With electric vehicles lighting up the sports utility vehicle market, the Santa Fe has
muscled in on the heavyweight SUV segment with the seven-seat premium Elite and
flagship Highlander taking on hybridised rivals such as the Toyota Kluger, Kia Sorento
hybrid and Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid.

The Santa Fe petrol-electric hybrid has the brains to charge its lithium-ion battery
through conversion of kinetic energy while working in conjunction with the internal
combustion engine and regenerative brakes while on the move.

Hyundai hybrid is kitted out essentially like its petrol- and diesel-powered cousins.

However, an electric shock comes with the price differences – a high voltage $6500
over the petrol and $3000 on the diesel, which equates to $63,000 for the Elite and
$69,550 for the Highlander (the test vehicle, without on-road costs).

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.

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, 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 160,000km guarantee. Service intervals
are 10,000km or 12 months.

A major facelift three years ago saw the Santa Fe put on a fresh face and interior. The
new Hybrid differs from petrol and diesel versions only in the wheels – smaller 19-inch
alloys with different design – 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.

The Highlander Hybrid shares much with the Elite but adds nappa leather upholstery, a
power front passenger seat, ventilated front seats and heated window seats in the
second row, head-up display and a panoramic sunroof.

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 and 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 12.3-inch infotainment dash-mounted touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay
and digital radio.

There’s a plethora of buttons below the screen on the centre stack, which keeps the
need for grubby fingerprints on the glass to a minimum.

A 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio system is standard, filling the cabin with quality
sound from front to back.

Under the bonnet a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a combined
output of 169kW and 350Nm is hitched up to a six-speed automatic transmission and
all-wheel drive.

While this compares favourably with petrol and diesel performance, when it comes to
towing, the hybrid is left behind with 1650kg to the internal-combustion pair’s 2500kg.

The Santa Fe Hybrid comes with all the latest safety systems. 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 and adaptive
cruise control.

Hybrid Highlander also takes on a 360-degree surround-view camera, blind spot
monitor and reverse automatic emergency braking.

First, let’s talk about fuel economy. Hyundai claims consumption of 6.0L/100km of
regular unleaded in the combined urban/highway cycle. On picking up the Santa Fe
Highlander Hybrid with a full tank, the vehicle’s computer read a range of 800km plus.

After a fortnight’s family business, according to the ‘brain’, there was still almost 300km
worth on board. With the odd sampling of Smart in the combined drive/terrain mode
range, most of the time was spent in the default Eco mode, serving up a motorway
cruising consumption of 5.3L/100km; around town up to 8.0L/100km was the norm.

At a whisker less than 4.8 metres long, the Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander is knocking on
the door of the SUV 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 under a range of loads,
from sole driver to a full seven-up and their gear. A centre console dial is in charge of
combined drive/terrain modes from Eco, Sport or Smart to sand, mud, snow or other
obstacles thrown up off road.
Tight parking spaces are easily avoided by using the remote parking system operated
from outside the vehicle via the key fob. Back inside, head-up windscreen display is
never an unwelcome driving aid.

This Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Hybrid SUV performed well above family
expectations. Say no more.

Looks: 7/10
Performance: 7/10
Safety: 8/10
Thirst: 8/10
Practicality: 8/10
Comfort: 7/10
Tech: 7/10
Value: 5/10


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

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
Rear: Disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres
Battery eight years / 160,000 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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