Hyundai Sante FeSomething old . . . something new: that just about sums up the Santa Fe Active as a no-nonsense wagon at a family-friendly price under $50K.

For example, following keyless entry to the vehicle with fob tucked away, in a glimpse of the past, it is required to fumble for the key and slot it into the steering column ignition and turn the switch to start the engine.

It’s then that the 21st century gets a look-in with the Santa Fe featuring much of the latest automotive technology, including Hyundai’s SmartSense package of safety stuff. The latter is on hand throughout the model range. And there’s an electric parking brake.

Opening the innings for the Santa Fe squad is the Active petrol automatic featuring the latest Hyundai 3.5-litre V6 motor driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission, all for $43,000, plus on-road costs.

Thereafter follows a line-up of petrol and diesel all-wheel drive wagons up the Highlander 2.2-litre diesel automatic AWD at $60,500 (plus ORCs). I ended up with a middle-order Active 2.2-litre diesel automatic AWD, with a $46,000 price tag, on test.

The Santa Fe plays on its family-friendly nature and shapes up with standard big sports utility vehicle looks.

Front on is where the Santa Fe steps out of the crowd with a bold radiator grille, a standout headlamp set-up crowned by dual daytime running light strips.

The surroundings eschew the ubiquitous black, opting for a grey base with chocolate highlights. Active seating misses out on the leather trappings of upper-level Santa Fe’s, being replaced by quality fabric.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Storage is a major feature of the cabin with a large centre-console box and slots for drink bottles and the like within easy reach of all occupants. Large glassed areas make for light surroundings, plus good all-round vision from all seating positions but the third row.

The Santa Fe Active makes do with 17-inch alloy wheels, with Elite and Highlander models moving up to eighteens.

All Santa Fe’s sport a touchscreen, the Active making do with a 7-inch display, the Elite and Highlander run to the extra inch. Added to this is an array of buttons and knobs, among them air-con dials (no climate control here).

Also absent is embedded satellite navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be called up via a mobile phone connection. Wireless phone charging has gone missing too.

Featured as standard in Santa Fe Active and Elite models is Hyundai Auto Link, a smartphone app that allows the owner to stay connected to the car. It involves a pre-installed module that connects the car’s computer to the customer’s mobile phone.

Included is driving info such as current distance, current travel time, today’s distance, today’s travel time, fuel efficiency, and fuel consumption; parked vehicle location and parking time reminders.

Roadside assistance can be contacted immediately if there is a problem with the vehicle and also checks the vehicle’s status and, if a problem is detected, it can connect the phone to Hyundai Customer Care. It also comes up with current or searched locations on a map.

Hyundai Sante Fe

The first 12 months are included in the Santa Fe purchase price and when servicing with Hyundai, customers receive an additional 12 months of Auto Link.

Those opting out of company servicing can continue receiving the benefits by paying a monthly subscription.

Santa Fe recently launched a new 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine, replacing the 2.4-litre unit previously offered in Santa Fe Active. This is the first time V6 power has been on tap across the Santa Fe line-up.

However, the test vehicle was stuck with the tried-and-tested 2.2-litre 147 kW, 440 Nm turbo-diesel motor, which is available across all grades. It’s teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system.

The 2020 Santa Fe boasts Hyundai’s SmartSense safety system which incorporates forward collision-avoidance assist, smart cruise control with stop-and-go function, blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning, as well as driver attention warning, high beam assist and lane keeping assist.

On the downside, the curtain airbag falls short, leaving those in the third row of seats exposed. There are no IsoFix or tether points either, which rules out baby seats.

With 147 kW on tap at 3800 rpm, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel is an engine that’s a smooth operator and quiet to boot. With 1000 rpm of peak torque (1750 to 2750 rpm) there’s flexibility on hand when required for overtaking or filtering into fast moving traffic.

Hyundai claims fuel consumption of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle. The test car came up pretty much on target with 10 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 6.6 litres per 100 kilometres on the open road.

As with all Hyundais running around Down Under the Santa Fe has been the subject of local engineering input, thus ride and handling is some of the best you can get for the money. Questionable Aussie bitumen and dirt hold no fears for the big SUV.

Lane keeping assist flexes its muscles so strongly it sometimes makes steering erratic and unpleasant for the driver. It can be switched off. A full-size spare wheel is fitted under the rear of the vehicle.

A true seven-seater, the Santa Fe combines passenger comfort – third-row leg room excepted – with cavernous cargo space (130 litres, 547 litres or 1625 litres) depending on seating arrangements.

The rear doors open wide and, at the touch of a button on the seat back it drops flat to allow easy access to the third row. Loading is nothing special, with power tailgate restricted to Elite and Highlander.

Without being introduced to other members of the Santa Fe family it is hard fairly to place the Active in the big SUV’s lineage, although it does appear to offer middle-of-the-road motoring at a reasonable cost.


Hyundai Santa Fe Active 3.5-litre petrol automatic FWD $43,000
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 3.5-litre petrol automatic FWD $51,000
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 3.5-litre petrol automatic FWD $57,500
Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2-litre diesel automatic AWD $46,000
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite 2.2-litre diesel automatic AWD $54,000
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2-litre diesel automatic AWD $60,500
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Hyundai dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, four-cylinder, direct injection, AWD, four-door wagon)

Capacity: 2.199 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 147 kW @ 3800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 440 Nm @ 1750-2750 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 198g/km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Length: 4770 mm
Wheelbase 2765 mm
Width: 1890 mm
Height: 1680 mm
Turning Circle: 11.42 metres
Kerb Mass: 1995 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 71 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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