In-depth Reviews

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV - Engines, drive & performance

While safe and easy to drive, the Hyundai Santa Fe is unlikely to get the pulse racing

Carbuyer Rating

3.7 out of 5

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Owners Rating

3.0 out of 5

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Engines, drive & performance Rating

2.5 out of 5

The one area where the Hyundai Santa Fe presents its weakest challenge to premium rivals is driver appeal. Driving the South Korean SUV is by no means a chore, but a Land Rover Discovery Sport - or even a Skoda Kodiaq - is more likely to put a smile on your face.

There's precious little feel through the steering wheel, which is particularly vague when moved slightly left or right of the straight-ahead position. While there's not much in the way of reward, there’s not much required in the way of effort required to drive the Santa Fe either; it resists body lean admirably in sharp corners, and remains fairly level on uneven road surfaces, with little of the pitching and wallowing of previous models. The ride is fairly smooth, too.

Buyers no longer have a choice of front or four-wheel drive, with all Santa Fes now getting Hyundai's HTRAC four-wheel-drive system, letting you choose from Sport, Comfort and Eco modes. These distribute power between front and rear wheels depending on the mode selected.

Hyundai Santa Fe diesel engines

Until the plug-in hybrid model arrives, Santa Fe buyers can only select a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine, which has been proven in other cars from Hyundai. It produces 197bhp and its pulling power gives the car relatively strong acceleration. Both manual and automatic versions get from 0-62mph in around 9.5 seconds and the top-spec Premium SE is automatic only.

The automatic gearbox boasts eight gears but isn't especially responsive when a gearchange is called for by stamping on the accelerator. Fortunately, the steering column-mounted paddles allow your gearchanging demands to be more quickly met, and it's generally smooth and well suited to the car's character.

The automatic gearbox incorporates Sport, Eco and Comfort driving modes, as well as a ‘smart setting’ that switches to whichever mode the computer deems suitable for your prevailing driving style. We could barely distinguish any difference between the modes, so it ends up feeling a little gimmicky rather than hugely useful.

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