But that doesn’t mean this version is entirely uncompetitive against myriad large SUV competitors, because it still makes an excellent case for itself – evidence of how good it was when it launched in 2018.
Indeed, this version is not even that old. Typically a vehicle generation last seven years, so Hyundai is replacing it ahead of time.
The variant we are driving here is the Santa Fe Active, which sits one rung above the eponymous base model (simply called Santa Fe) and below the more luxurious Santa Fe Elite and Santa Fe Highlander grades that cost more.
Two drivetrains are available to choose from at this spec level: a front-wheel drive (FWD) V6 petrol or the all-wheel drive (AWD) four-cylinder diesel – the latter of which we have here, commanding a $3500 premium but offering better fuel efficiency, more torque, and four-wheel traction.
The wider Santa Fe range opens at $46,050 before on-road costs such as rego and insurance, stamp duty, and dealer charges. However, our test Active diesel retails for $53,750 before on-roads.
This RRP equates to a drive-away price of around $59,000, meaning you can pick up a Santa Fe Active 2.2D AWD seven-seater with premium paint ($695) and some mats for under $60k.
At the time of writing Hyundai Australia was offering a $2500 deposit contribution for those opting to use its captive finance plan on a loan.
Hyundai Santa Fe pricing:
- Santa Fe Petrol FWD: $46,050
- Santa Fe Diesel AWD: $49,550
- Santa Fe Active Petrol FWD: $50,250
- Santa Fe Active Diesel AWD: $53,750
- Santa Fe Elite Petrol FWD: $56,500
- Santa Fe Elite Diesel AWD: $60,000
- Santa Fe Elite Hybrid AWD: $63,000
- Santa Fe Highlander Petrol FWD: $63,050
- Santa Fe Highlander Diesel AWD: $66,550
- Santa Fe Highlander Hybrid AWD: $69,550
All prices exclude on-road costs
The Santa Fe Active adds a proximity-sensing key fob and power-unfolding side mirrors, which are welcome convenience features that we’ve come to expect.
There are some good design elements like the wavy speaker covers, quilted patterns on the upper seat portions, contrasting stitchwork, metal-look plastic trim inserts, light-coloured headlining, and the classy way the rounded dash section blend neatly into the doors (Jaguar-style) – all of which elevate the vibe it imparts.
It’s all put-together really well, imparting a feeling of solidity and sturdiness.
Being a lower-level variant the seats are manual adjustable, but they offer good breadth of movements and have ample side and under-thigh bolstering as well as two-way lumbar adjustments, and naturally offers a commanding ride height.
Behind the wheel is a simple analogue instrument cluster with a small (4.2-inch) digital display between the speedometer and tachometer, showing you functions such as trip data, speed, and the live tracking of the AWD system’s behaviour.
It’s not the sort of flashy all-digital display we’re getting used to on most competitors, but it does the job. If you want the added bonus of a bigger digital cluster or projecting head-up display on the windscreen you’ll need to spend up on the more premium grades.
The Active also retains the smaller 8.0-inch centre touchscreen rather than the 10.25-inch unit in the Elite and Highlander, with features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a reverse-view camera. These more expensive variants add further desirable extras such as sat-nav with live traffic updates and DAB digital radio.
There’s an excellent amount of storage including bottle holders in the doors, a secondary open section above the glovebox, a decent centre console behind staggered cupholders, and a really well-thought-out vertical wireless phone charging slot that keeps your device neatly tucked away.
In today’s world of haptic touchpads and touchscreen interfaces galore, the Santa Fe’s use of good old fashioned buttons and switches on the lower portions of the centre dash strike me as welcome relief and a win for user-friendliness.
First of all there’s almost no scratch- and glare-prone glossy black trim pieces which remain irritatingly in-vogue, and secondly it means a single press or turn activates most functions quickly instead of requiring one to dig through layers of screen menus.
As well as offering buttons and rocker switches for climate control and audio functions, the Active comes with a rotary dial to select different driving and terrain modes, and the move to a shift-by-wire transmission selector enables the use of shift buttons – thereby liberating space for some added hidden storage away from prying eyes.
In any prospective family SUV, the back seats are just as important as those up front. The 60:40-split centre bench with folding centre armrest/cupholders offers nicely bolstered and reclining outboard sections for adults with a smaller, more child-friendly portion between.
Amenities including air vents behind the centre console, USB ports, hard plastic seat backs for easier cleanups, map pockets, and similar trims and design flourishes to the front. If you’ve got a pair of lanky teenagers fret not; I’m 194cm tall (6’4) and have plenty of head/toe/leg room behind my own driving position back there.
While the Santa Fe is billed as a seven-seater, the third-row seats (easily stowed into the floor) are best reserved for occasional use, preferably by kids. Nice to have, but if you regularly ferry seven occupants you’d be better served upgrading to a Hyundai Palisade or, better yet, Staria people-mover.
Clever touches include the fitment of vents and a 12V socket, and under-floor stowage for the pull-out cargo blind and the standard fitment of a full-size alloy spare wheel – a big tick for regional buyers. If you want the convenience of a powered tailgate though, you’ll need to step up into the Santa Fe Elite.
Base versions use a 200kW/331Nm 3.5-litre petrol V6 with front-wheel drive, but our car runs the torquier 148kW/440Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel.
The Euro 5 diesel is mated to an eight-speed (wet) dual-clutch automatic transmission and an active on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD) that engages the rear wheels when there’s less surface traction available.
As well as offering all-wheel traction, the diesel engine (claimed fuel use 6.1 litres per 100km) offers around 40 per cent greater fuel efficiency than the thirsty V6 petrol (10.5L/00km) on the combined cycle.
Unfortunately, the fuel-sipping petrol-electric Santa Fe Hybrid is only available in pricier Elite and Platinum spec grades. You can read our review on this electrified option here. In lieu of this, the diesel is the best bet.
Santa Fe Active diesel
- Engine: 2.2-litre 4cyl turbo-diesel
- Power: 148kW @ 3800rpm
- Torque: 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
- Driven wheels: AWD
- Transmission: 8-speed DCT
- Towing capacity: 2500kg (braked)
- Claimed fuel economy: 6.1L/100km
- Fuel tank capacity: 67 litres
There’s some muted diesel clatter evident from outside the vehicle, but it’s fairly hushed from within. For urban commuters this is another reason why the silent-at-idle hybrid would make so much sense.
Regardless, there’s ample punch here offering excellent rolling response for overtaking, and a well-tuned DCT that offers smoother-than-expected take-offs and very snappy gear changes across eight narrow ratios.
I averaged a real-world 7.7 litres of diesel per 100km, which for a vehicle weighing the best part of 2.0 tonnes is pretty good, promising a driving range north of 800km between refills.
While both the V6 petrol and this diesel are rated to tow 2500kg, if I were buying a Santa Fe to lug a boat or caravan, the higher-torque and more efficient diesel would be the obvious choice.
As well as offering various driving modes (Comfort, Eco, Sport, Smart) that adjust parameters like throttle mapping and gear shift behaviours, there are also Snow/Mud/Sand terrain modes and downhill descent control.
To be clear, if you want to go proper off-roading you should buy a Ford Everest or Isuzu MU-X for similar money, both of which are miles more capable off the beaten path than the more car-like Santa Fe.
But for a trip to the snow or for some mildly patch trails, the Hyundai is a solid bet. With its long driving range and full-size spare tyre, it stacks up as a good companion for long family adventures that stay on tarmac or gravel.
By ‘Australian-ising’ its suspension calibration through local testing, Hyundais also tend to have great road manners.
The monocoque Santa Fe with all-round independent suspension and low-resistance electric power steering does a commendable job soaking up bumps and potholes, and settles nicely after suspension rebound. Those smaller wheels with more tyre sidewall help here, putting function over form.
It’s also pretty refined on ever coarse-chip surfaces, in terms of the way it filters out tyre and wind noise.
With adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping aids with steering inputs, the Santa Fe also enables brief hands-off highway driving. Safe Exit Assist alerts occupants when parked up if they’re in danger of accidentally opening their door into the path of an oncoming cyclist.
Santa Fe highlights:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Full-size alloy spare wheel
- LED headlights, daytime running lights
- Rear parking sensors
- Powered and heated side mirrors
- Manual air-con with rear vents
- Cloth seats
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel
- 8.0-inch touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- Reversing camera
- AM, FM, and Bluetooth audio
- 5 x USB and 2 x 12V ports
- Wireless phone charger
- 6-speaker sound system
Santa Fe Active adds:
- 18-inch wheels
- Front parking sensors
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Rear privacy glass
- Chrome exterior highlights
- Auto-folding side mirrors
- Dual-zone climate control
- Proximity-sensing key
- Button start
- Electronic gearshift buttons
- Leather seats and door trims
- Fabric headlining and pillar covers
Santa Fe Elite adds:
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Powered tailgate
- LED rear combination lights
- Added chrome highlights
- Solar control glass
- Anti-dazzle rear-view mirror
- Rear occupant intercom
- Powered and heated front seats
- Rear sunshades
- 12.3-inch digital cluster
- 10.25-inch touchscreen
- Sat-nav with live traffic updates
- Harman Kardon 10-speaker audio
- Digital radio receiver
Santa Fe Highlander adds:
- Acoustic laminated glass
- Panoramic glass sunroof
- Auto-dipping side mirror function
- Driver’s seat memory function
- Nappa leather seat trim
- Ventilated front seats
- Heated second-row seats
- Perforated leather steering wheel
- Blind-spot camera view in instruments
- Remote parking aid via key fob
- 360-degree surround-view camera
- Head-up display
Petrol and diesel versions of the Santa Fe carry a five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2018, scoring 94 per cent for adult occupancy protection, 86 per cent for child occupancy protection, 67 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist features.
Standard safety features include:
- Dual front airbags
- Dual front-side airbags
- Front-centre airbag
- Curtain airbags – rows one and two only
- 3 x top tethers, 2 x ISOFIX
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- Vehicle to vehicle
- Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Lane-keep and following assist
- Blind-spot avoidance assist
- Rear cross-traffic avoidance assist
- Automatic high-beam
- Adaptive cruise control
- Driver attention warning
- Rear-seat occupant alert
- Safe Exit Assist
- Power child locks
- Tyre pressure monitor
- Reversing camera
Hyundai provides a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, and capped-price servicing at 12 months or 15,000km intervals.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2D AWD service pricing:
- 12 months or 15,000km: $499
- 24 months or 30,000km: $499
- 36 months or 45,000km: $499
- 48 months or 60,000km: $529
- 60 months or 75,000km: $499
The good old Hyundai Santa Fe diesel remains an excellent, versatile family SUV with five full-time seats and two bonus ones for occasional use.
The Active grade offers a good list of extras over the base model for the added price, and this engine is a better bet than the thirsty petrol V6.
Keep in mind that this generation Santa Fe will go on runout soon, so keep an eye out because that factor might make it an even better buy.
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