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REVIEW – Hyundai Santa Fe Premium SE

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer


Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium SE 4WD Auto
  • Extreior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4

Summary

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a big car, with an equally-big specification. Generous equipment levels and vast interior space make this a very practical family car. There is only one engine, and unfortunately the 200PS diesel isn’t powerful enough to provide a drive that’s as premium as the styling, although economy is surprisingly good. Then there’s the not-so-small issue of price: a top model costing £44,000 is always going to be a hard sell.


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Exterior Styling

As a 7-seat SUV, the Hyundai Santa Fe is up against it in the looks department. The problem is that to accommodate seven occupants, a car’s interior must be large and boxy. To then wrap that in a sleek and stylish exterior becomes a challenge.

Hyundai has seemingly risen to the challenge. This new Santa Fe is ten times better looking than the outgoing model. It has presence, to the point where you actually look twice at it.

And the first thing you look at is the enormous front grille. It seems to take up two thirds of the front bumper, like the Santa Fe is baring its teeth. Thankfully there isn’t too much chrome, or else it would look garish.

The headlights, in contrast, are incredibly slim. Incorporating LED daytime running lights, they are almost lost amongst the vast front end.

To the side there is more of the chrome trim we’d expect of a Hyundai SE Premium spec vehicle. The window surrounds, tops of the door handles and lower door are all finished in it, providing a nice contrast between the bodywork and black plastics.

Privacy glass furthers the premium appearance, while 19-inch two-tone alloy wheels are well-proportioned on such a big car.

The rear end of the Santa Fe is a nice mix of finishes and materials; chrome, silver plastic and black plastic. A twin exhaust sits to one side of the bumper, which is a surprisingly sporty touch.

The rear lights are deserving of a mention. They look fantastic: almost space-age. Best of all they look executive, creating a memorable silhouette from behind. A rather prominent completes the exterior package.

There is no escaping the Santa Fe’s sheer size, but Hyundai has used this to create a visual impact. Fair play.

Interior Finish

For all the improvements to the exterior design of their cars, Hyundai still has a way to go with its interiors. That’s true of most of the cars in its model line-up. In fact, the same can be said of Kia too.

The Santa Fe has one of the nicer Hyundai interiors. Being the Premium SE model there is an abundance of leather throughout. It’s nice soft stuff too.

There’s a split-level dashboard, and the lower level is covered in a faux leather. It makes a welcome change from the usual plastics, and raises the overall feel of the cabin.

Sadly this is somewhat undone by the inclusion of hard, scratchy plastics in certain areas. Most noticeable is on the glovebox and parts of the door cards. Frankly there is no place for that in this car given its price point, and this needs to be addressed.

Hyundai clearly has nicer stuff in the parts bin, because it features elsewhere in the cabin. So why it’s not used throughout is a bit perplexing.

Similarly, the Santa Fe has a large display in the centre of the instrument cluster. But either side of this are analogue dials. It makes the Hyundai feel a bit out of touch: we’re coming to expect digital offerings on premium cars now.

The front seats look very comfortable thanks to large bolsters. They also feature a sort of geometric pattern to the top of the back rest, which matches that found on the speaker covers.

Contrast stitching adds a touch of contrast to the black plastics and leather. A lighter cream headlining and the enormous panoramic roof stop the cabin from feeling dark and gloomy. Overall the Santa Fe is a nice place to be, with a premium feel.

Engine/Performance

There is only one engine available in the Santa Fe: a 2.2-litre, turbocharged diesel unit. On the SE Premium model there is only an 8-speed automatic gearbox available, with a choice of 2WD and 4WD drivetrains. Elsewhere in the range a 6-speed manual is available.

The figures on paper start off well: 200PS and 440Nm of torque. Sounds plenty. And yet the 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds and top speed of 127mph seem to suggest otherwise. That puts the Santa Fe in the realms of sluggishness.

