First Drive Review: Hyundai Santa Fe

Independent review by Chris Russon

4-minute read

Red Hyundai Santa Fe Exterior Front Driving

First Drive: Hyundai Santa Fe

Explore the key features of the Hyundai Santa Fe in our expert first drive review

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The large SUV segment is a competitive one, but the Hyundai Santa Fe stands out from the crowd with its enhanced practicality and range of technology.


  • Four-wheel drive availability
  • 7-seats as standard
  • Very practical
  • Decent economy for a car of this stature
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Hyundai is continuing its shift upmarket with a new version of its large Santa Fe SUV.

With prices similar to the previous model, the newcomer is 7-seat only, bigger than before, and is now available with an 8-speed auto transmission.

Upgrades include improvements to interior trim, and on 4x4 models, an all new four-wheel drive system with a multimode drive pattern.

It all adds up to a compelling proposition from the Korean carmaker at a time when SUV sales are booming.

The new Santa Fe range now consists of various models, with both automatic and manual gearboxes available.

Driving Experience

All versions are powered by Hyundai’s 2.2-litre CRDi diesel engine, which develops 200bhp and complies with the latest European emissions regulations.

As such, it's good for a 0 to 62mph acceleration of around 9.4 seconds, tops out at 127mph, and officially it's rated at between 50mpg for two-wheel drive manual models and 45.6mpg for the top range 4x4 auto. Emissions run from 150g/km to 164g/km.

It's on the road where the greatest improvements have been made, and the new Santa Fe is surprisingly quiet in everyday use.
Chris Russon

Premium SE models are auto only, but also available in two-wheel-drive set up.

We saw an average of 34mpg over a mixed run, and that’s about par for the course for a large SUV with automatic transmission.

A step forward for the Santa Fe is the introduction of what Hyundai calls its HTRAC 4x4 system, which allows drivers to choose between sport, comfort, and eco settings.

It also allows for the torque to be locked manually to give a 50:50 drive at speeds of up to 19mph. Above that, torque distribution is automatic, although on our route we did not have the chance to experience that.

Equipment and Technology

I sampled a top specification Santa Fe 4x4 automatic, and it lacks for little, coming with a head-up display, an 8-inch touchscreen with sat nav and full connectivity and a host of safety aids including blind spot and rear traffic alerts plus pedestrian detection systems.

The car also came with plenty of creature comforts including a panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats and an around view camera system which is handy when manoeuvring and a useful aid off-road.

In addition to seven seats, all versions of the Santa Fe come with roof rails, rear parking sensors and camera and dual zone climate control in addition to heated front seats.

They're also fitted with automatic emergency braking systems, lane keeping technology and a ‘smart’ high beam function which automatically dips the headlights at night.

Design and Practicality

In terms of styling, the new models are vastly improved and feature a nicely sculpted nose set off with a large honeycomb finish to Hyundai’s trademark grille.

The same is true at the rear where there are plenty of lines in the design, LED rear lights, and a purposeful-looking diffuser all set off with some bright highlights.

A power operated tailgate and a high-end Krell sound system are also standard features on the top range car and all in all the Santa Fe has matured into a very capable and well appointed model – good enough to rival the likes of a BMW or Audi with ease.

Almost three inches longer than before at 15ft 7ins long, and with a wheelbase extended by a similar amount, the cabin is roomy and in 5-seat configuration boot space now ranges from 547 to 1,625 litres – a backpack more than before.


The Large SUV segment is a competitive one as it is, but the introduction of the latest Hyundai Santa Fe gives potential buyers a strong alternative to popular premium models. Coming with a capacious boot and seven seats as standard, you'll be hard pushed to find a car that's as practical and well-equipped as the Santa Fe.