Hyundai gave its family-sized Santa Fe SUV an upgrade late in 2014 just in time to chalk up a third straight win in its category of the Australia’s Best Car awards. Unfortunately for Hyundai Santa Fe sales for 2014 didn’t match the opinion of the judges with it sitting in sixth place in sales in its category.

Styling changes for the latest Santa Fe are barely noticeable and sensibly so because the Hyundai design theme is proving popular. Only the most observant will notice a darker shade to the chrome grille, new daytime running lights and cornering lights.

The focal point of the Santa Fe interior is the large complex curved binnacle. Controls are large and well-placed with a big central screen on the higher grade models and inputs available through all the usual means, and a good satellite navigation system with Suna traffic information.

As before all 2015 Santa Fe variants come with seven seats meaning that it can combine the practical functions of a people mover with the looks and versatility of an SUV. It also has some off-road capacity.

Interior space is sensibly arranged with plenty of head and legroom in the front and centre seats. Not unexpectedly the third row seats are best kept for children. In an interesting move, the outboard rear seats can also be heated, though they cannot be cooled.


The third row of seats fold flat to provide plenty of storage space when in five-seat mode. Indeed even with all seven seats in place there’s still an impressive 506 litres available. With both rows of rear seats folded (the centre row not quite flat) Santa Fe can be used as a mini van with capacity up to 1615 litres.

Two four-cylinder engines are available, 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and 2.4-litre petrol. The latter replaced the previous 3.5-litre V6 petrol with the arrival of the third generation Santa Fe in 2012 and saw a significant drop in power (204 kW to 141 kW) and torque (335 Nm to 242 Nm).

That leaves the diesel as the obvious choice for those seeking extra grunt with a big 436 Nm of torque available between 1800 and 2500 rpm. Maximum power is 145 kW at 3000 revs.

Santa Fe comes in three model variants, Active, Elite and Highlander. The petrol engine and six-speed manual transmission are only available with the entry-level Active. The higher-specced Elite and Highlander are locked into the diesel / automatic (six-speed) combination.


Equipment levels are high with all models getting seven airbags (including curtain ‘bags that extend to the third row); ISOFIX anchors, on the outside second row seats only; daytime running lights; front and rear foglamps; rear park assist; hill start assist; automatic headlights; cornering lights; rear view camera and roof rails.

The mid-spec Elite adds 18-inch alloy wheels (Active get 17-inch); push button start/stop; satellite navigation; premium audio; leather trimmed upholstery; powered tailgate; and chrome grille and door handles.

The range-topping (and top-selling – it accounts for around half of all Santa Fe sales) Highlander gets smart parking assist, though only into parallel spots not those at right angles; front parking sensors; lane departure warning system; perforated ventilated front seats that heat and cool; auto dipping side mirrors; panoramic sunroof and 19-inch alloy wheels..

Despite its modest capacity the petrol engine is capable enough in normal urban running although it can struggle on hilly terrain. If you’re planning to use all seven seats with luggage make sure to find some hills when you take a petrol Santa Fe for your test drive and then balance off the $3000 surcharge for the diesel against your needs.

The diesel won’t have such issue and will of course consume less fuel than the petrol, officially 6.6 litres per 100 km with the manual gearbox compared with 9.0 L/100 km from the petrol. We used around 8.8 L/100 km in the Elite diesel that we drove – a lot more than the official figure.

Towing capacity ranges from a useful 2000 kg with the automatic transmission to 2500 kg with manual.

Although not quite to European SUV standard, handling is acceptable and unless you push the Santa Fe too hard it will remain neutral and balanced.

Quite a bit of suspension and steering design work was done in Australia and it shows when we used the Santa Fe on some demanding stretches of road.

Off-road, Hyundai Santa Fe is better than average for its class and can cope with harsher conditions than those likely to be demanded by the typical owner.

Be aware that minimum ground clearance dropped from 200 mm to 185 mm with the third generation model. While this makes it more convenient for its occupants and improves its aerodynamics and fuel efficiency it could cause problems for the over-adventurous driver.

If you’re looking for a sportier appearance in your SUV then it might be worth waiting for the arrival of the Santa Fe SR model, due here in a few months time. It will feature a sports bodykit, Brembo brakes, performance springs, matte-black Oz Racing wheels and Michelin Latitude Tour higher-performance tyres. We’ll report on the Santa Fe SR when it arrives.

As with all Hyundai models Santa Fe comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. If warranty coverage is a major factor in your buying decision, then it will be worth checking out the closely related Kia Sorento, which now has a seven year warranty, still with no distance limit.

Santa Fe has that solid, quality feel to its body that we expect from prestige vehicles and will prove a real plus for those intending to work their Santa Fe hard and keep it for a long time. The combination of attractive looks, functional design and flexible interior space seem sure to appeal to the typical suburban family buyer.


Active 2.4-litre petrol seven-seat five-door wagon: $38,490 (manual), $40,990 (automatic)
Active 2.2-litre diesel seven-seat five-door wagon: $41,490 (manual), $43,990 (automatic)
Elite 2.2-litre diesel seven-seat five-door wagon: $48,490 (automatic)
Highlander 2.2-litre diesel seven-seat five-door wagon: $53,240 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Hyundai dealer for driveaway pricing.

ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Optional in Active, standard in Elite and Highlander
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models

SPECIFICATIONS (Hyundai Santa Fe CRDi Elite 2.2-litre turbo-diesel 4WD five-door wagon)

Capacity: 2.199 litres
Configuration: Transverse, four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 16.0:1
Bore/Stroke: 85.4 mm x 96.0 mm
Maximum Power: 145 kW at 3800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 421 Nm (manual), 436 Nm (auto) at 1800-2500 rpm

Driven Wheels: AWD
Manual Transmission: Six speed
Automatic Transmission: Six speed
Final Drive Ratio: 4.750:1

Length: 4690 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Width: 1880 mm
Height: 1680 mm (with roof rails)
Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1790 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 64 litres
Towing Ability: 2000 kg (auto), 2500 (man) – with braked trailer

Front Suspension: MacPherson struts
Rear Suspension: Multi-link
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc

Type: Diesel
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 6.6 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 7/10
Air Pollution Rating: 3/10

Five years/ Unlimited km

About Alistair Kennedy

Alistair Kennedy is Automotive News Service and Marque Publishing's business manager and the company's jack-of-all-trades. An accountant by profession, he designs the Marque range of motoring book titles, operates the company's motoring bookshop on the NSW Central Coast and the associated web site, as well as its huge digital and hard copy database. Whenever we can escape from the office he does so to cover new vehicle releases and contributes news stories. Alistair's other interests include cricket and family history on which he has written three books.
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