HYUNDAI SANTA FE: One of Australia's best SUVs

Ideal general-purpose family 7-seater SUV with strong diesel powertrain

The Hyundai Santa Fe will go down in the record books as the vehicle that re-defined Hyundai's position in Australia. Sure, the Hyundai i30, i40 and i45 were steps forward for Hyundai, but the Santa Fe is the first vehicle that goes beyond just toe-to-toe with leading Japanese competitors like the Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-TRAIL. It frankly blows them out of the water.

Hyundai has rocketed ahead in Australia because the global financial crisis was a springboard for the company (for exactly the same reasons it signalled a near-death experience for the Americans and severe recession for most of the Japanese). Check out this graph:

Hyundai Sales, Post-GFC

Full-year sales for Australia, 2008-2015 inclusive

Hyundai is one of the very few carmakers that has doubled it's sales (and then some) since the GFC. There's no mad science to this - the vehicles and the price are, increasingly, right.

Santa Fe is a seven-seat AWD (on demand) wagon with a brilliant third row arrangement (folds flat into the floor when not needed) and a cracking 2.2-litre diesel engine with superb economy across the range. So, it'll seat seven, tow two tonnes and it comes packed with an impressive suite of standard features. At every equipment grade, and every price point, the value equation is superb.

Check out also my definitive guide to 7 seater SUVs >>

Full Details:


  • Strong diesel with great six-speed auto transmission
  • Good comfort, refinement and dynamics
  • Moderate off-road capability
  • 2000kg maximum tow capacity (auto)
  • Brilliant value (but not cheap)
  • 5yrs warranty (unlimited kilometres) in a segment where the norm is 3yrs/100,000km
  • Capped price service for life, with 12-month/15,000km service interval (where most Japanese offer 6th/10,000km service interval)
  • 10 years complimentary roadside assist
  • Full-size alloy spare wheel and tyre (where the likes of Nissan X-TRAIL and Mitsubishi Outlander offer a half-baked space-saver)
  • Feels 'Euro' but priced 'Japanese'
  • Has AWD across the range, with lock function for added traction in snow/mud and similar conditions. 


  • Driver's footrest too flat
  • Centre LCD screen too bright at night
  • Front seat base too long for shorter drivers
  • Standard max. tow ball download is just 100kg - out of kilter with Aussie expectations (but fitting the Genuine Load Assist Kit pumps limit up to a more respectable 150kg)
  • Not as good as a people mover if you're moving seven people all the time - especially combinations of baby seats and the elderly
  • Slight driveline in-cabin resonance at jogging pace, under load but with light throttle input - the sole driveline issue

Left-field suggestion 

If you are a rational car buyer with no great aspirations of off-road adventuring (not that the Santa Fe is any great off-roader itself - quite the opposite) and if you know you just want to move people and luggage, for exactly the same money you can buy a Kia Carnival. People movers are less sexy, certainly, but a lot more practical at moving people on made roads. There is a lot more room, good dynamics, and fantastic versatility in Carnival - not to mention a seven-year warranty.

Read my Kia Carnival assessment >>


Diesel Engine:
Availability: Active, Elite, Highlander & SR
4 cylinder inline, turbocharged
Power: 147 kW @ 3800 rpm
Torque 440 Nm @ 1750-2750 rpm
Transmission: 6 sp auto/manual (manual: Active only)
Economy: 6.3-7.7 L/100km

Petrol Engine:
Availability: Active only
4 cylinder inline, direct injection
Power: 138 kW @ 6000 rpm
Torque 241 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 6 sp auto/manual (manual: Active only)
Economy: 9.4 L/100km

My preferred models: Elite & Highlander
Manufactured: South Korea
Length: 4690 mm
Width: 1880 mm
Height: 1690 mm
Kerb weight: 1968 kg
Maximum tow capacity: 2000 kg (auto) / 2500 kg (manual)
Maximum towball download: 100 kg
(Increases to 150 kg with genuine accessory kit)
Seating Capacity: Seven
Safety: Five-star ANCAP
Warranty: 5 years / unlimited kilometres
Service: capped price for life
Service interval: 12 months or 15,000 km
(whichever comes first)
Roadside assist: 10 years
Spare wheel: Full-sized alloy spare wheel and tyre


Hyundai provides excellent levels of customer support, and Santa Fe reliability, anecdotally is very good. (I don't get many Santa Fe complaints.) The important point here is that Hyundai has a real commitment to customer support in the unlikely event of a problem, which the likes of Fiat-Chrysler, Holden, Ford and Volkswagen lack.

Santa Fe Highlander is very impressively equipped - it comes standard with automated parking (you shift the transmission and operate the brake/accelerator, and it steers). It has a 90-degree mode as well as parallel as well as an assistance feature for getting you out of tight spots.

Highlander also features adaptive cruise control, which uses a radar sensor in the grille to sense slower traffic ahead. When traffic congestion ahead is detected, the vehicle automatically slow down and maintains a safe following distance. When congestion eases and the road clears, the system accelerates to your pre-set speed. (This feature is standard on Highlander only - but if you were to buy a $100k+ Audi Q7 the adaptive cruise feature is an optional feature that would cost you an additional $4075. How's that for value?)

Safety levels are very high. Santa Fe was crash-tested independently by EuroNCAP and the results were validated for Australia by ANCAP, which awarded Santa Fe the coveted five-star safety rating, with a combined safety score of 35.63 out of a possible 37 points. (Compare the disgraceful Range Rover Evoque, on four stars, with 32.49 points...) More info on the Santa Fe safety rating >> or download the full crash-test technical report >>

Santa Fe should sell better, but is under pressure on two fronts. Firstly, some people still think Hyundai is an inferior brand. (It's not. That was a decade ago.) Secondly, there is intense competition in the market. Kia Sorento is a close competitor and another excellent choice. Toyota Kluger is a solid performer from a trusted brand, and the Mazda CX-9 has some real aces up its sleeve as well (such as an advanced turbo petrol engine that performs like a diesel and is also very fuel efficient.

This means Hyundai dealers are under the pump to sell Santa Fe, and discounting potential is good. This is great news for you, if you are in the market. I get very solid discounts on Santa Fe.

Contact me here if you'd like to save thousands >>


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