In-depth reviews

Hyundai Santa Fe review – the best seven-seater?

“The latest Hyundai Santa Fe’s unapologetically chunky styling, impressive seven-seat practicality and quality interior make it a genuine Land Rover rival”

Carbuyer Rating

4.5 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Price
£43,215 - £52,015

Pros

  • Very practical
  • Comfortable for all seven passengers
  • High-quality interior

Cons

  • Rivals feel better to drive
  • More expensive than before
  • No diesel option for towing

Verdict - Is the Hyundai Santa Fe a good car?

While it's still early days, our time with the Hyundai Santa Fe shows it’s shaping up to be a more capable and appealing five, six or seven-seater than its predecessor in almost every way. Hyundai has turned it up a notch in terms of its premium feel inside, with added tech and good quality materials which will help it appeal to not only family-car buyers, but also those who may be considering a seven-seater from premium rivals such as Land Rover.

Hyundai Santa Fe models, specs and alternatives

The Hyundai Santa Fe is the South Korean brand’s flagship SUV, offering from five to seven seats and plenty of practicality for a large family. For this iteration, rather than trying to disguise its SUV proportions with wacky styling or sleek curves, Hyundai has instead designed the Santa Fe with unapologetically boxy, yet clean lines. We wouldn’t expect the Santa Fe’s looks to be particularly controversial with most buyers, though it’s at the rear where it could divide opinion with its unusually low-down taillights.

Elsewhere the Santa Fe flaunts its chunkiness with large angular wheel arches and H-shaped LED daytime running lights. It’s a look that wouldn’t look too out of place next to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV. 

Best large SUVsTop 10 best large SUVs 2024

The Santa Fe’s styling means it looks purposeful, and it appears as though Hyundai wants buyers to consider this iteration as a more rugged, outdoorsy car than before, evidenced by the brand’s heavy emphasis on its practical tailgate it says doubles up as a ‘terrace’ – a place where users might sit and admire the great outdoors after a day of hiking or other activity, for example. 

In practice, though, we reckon most buyers of the Santa Fe will be those with big families in need of seven seats and generous boot space, and this is an area where it excels – there’s certainly enough space for every occupant, even in the back row. 

As a result, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s rivals include other adventure-enabling cars such as the Land Rover Defender or Discovery, but Hyundai is positioning the Santa Fe as a slightly more high-end proposition than the old model, so it’s also taking on more premium rivals such as the Audi Q7 or BMW X5

Of course, rivals still include the likes of the Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq. While UK pricing is yet to be revealed, we’d expect a significant increase over the outgoing car’s £45,000 price tag given the Santa Fe is set to be a little more premium than before.

All versions of the Hyundai Santa Fe are hybrid, with a full-hybrid and plug-in hybrid coming to the UK. We’ve tested the Hyundai Santa Fe on South Korea’s roads in hybrid guise, which uses a 1.6-litre engine and electric motor. Despite having a combustion engine that’s pretty small for a car this size, the Santa Fe’s powerplant feels capable enough for most, although rivals such as the BMW X5 will be better suited to satisfying keen drivers. The Santa Fe is a model that will appeal more to those with a priority on space and comfort.

Hyundai Santa Fe alternatives

Premium SUVs and 4x4s

It might be Hyundai's flagship SUV, but the South Korean brand has only recently begun challenging the likes of Land Rover, BMW and Audi. If an affordable alternative with a long warranty sounds appealing, look no further than the Santa Fe. 

Large SUVs

While the large seven-seat SUV class isn't as packed out as the mid-size SUV arena, there are still some excellent rivals, including the Skoda Kodiaq that scooped our Best Large Family Car title.

MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions

“Hybrid and plug-in hybrid power should make the large Hyundai Santa Fe more frugal than you might expect”

Hyundai has yet to release official fuel economy and emissions data for the Santa Fe, but the hybrid model is expected to get between 40 to 45mpg. The plug-in hybrid model will no doubt get a much higher official figure, but be aware that in real-world conditions plug-in hybrids are unlikely to achieve these lofty on-paper mpg figures unless you keep the battery charged up frequently and run on electricity for the vast majority of the time. The old plug-in hybrid car was able to travel up to 36 miles on electricity, so we’d expect this range to increase for the new model.
 

Model 

Fuel economy

CO2 emissions

Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid

40-45mpg (estimated)

160g/km (estimated)

Hyundai Santa Fe plug-in hybrid

N/A

N/A

Insurance

Hyundai is yet to release any details on insurance groups and costs for the Santa Fe, but the previous model sat in groups in the 20-30 range (out of 50), so we’d expect similar for the new car. This will make it fairly expensive to insure, but no worse than other large and relatively complex SUVs.

Engines, drive & performance

“The Hyundai Santa Fe is a comfort-focused SUV first and foremost, so some rivals are more enjoyable to drive”

Stepping into the latest Hyundai Santa Fe, we were struck with how high-end it felt compared to the outgoing car, and this is also reflected in the driving experience. It’s clearly been designed with comfort in mind, and this it does well, feeling soft and relaxed, rather than sharp and engaging like a Cupra Ateca. That means it’s not really built with driving enthusiasts in mind – for more composure and driving feel you’d be better off with a BMW X5, which can be optioned with an extra row of seats to make it a seven-seater too. 

For most buyers, the Santa Fe’s relaxed, comfortable approach will be part of its appeal. We drove the full hybrid model, and at low speeds when it’s being propelled by its electric motors alone, this version is very quiet and refined. While its 1.6-litre petrol engine might seem small for an SUV of this size, it feels very capable of powering the Santa Fe, and the transition from electric to petrol propulsion is smooth. Even at higher motorway speeds the engine is very quiet, so it felt civilised. 

We tested a Santa Fe Hybrid on 18-inch and 21-inch alloy wheels on South Korean roads – while the 18-inch alloys are more comfortable to ride on, even the car with 21-inch wheels felt nicely composed. The largest wheel option in the UK will be 20 inches, which is likely to fare better on pothole-filled UK roads. For the utmost in comfort you’d be better off going for even smaller alloys, but we’ll have to test it in the UK before we can give a definitive answer on whether it makes too much of a difference.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid

230bhp

9.5 seconds

118mph

Plug-in hybrid model

The plug-in hybrid will also be making its way to the UK, and while we’re yet to drive it, we’d expect it to be just as refined. It uses the same petrol engine, and a longer electric range compared to the hybrid model means it will be able to run with the petrol engine off, making it quieter more of the time. We’ll have to reserve full judgment for when we get a chance to drive it to see how smoothly the system transitions from electric to petrol power, and if the added weight of the larger battery affects its driving feel.

Interior & comfort

“Quality has taken a step up in the latest Hyundai Santa Fe, so it feels more high-end as a result”

Stepping into the Hyundai Santa Fe, you immediately get a sense that quality has improved over the old model. While generally we're big fans of physical switchgear to complement touchscreen controls, the old model took it a little too far the other way, with a messy-looking dashboard cluttered with dated buttons and dials. 

Infotainment and navigation

This time, Hyundai has got the balance right; the Santa Fe’s new interior gets an attractive, curved panoramic display on the dashboard, made up of one 12.3-inch infotainment screen, and another crisp digital gauge cluster that sits in front of the driver, displaying important information such as speed or fuel economy.

The latest Santa Fe hasn’t forgone physical dials completely, so there’s a touch-sensitive climate control panel under the air vents complete with easy-to-use rotary dials you can turn to adjust the temperature. 

We like that the interior gets some neat touches such as USB charging ports in the seatbacks to allow passengers to power their devices, two large wireless charging pads up front, and plenty of storage compartments. Some trims are even set to get a UV-C Sterilisation Tray, a compartment which uses UV rays to kill bacteria on any objects you place inside of it – we’re not sure how useful most buyers will find this, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.

