With electric vehicles making landfall Down Under like lightning strikes in a tropical
summer storm, the Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid stands out from the deluge, being one of the
few family-size sports utility vehicles to take up EV status.
It’s not the ‘Full Monty’ electric model but retains in tandem an internal combustion power
plant. Until recently the only seven-seater SUV hybridised was the Toyota Kluger. Now the
Santa Fe joins the Kia Sorento hybrid and Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid in adding to
No plug-in hybrid here, with its interminable search for external charging points, the Santa
Fe hybrid has the brains to charge its lithium-ion battery through conversion of kinetic
energy while working in conjunction with the petrol engine and regen brakes when on the
Available only as upper-crust Elite and Highlander variants, the hybrid is kitted out
essentially like its petrol- and diesel-powered cousins. However, an electric shock comes
in the price differences – a high voltage $6500 over the petrol and $3000 the diesel, which
equates to $63,000 for the Elite and $69,550 for the Highlander, the test vehicle, without
Both are seven-seaters but can be reconfigured as a six-seater with two captain’s chairs in
the second row instead of the bench. With seven seats, the third row is fit only for littlies’
use in comfort, although it does have its own air-con.
As with all Santa Fes, both hybrids are covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre
warranty, while the battery earns an eight-year 160,000-kilometre guarantee. Service
intervals are 10,000 km or 12 months.
What’s new? Not much. A major facelift three years ago saw the Santa Fe put on a fresh
face and interior. The new Hybrid differs from the petrol and diesel versions only in the
wheels – smaller 19-inch alloys with different design here – said to be more aerodynamic
and save fuel.
The shapely Santa Fe exterior is well known for its so-called cascading grille, which in the
Hybrid case covers a yawning chasm of a radiator. In profile, looks are toned down a tad in
readiness for a robust, yet shapely rear.
With the Hybrid in the higher-grade Elite and Highlander corner, the interior has a classy
look and feel, with Nappa leather in the latter and other quality materials shared.
An option for the Hybrid is six seats, in which the second-row bench is replaced with a pair
of captain’s chairs. With seven seats, the third row is fit only for littlies’ use with comfort.
Head room is restricted by the intrusion of the sun roof workings. The boot has a spot for a
full-size spare wheel under a flat cargo area with third row folded, there’s room for family
shopping or a stroller. With five seats in use there is up to 782 litres on offer. A power
tailgate takes away the trauma of loading in the rain.
There’s a configurable 10.2-inch instrument display, which features a digital energy meter
and a 12.3-inch infotainment dash-mounted touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and
digital radio. A 10-speaker Harman / kardon premium audio is standard.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Under the bonnet a 1.6 litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged petrol engine with a combined
output of 169 kW and 350 Nm are hitched up to a six-speed automatic transmission and
While this compares favourably with petrol and diesel performance, when it comes to
towing, the hybrid is left behind with 1650 kg to the internal-combustion pair with 2500 kg.
The Santa Fe Hybrid comes with all the latest safety systems from Hyundai. These include
automatic emergency braking, which operates at intersections, blind-spot warning, lane
keeping assist, rear- cross-traffic alert, rear occupant alert automatic high-beam head
lamps and adaptive cruise control.
The Hybrid Highlander also takes on 360-degree surround-view camera, blind spot
monitor and reverse automatic emergency braking.
At a whisker less than 4.8 metres long, the Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander is on the cusp of
bursting out of the mid-size SUV mob into the big time. However, a well-sorted suspension
and responsive steering come up with relaxed ride and handling.
Off the mark, there’s more than a hint of sporty performance, while a centre console dial is
in charge of driving modes from Eco to Smart to sand, snow or other obstacles thrown up
In a fraction of more than 400 kilometres of mixed urban / highway going the Santa Fe
Hybrid Highlander recorded fuel consumption of 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, in line with
the claimed 6 litres per 100 kays.
More buttons than the pantomime Cinderella’s eponymous family servant, known for
having rows of gilt buttons down the front of his tunic, the floating centre console controls
offered up a few missteps. However, familiarity came with repeated use.
Tight parking spaces are easily avoided by using the remote parking system operated from
outside the vehicle from the key fob. Back inside, head-up windscreen display is never an
unwelcome driving aid.
Not exactly early adopters, Santa Fe Hybrid buyers get the latest in hybrid technology at a
price. But what’s new about bidding for a pollution-free climate.
AT A GLANCE
Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Elite $63,000
Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander $69,550
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your
local Hyundai dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Santa Fe Highlander 1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder petrol, 44.2 kW electric
motor, 6sp automatic, AWD)
Capacity: 1.598 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders inline, hybrid electric motor, 1.49 kWh Li-ion battery
Combined Maximum Power: 169 kW @ 5500 rpm
Combined Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 1000-4500 rpm
Fuel Type: Regular unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.0 L/100km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4785 mm
Wheelbase: 2765 mm
Width: 1900 mm
Height: 1685 mm
Turning Circle: 11.4 metres
Kerb mass: 1845 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 67 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres
Battery eight years / 160,000 kilometres