Road Test Review: Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate

Independent review by Edward Stephens

5-minute read

Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate Exterior Front Driving

First Drive: Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate

Explore the key features of the Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate in our expert road test review


This Santa Fe's Ultimate title isn't far wrong, offering everything it needs to put it at the top of the competitive SUV class.


  • Super spacious
  • Tons of tech in Ultimate spec
  • Eye-catching aesthetics
  • Enjoyable and comfortable to drive
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Hyundai's flagship Sante Fe now comes with a new look, new engines, and even more luxury than before.

Perhaps not surprisingly – given the surge towards electric power – the Korean manufacturer has chosen to ditch the previous 2.2-litre diesel engine in favour of a 1.6-litre petrol hybrid and a plug-in hybrid producing an impressive 227bhp.

But there’s far more to this superbly comfortable, superbly quiet 7-seater giant than just a new powertrain.

Design and Practicality

Exterior changes include a new front with cascading grille, new headlights, and a new-look front bumper, while the rear too gets a new bumper and new tail lamps.

But the most obvious differences are on the inside where there’s a new-look dashboard and particularly stylish angled centre console replacing the upright one of the previous generation.

The small gearshift has now gone, replaced by three buttons, one for drive, one for neutral, and one for reverse.

As with previous models, however, it’s the space and extensive equipment that singles out the Sante Fe from its competitors.

And while the outgoing version was big, the new one is taller, longer, and wider and is only available with seven seats.

The cavernous Sante Fe makes light work of dealing with holiday luggage too, with up to 1,649 litres of space available with the seats folded down.

Equipment and Technology

The Ultimate spec model, driven here, really lives up to its name, being packed to the gunnels with creature comforts and safety devices.

There’s a full length tilt and slide glass sunroof, heated rear seats, heated and cooled front seats, a head-up display, electrically adjustable front seats with memory settings, and keyless entry and exit.

And – a new one on me – a facility to chat to rear seat passengers using the onboard microphone, with the driver’s voice played through the rear speakers.

As with the latest Hyundai Tucson the dials in front of the driver, the speedometer, and the power meter, disappear when you use the left or right indicator – replaced by a camera generated view along the side of the car to improve safety on turns.

Driving Experience

When you get behind the wheel, you have a choice of three driving modes – eco, sport, and smart. And for off-road work or bad weather with this all-wheel-drive version you can dial up terrain settings of snow, mud, and sand.

Despite its size, the Sante Fe is surprisingly quick, hitting 62mph in a very respectable 9.1 seconds.

And while the 6-speed auto box is smooth and seamless, you can take full control by using the paddles behind the steering wheel to liven things up.

The ride is quiet and supremely refined. This is an SUV that really cossets you like a luxury limousine.
Edward Stephens

At the same time, the handling is pin sharp, so you tend not to notice the vehicle’s large dimensions.

And when it comes to parking, the front and rearview camera supported by a bird’s eye view make things simple.


Now in its 21st year of production, the Sante Fe just keeps getting better and better. Its sharp new looks, comfortable yet enjoyable driving dynamics, and updated interior ensure it's a car that makes its mark in the SUV segment.

With tons of space inside, it's the perfect companion for family life, and in Ultimate specification it offers all the gadgets you need, and more.