Trim levels are yet to be confirmed for the UK, but prices and specifications are expected to be announced mid-way through 2024.

Practicality & boot space

“The Santa Fe’s large dimensions mean there’s space for up to seven adult passengers to sit comfortably”

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a big car, and that translates to a spacious cabin. There’s the choice of five, six or seven-seat configurations. The latter two are spread over three rows, with the six-seater’s middle row sporting two large ‘captain’s chairs’ instead of a bench, for added comfort.

Even in the seven-seat version, every space is large enough for a fully grown adult – even for those sitting in the back row. The Santa Fe certainly gives the Land Rover Discovery a run for its money in this area, because we’d only recommend children sit in the rearmost seats of the Discovery on longer journeys. The Santa Fe’s middle row is highly adjustable, too, so you can move it backwards or forwards to prioritise leg room or luggage space as necessary. 

We also liked the Hyundai Santa Fe’s interior usability. There are plenty of storage compartments located around the cabin to boost practicality further and USB ports in the seat backs allow every passenger to charge a device.

Traditionally the Santa Fe has been a favourite amongst buyers towing heavy caravans, horseboxes and trailers, and it’s still to be seen how the lack of a diesel engine option could affect its ability in this department. In the outgoing model the diesel could haul 2,500kg, while petrol and hybrid models peaked at 1,650kg.

Size comparison

Model 

Length

Width

Height

Hyundai Santa Fe

4,830mm

1,900mm

1,720mm

Land Rover Discovery

4,956mm

2,000mm

1,888mm

Skoda Kodiaq

4,758mm

1,864mm

1,659mm

Kia Sorento

4,810mm

1,900mm

1,700mm

Boot space

At 725 litres, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s boot capacity is larger than the outgoing car’s by 91 litres with just five seats in place, and we had no issues packing in all our luggage, bags and camera equipment when we tested it, even with the second row of seats positioned all the way back.

The speed at which the Santa Fe’s powered boot lid opens and closes can be adjusted to your preference, as can the height the tailgate opens to, so if you’re a smaller person you can tweak the settings to make it easier to reach. Hyundai has referred to the Santa Fe’s wide rear opening and boot as a ‘terrace’ where users can sit and enjoy it as a social space. We expect most buyers will use it in a more conventional manner, but it could come in handy on camping trips or at outdoor events.

Boot space comparison

Model 

Boot space

Hyundai Santa Fe

725 litres

Kia sorento

616 litres

Skoda Kodiaq

835 litres

Nissan X-Trail

775 litres

Reliability & safety

“While it’s too early to tell how reliable the Santa Fe will be, we’re yet to hear of any reliability issues from Hyundai as a whole”

It’s too early to get an idea of Hyundai Santa Fe reliability data, but as a wider brand, Hyundai performed averagely in the 2023 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, coming in 17th place out of 32 carmakers. Reliability is also middling for the company, with 21% of owners reporting an issue with their Hyundai in the first year.

Safety

The Hyundai Santa Fe has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but given the old car got a five-star rating, we can expect the new one to build on this achievement. In fact, Hyundai says that while the old car was fitted with six airbags, the new one adds another four to offer even better protection for occupants, and a curtain airbag will now even cover the third row. We can expect a comprehensive suite of safety and driver assistance tech to be standard on the new Santa Fe, although full trim specifications are yet to be confirmed for the UK. 

The Santa Fe will get the brand’s Highway Driving Assist 2.0, which uses sensors and GPS data to deliver Level 2 autonomous driving capability which allows the car to automatically brake, accelerate and overtake on the motorway when activated.

Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.2 CRDi SE 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £31,956

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.6 TGDi Plug-in Hybrid Premium 5dr 4WD Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £47,605

Fastest

  • Name
    1.6 TGDi Plug-in Hybrid Premium 5dr 4WD Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £47,605

Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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