Things do get marginally better on the move. The amount of torque makes for good in-gear acceleration. The sweet spot is between 1,800-3,000rpm. If you venture past 3,000rpm the Santa Fe seems to run out of steam, and becomes a little rattly.

Good thing the auto ‘box is an 8-speed then; it can always keep you in that sweet spot. The gearbox itself is smooth, with near-seamless changes. You can take manual control with paddles mounted behind the steering wheel, if you so wish.

The Santa Fe has three drive modes: Comfort, Smart and Sport. Realistically you only need ‘Smart’ because this alters the characteristics depending on how you are driving at any given moment. Cruising on the motorway, the Santa Fe will maximise economy. Push hard down a B-Road and it will switch to the Sport mode; holding gears and maximising acceleration.

For the most part, the Santa Fe performs well. But with several passengers and luggage in the car, you will find yourself asking for more power. A Premium SUV should have enough power to effortlessly breeze past anything on the motorway. Get to an incline and the Santa Fe simply doesn’t feel effortless.

Ride/Handling

When it comes to handling, the Santa Fe is very much as you’d expect from a large, premium SUV. On the motorway, it is compliant and comfortable. The 19-inch alloy wheels are a perfect size: big enough to look good, but small enough to allow for a decent amount of tyre to help absorb bumps and potholes.

Realistically that is probably all the handling you’ll care about, but I am obliged to tell you more. Attempt to carry speed along a tight, twisty B-road and the Santa Fe will struggle.

Sheer size is to blame: a car of this size and stature will, by its very design, be on the back foot when it comes to handling. There is a fair amount of roll when you hurl the Santa Fe into corners.

There’s more too: mid-corner bumps will unsettle the car. The steering does have a nice weight to it in sport mode, but lacks feel and provides no feedback from the road surface.

The final issue with driving the Santa Fe with vigour down a country lane is that it won’t fit. It’s far too big to be flying down a B-road at speed: you’ll be too concerned about what’s coming the other way.

But let’s be honest, you don’t buy a Santa Fe to drive it like the Stig. You buy a Santa Fe to do the school run, and the weekly big shop. So in that sense it is entirely fit for purpose.

Economy

What the 2.2 CRDi lacks in performance, it is able to redeem with its economy credentials. The automatic gearbox has two more gears than the manual. There’s the aforementioned Smart drive mode, and stop-start technology.

The four-wheel drive system is clever too; it can send the power to the front wheels only when driving gently, which saves fuel. Then, when traction is in short supply, it will send more power to the rear axle.

All of these combine to ensure the Santa Fe is reasonably economical. It achieves 38.7mpg on the combined WLTP cycle; a figure you can quite easily replicate.

CO2 emissions are 164g/km. That means a first year VED of £530 which is encompassed in the ‘on the road’ price of the car.

After this, things are made more complicated by the Santa Fe’s list price. Basic VED would be £145, but with a price of £44,010 the Premium SE falls foul of the Government’s VED Surcharge.

The surcharge is currently £320 a year, and applies in years two through six of ownership. This annoying, because the Santa Fe will cost you an additional £1,600 versus the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq or Peugeot 5008.

But then both of those cars could end up with a price north of £40,000 too, depending on the specification you choose. So really the Hyundai isn’t any worse off than its premium rivals.

Practicality

At times you may find yourself wishing for more power in the Santa Fe, but you will never wish for more space. This is a car of enormous proportions, and as such the interior space is akin to a small cottage.

Let’s start with the boot. You get 547 litres of space with the third row seats folded away. That’s not half bad considering those seats do take up a fair bit of room themselves.

Hyundai doesn’t quantify the space with all seven seats in position, but as you can see from the pictures there is still space for a few bags, which is good.

The third row seats are actually quite comfortable. As a 5ft7in adult I would happily occupy one for a short to medium journey.

