Santa Fe is the big brother of the four-model Hyundai SUV family. Now approaching 20 years of age it sits ahead of its mid-teen, mid-sized Tucson, followed by the compact pre-schooler Kona and the brand new bubbling baby of the range, the Venue.
The latest, fourth generation MY2019, Santa Fe, arrived here in mid-2018 with a larger body that equates to extra interior space, a new eight-speed automatic transmission and advanced all-wheel drive system as well as extra active safety features.
Three Santa Fe variants are available – Active, Elite and Highlander. The Active comes with the choice of a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine mated with a six-speed automatic or 2.2-litre turbo-diesel motor matched to a new eight-speed auto.
Elite and Highlander come only with the diesel / eight-speed combination.
Prices range from $43,000 for the petrol Active through to $60,500 for the Highlander. On-road costs need to be added.
The Gen 4 Santa Fe gets an all-new frontal look with the latest Hyundai brand signature ‘cascading’ grille one that works a treat in the big SUV. As well the grille on the Elite and Highlander models gets a special carbon effect finish that gives it extra depth. The front lighting has been split with LED daytime running lights sitting above the headlights.
At the rear the LED split tail lights have been tapered and there’s an attractive new design to the rear bumpers.
As is the norm with most vehicle upgrades the new Santa Fe is larger than its predecessor, most noticeably in its overall length (+70mm) and wheelbase (+65mm).
Only the different alloy wheel sizes distinguish the three Santa Fe variants from each other: 17-inch on the Active, 18-inch on the Elite and 19-inch on the Highlander. All come with full-size spares.
A panoramic sunroof is standard with Highlander.
Inside, the new Santa Fe has been given a quality boost and, especially in the flagship Highlander that gives it has a level of refinement that’s not far short of the much more expensive big-name European SUVs.
Active has the added comfort of cloth seats while Elite and Highlander have double-stitched leather in either Black, Dark Beige and Burgundy colours together with carbon-fibre wood or stone door and dash inserts and LED lighting to present a new level of sophistication.
Luggage space is 130 litres behind the third row seats, expanding to 547 litres with the second row seatbacks down and up to an impressive 1625 litres with both rear rows folded. There’s also storage under the boot floor to keep items away from prying eyes and powered tailgate operation in Elite and Highlander.
Access to the third row seats is improved with the new Walk-in switch located at the base of the kerbside rear seat that automatically slides the seat forward and tilts the backrest to maximise entry space. There’s also a power release switch in the cargo bay that folds the second-row seatbacks.
There’s plenty of storage space with a large glovebox and centre console storage bin under the centre armrest, two cup holders, full-size bottle holders in the doors and a useful shelf above the glove box with a non-slip surface.
We hear some criticism about the positioning of display screens that jut out and up from the centre of the car dashboards as it does in Santa Fe.
Fortunately, function overrides form in most cases as there are three basic requirements for the screens: they need to be easy to read, easy to reach and operate, and require the minimum amount of time that the driver takes from the road.
Santa Fe ticks all three boxes with a 7-inch screen in the Active and 8-inch display in the higher specced models.
The LCD instrument cluster directly in front of the driver has a 3.5-inch diameter in the Active and Elite, and 7-inch in the Highlander which also has the added safety of a head-up display.
Highlander and Elite have satellite navigation with 3D maps with lifetime updates and live traffic information.
The new Hyundai Auto Link connects the Santa Fe’s smart computer to a mobile phone via Bluetooth allowing owners to keep track of vehicle data, including real-time diagnostics, tyre pressure monitoring, driving history statistics, parking management, easy service scheduling and automatic access to roadside assistance. Highlander gets Auto Link Premium which adds other features including remote engine start.
Three USB sockets (one in the front, two in the rear), AUX port and two 12-volt outlets (front and boot) are standard in all models while Highlander also has a Qi standard wireless charging pad for compatible phones –
and with owners who remember to remove any protective casing!
