21 December 2018

Hyundai Santa Fe 2018 Car Review

There’s a lot to like about the latest Santa Fe, but at over $80k for the admittedly top-spec 2.2D Limited we sampled, there should be.

Hyundai 2
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai 3
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai 1
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hundai 4
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai 5
Hyundai Santa Fe

The cabin for starters, clad in double-stitched leather, with interesting sculptural textures for some cabin trim and an overall design that avoids too many regimented straight lines, without being over the top about it.

All the buttons and controls are large, clear and easy to use, the screen is mounted high so any glances at satnav directions barely take your eyes off the road, and there’s plenty of storage, including a reasonably wide, deep cubby, shallow trays and, of course, cupholders.

It’s certainly easy to get comfy. Our shorter tester loved the fact the front seat squab adjusts length electronically, and is among the comfiest when it does, kind of curling under as it shortens, rather than simply sliding to and fro, for a nicely rounded edge beneath the knees.

As for the drive experience, this 2.2-litre diesel unit is flexible, unobtrusive, and nicely matched to the eight-speed auto. There’s HTrack AWD, which drives the front wheels in eco mode unless slip is detected, and sends more power rearwards if you select comfort, or sport. Or if you need it – we sampled some steep gravel driveways without faulting it, though nothing more challenging as this SUV isn’t designed to go far from the seal.

At launch we were told this suspension is tuned for Australian and NZ settings, and our impression is that Santa Fe feels more confident on typical NZ back roads than before. However, you’re never left in doubt that this is a big mutha, and designed to carry seven in reasonable comfort, so comfort won over dynamics when the design balance was tallied. There is body roll, Santa Fe will never feel at home in a slalom course, and keen drivers should look elsewhere for their seven-seat conveyance, perhaps trading some of the impressive array of features for Mazda’s seven-seater.

However if you do regularly carry kids, you’ll love this Hyundai’s emphasis on family, and especially the introduction of Safety Exit Assist and Rear Occupant Alert.

The first means that if you release the child lock for someone to get out on the road side of the car, and something’s coming, you’ll be alerted and the door will refuse to open. Indeed, it alerted our tester, who was alighting as another car neared.

Just as important, given the intermittent, and always awfu, news of tired parents forgetting a child in the back, if you leave the car with a passenger in the rear seat the car will warn you, and if you ignore the warning, the horn will sound when the car detects interior movement.

That might prove annoying if the dog’s in the back, and a few won’t approve so much reliance on electronic trickery, but some of it’s vital. Blind spot alert, for example, given how wide this C-pillar is – and the D-pillar is wider. Even parking the behemoth need hold no fears, this auto park is excellent.

Given Santa Fe is a large seven seater, a spacious back pew is almost a given. Row two has its own cupholders and two charging sockets, plus several pockets and cubbies. Those seats fold out the way with ease, and the third row also has cupholders, and even air vents and controls, not something often fitted, but fabulous in summer when air from the front takes a loooong time to percolate back there.

Need to fold that row to expand boot space, and you just tap a button from the boot. Our test vehicle had a boot carpet back there, assuming the third row wouldn’t be used much. Without it you’ll spot a lift-up hatch, beneath which the tonneu cover tucks away when not in use. In fact there are so many thoughtful little features you could go on for hours – an electric tailgate, rear window blinds, vented and heated seats, a chilled glovebox, the driver can even electrically slide the front passenger seat to and fro to expand rear leg room via a button equally easily accessed from front or back. Let’s hope the kids don’t take advantage…

Our tester’s usual route is hilly, with tight and narrow roads. As noted earlier, Santa Fe soon proved that’s not its favourite hunting ground. It handles reasonably well for such a large vehicle, but there are better-handling seven-seaters if driving is your focus. Given that though, we simply drove as if on the average school run and enjoyed the amenities. We also enjoyed the fuel economy. Given the vigour with which testers are driven, it’s no surprise we didn’t return the 7.5l/100km claimed, but we did average 8.3l/100km, not bad at all for a leviathan on this terrain, even if it was largely unladen.

If reading this gives you the impression we’re a little on the fence with this one, you could be right. The comfort-focused handling won’t please some, and though Santa Fe is undoubtedly a great vehicle for families regularly carrying seven, or five with luggage, you expect that at this price.

At a glance


Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2D Ltd


2.2 litre common rail diesel



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

 147kW at 3800rpm,  440Nm at 1750 to 2750rpm


Eight-speed DSG

Fuel economy

7.5l/100km combined

Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

547 litres (third row seats folded), 1625 litres (rows two and three folded)

Safety systems

  • Forward Collision Avoidance Assist
  • Rear Cross Traffic Avoidance Assist
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Safety Exit Assist
  • Blind Spot warning
  • Lane Departure
  • Driver Attention Alert
  • Rear Occupant Alert
Previous review
Next review
Volkswagen T-Roc 2018 Car Review
Read more
Kia Rio GT Line 2018 Car Review
Read more