The legroom on the middle row is very generous. If the third row seats aren’t needed then rear passengers can stretch out. If you do wish to offer a little more room for the third row then you can slide the middle seats forward to do so. And all the seat mechanisms are intuitive and easy to operate.

In the front seats you needn’t consider space at all; there is plenty of head and leg room. And if you think your front seat passenger might be taking too much, there are controls on the side of the passenger seat that can be used to move it.

And the useful features don’t stop there either. The rear windows have built-in sun blinds, making the Santa Fe a very family-friendly car for the rare times when the sun is actually out in Britain.

Equipment

There are three grades of Santa Fe available, and true to Hyundai form all are lavishly equipped.

Take the ‘entry-level’ SE. It features 17-inch alloy wheels and smart high beam headlights on the outside. Inside you get dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter (manual transmission) or adaptive cruise control with stop and go function (automatic transmission).

Infotainment-wise there’s a 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For practicality you get front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera and rain sensing wipers. Lastly there’s the safety kit: autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian recognition and lane departure warning system with lane keep assist.

Step up to the Premium model and things get a little bigger: 18-inch alloy wheels and an 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system which also includes satellite navigation and traffic messaging. A KRELL Premium Audio 10-speaker system makes for great audio

The headlights are LED, and the creature comforts list gets a whole lot longer. Heated front and outer rear seats; heated steering wheel; electrically-adjusted front seats; leather trim; smart electric tailgate with hand’s free opening and keyless entry and go.

Safety equipment is bolstered with the addition of a Blind Spot Detection System. Automatic models also get Brake Assist.

Lastly we come to the Premium SE model. Visually this model gets 19-inch alloy wheels, dynamic cornering lights and a panoramic sunroof with tilt and slide function.

The front seats have a cooling function in addition to be heated, and the driver’s seat gets a memory function. There’s a head-up display, and a 360-degree parking camera system with top-down view.

So it’s pretty clear that whichever Santa Fe you choose, you will be happy with the equipment and gadgetry. Whether you want the extra spec over the SE model is for you to decide.

Value For Money

You are probably thinking that a big car, with big practicality and a big specification, will carry a big price tag. And you’d be correct.

The Santa Fe 2WD SE Manual has a recommended on the road price of £33,450. At the other end of the scale is the car we tested. The Santa Fe 4WD Premium SE Automatic is £43,320 on the road.

There are three options available. Metallic or Pearl paint is £690. Grey two-tone leather is a no-cost option, and Burgundy two-tone leather is £300. Our test car was finished in Stormy Sea Pearl, so the price as tested is £44,010.

That’s undeniably expensive. And despite a standard 5-year, unlimited-mileage warranty many people will struggle to come to terms with a £44,000 Hyundai. Don’t forget that anything over £40,000 will cost an additional £1,600 in VED over a 6-year ownership period.

With that in mind, and after a detailed review of the different models/prices, it would appear that the Premium SE doesn’t offer the best value in the range.

For £39,910 you can have a 4WD Premium Automatic. For me the only notable omission in specification would be the panoramic sunroof, but the £4,000 saved, and a further £1,600 in VED, would be enough to forego it.

If you can do without 4WD, given that the Santa Fe will spend most of its life in 2WD mode anyway, then a 2WD Premium Automatic is £38,110. And if you really don’t want the 8-speed auto – even though it is a great gearbox – then the 4WD and 2WD Premium Manual models are £37,910 and £36,425 respectively.

And at £36,000 to £38,000 the Santa Fe seems to offer much better value. So stick to the Premium and say goodbye to the head-up display.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Max power 200PS at 3,800rpm
Max torque 440Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm
Drivetrain 8-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
0-62mph 9.4 seconds
Top speed 127mph
Fuel tank size 71 litres
Fuel consumption 38.7 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 164 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 1,895kg
Towing capacity 2,000kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 547 litres [5-seat] / TBC litres [7-seat]
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £43,320
Price as tested £44,010
Company website https://www.hyundai.co.uk/new-cars/santa-fe

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