A 10-speaker Infinity Premium Audio System is installed in Santa Fe Elite and Highlander.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine is available across all three Santa Fe trim grades. It delivers 147 kW at 3800rpm and 440 Nm between 1750 and 2750 revs. The combination is mated with a new eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The entry level Active gets the option of a 2.4-litre GDi four-cylinder petrol engine with outputs of 138 kW at 6000 rpm and 241 Nm at 4000 rpm.
Hyundai Santa Fe’s has 57 per cent of its body structure made from Hyundai Advanced High Strength Steel.
Passive safety also includes six airbags: two front, two side and two curtain airbags cover the first and second row seats.
Standard across the Santa Fe range is the Hyundai SmartSense active safety package that includes forward collision-avoidance assist; smart cruise control with stop and go; blind-spot collision avoidance assist; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist; driver attention warning; high beam assist and lane keeping assist.
A very minor MY2020 upgrade in July 2019 added Rear Occupant Alert to the Active variant. Previously only in the Elite and Highlander the system uses motion sensors to detect babies or dogs accidentally left in the vehicle and sounding the horn.
Our test car was the premium Highlander powered by a turbo-diesel that’s almost as quiet, smooth and refined as many V6 petrol units but with the sort of grunt that diesels deliver.
Fuel consumption is listed as 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres. We averaged 9.3 L / 100 km over our usual mix of urban, motorway and rural conditions.
Steering is light and direct with plenty of feedback to the driver.
Regular readers are probably tired of our constant reference to the fact that Hyundai, and its sibling Kia, conduct extensive testing in Australia but it really does make a difference. Unlike other importers whose approach is “what you see (feel) is what you get” – often soft and spongy – the two Koreans, through a lot of hard yakka, invariably manage to strike the right balance between firmness and comfort that appeals to Australian buyers.
All Santa Fe models, petrol and diesel, come with the HTRAC (Hyundai Traction) all-wheel drive (AWD) system which optimises traction to increase comfort, stability, acceleration and fuel efficiency. There are four drive modes: Comfort, ECO, Sport and Smart
In Comfort mode, the system provides improved stability with up to 35 per cent of torque distributed to the rear wheels. And in Eco it sends the majority of engine torque to the front wheels to increase fuel efficiency. In Sport mode, it delivers improved acceleration by distributing up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels.
Smart is very clever in that it analyses the driver’s habits to provide the optimum engine, transmission and steering configuration to suit.
We spent most of our time behind the wheel in Comfort mode and were impressed with the new suspension set-up which felt comfortable but sharp at the same time. Into the rural segment the occasional pothole was suppressed well with little bouncing.
The extra two gears in the new eight-speed automatic transmissions proved to be a major improvement especially along the undulating M1 motorway to the north of Sydney.
Hyundai’s luxury stablemate Genesis is set to release a couple of SUV models, reportedly around the same size as Santa Fe, in the not-too-distant future and it will be interesting to see how they can out-do their well-established and respected cousin.
With its great new looks, improved transmissions, extensive safety features, strong emphasis on connectivity and affordable pricing it’s hard to see too many Santa Fe buyers being enticed upmarket.
All Hyundai vehicles come with a five-year, unlimited distance standard warranty but as an added incentive have extended the term up to seven years for sales made before the end of this 2019.
AT A GLANCE
Santa Fe Active 2.4 GDI petrol 6sp automatic: $43,000
Santa Fe Active 2.2 CRDi diesel 8sp automatic: $46,000
Santa Fe Elite 2.2 CRDi diesel 8sp automatic: $54,000
Santa Fe Highlander CRDi diesel 8sp automatic: $60,500
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Hyundai dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Santa Fe Highlander 2.2-litre CRDi diesel 8sp automatic, AWD wagon)
Capacity: 2.199 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in-line
Maximum Power: 147 kW @ 3800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 440 Nm @ 1450-2750 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 198 g/km
DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic, Active on-demand 4WD
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4770 mm
Wheelbase: 2765 mm
Width: 1890 mm
Height: 1705 mm
Turning Circle: 11.42 metres
Gross Vehicle Mass: 2630 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 71 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres