorway but wrestles with a lot of body roll when driving on winding roads. If you’re looking for a good mix of comfort and performance, the Mazda CX-5 is much better – especially because the Santa Fe tends to crash through potholes, destroying the calm atmosphere. It comes with three driving settings – Normal, Comfort and Sport – that alter the weight of the steering, but, to be frank, we didn’t notice much difference when flicking between them.
Practicality & boot space
Huge boot and seven-seat option are impressive
The Santa Fe is quite practical – although growing families may want to go for the seven-seat version, even if the third row of seats are hard to get at. While rivals such as the Volvo XC90 and Chevrolet Captiva offer more space, you can still squeeze a pair of adults in the back row of a Santa Fe – but only for short journeys!
The boot offers 969 litres of storage space when the rear seats are folded away, plus an extra 48 litres hidden under the boot floor for storing valuables. With all seats folded down, the capacity expands to an enormous 2,247 litres – more than enough for most bulky loads. The 60:40 split-fold middle seats slide back and forth for easier access and can be folded down by a simple pull of a handle. Leg and headroom in the front are much better than the previous Santa Fe, with large storage cubbies in the doors and centre console for easy storage.
Reliability & safety
Solid build and five-year warranty are major plus points
Hyundai took a bit of a tumble in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, dropping seven places to 14th, mainly due to sub-standard ride quality, disappointing performance and average handling. Meanwhile, the previous generation Santa Fe actually made its survey debut in 2013 at number 74 in the list of top 100 cars – and this latest third generation is much better, so expect it to make an even higher debut when its qualifies for the survey. The interior is well constructed and all the components are tried and tested in the previous model, so there should be very few issues. Hyundai's comprehensive five-year/unlimited mileage warranty comes as standard, including RAC Roadside Assistance and annual health checks, which should give any potential buyer that extra peace of mind. The warranty can also be carried over to the next owner – a further sign of Hyundai's confidence in its product.
The Santa Fe was also awarded the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests and was actually named the safest large SUV in its class, with an impressive 96 per cent for adult protection. You get seven airbags, a strengthened body shell, electronic stability control (ESP) and a bonnet that pops up to reduce injury in a collision with a pedestrian. If you go for a four-wheel drive model you also get better grip in wet conditions, and useful off-road extras such as hill descent control and 4x4 lock.
The driving position is nice and high, with large windows giving excellent visibility out the front. However, small rear side windows make the view out the back very poor.
Engines, drive & performance
Capable and dependable on any surface
If you want an SUV that's fun to drive, we’d suggest the Mazda CX-5, but the Santa Fe is comfortable, easily ironing out any bumps in the road. It does roll when you drive through the corners, but that's not surprising for a car with such large dimensions. Grip is good, though, and it drives well in slippery conditions.
You do get hill descent control and a system that distributes the power to all four wheels equally on 4x4 models, but, in truth, the Santa Fe is more of a family car than an off-roader. There's only engine available, but you do get to choose between two-wheel drive and 4x4 models, with the latter having slightly worse economy and emissions. The 194bhp 2.2-litre CRDi diesel model offers solid performance without compromising economy, but that is spoiled somewhat by being too nosy, especially on start-up. We’d also suggest going with the six-speed manual gearbox, as the automatic is less economical and hampers performance.
Price, value for money & options
Price hike means more stuff, but less value
While the Santa Fe is no longer the cheap SUV it once was, you do get what you pay for. That means an improved exterior design and a much more modern, luxurious interior.
Like Kia, Hyundai's move upmarket has also brought better resale values in the used market compared to previous models, which suffered severe depreciation when looking for good second-hand deals. The seven-seater model should perform particularly well. All models are well equipped, with entry-level Style models getting 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, voice recognition, reverse parking sensors, daytime running lights and air-conditioning as standard. Some of the interior materials are still made out of cheaper plastics, but standards have generally improved.
What the others say
The Santa Fe is a big step up from the model it replaces. It looks like a car from the class above, and it's comfortable and well equipped on the inside, too. It drives relatively well, and will transport up to seven people with very little fuss, providing you dodge the potholes. Is it good enough to justify the extra £3,435? We’d say so, but only just.
Hyundai has raised the prices for this generation of Santa Fe, although cheaper variants should come along once the company starts selling versions powered by a 2.0-litre turbodiesel instead of the 2.2. Even so, the standard kit list looks reasonably generous, with alloys, reversing sensors, air-con, Bluetooth, seven airbags and Trailer Stability Assist on all models. There's no escaping the fact that the Santa Fe is no longer the steal it once was - but it's an excellent package that is considerably better than cheaper rivals such as the Chevrolet Captiva.
Last updated: 10 Feb 2014