Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi 7 seat Auto Premium

December 2009

picture of car from the front

Car has a competent chassis and impressive diesel engine

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 7Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 8Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 7Car safety


Likes

  • Sophisticated exterior styling helps lift the Santa Fe's appeal
  • Ride strikes good balance between minimal roll and bump absorption
  • Transition from seven-seater layout to load-lugger is quick and easy
  • Modest price and running costs should appeal to buyers on a budget

Gripes

  • Hard plastics dominate the cabin
  • Although convenient, auto gearbox could be more responsive
  • Badge snobs unlikely to warm to car despite its plus points
  • Lack of load cover for seven-seat variant

The medium-size SUV has been the exclusive preserve of European car makers for as long as many can remember. Although increasing numbers of buyers are no longer exploiting the full capabilities of such vehicles, the trend for moving further up the premium scale is on the up. That's great if you have deep pockets but what if you want a rounded, affordable SUV? Hyundai hopes you'll choose its revised-for-2010 Santa Fe.

If it's a conventional SUV with few frills that you're after, Hyundai's Santa Fe has always been a prime candidate. In years past the SUV has, despite proving to be an effective off-road tool, a little rough around the edges. This latest variant showed that Hyundai was keen to broaden the car's appeal in the burgeoning lifestyle sector.

A welcome increase in overall refinement immediately raised the Santa Fe's status to a level alongside many European offerings. The same could be said of the car's looks, which delivered a more sophisticated and mature appearance. Last but not least, the Santa Fe's newfound outright performance ensured that even the critics had to take it seriously.

This version, boasting a number of cosmetic and mechanical enhancements, is a welcome step up the ladder in terms of perceived and actual improvements. Key to this Santa Fe's performance is its 2.2-litre diesel engine. Coupled with a new six-speed manual or automatic gearbox, the 4x4 can be driven smoothly or coaxed into accelerating rapidly with little effort. It's also relatively frugal and pleasingly flexible and refined.

Proof that Hyundai has matured as a car maker comes in the shape of the Santa Fe's driving manners and family friendly practicality. Regarding the former, the SUV delivers a car-like experience with little of the annoying pitch and roll associated with the 'soft-roader' genre. And in seven seat mode, the car can accommodate a large passenger contingent or a bulky load - the choice is yours as the rearmost seats conveniently fold flat into the boot floor.

Our verdict on the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi 7 seat Auto Premium

With the traditional mid-size SUV market heavily populated by premium models, it would be fair to think that you need deep pockets for a family-friendly, competent, well-equipped 4x4. Hyundai's Santa Fe is proof that you don't. Sure, other low-cost options exist, but none deliver a rounded experience like the Hyundai. Modest ownership costs, good looks, a stunning diesel engine and a versatile cabin all add up to something special.

Costs
Costs rating 7

In real terms the Santa Fe, or any medium size SUV, will cost more than an average family hatchback. For some the benefits of something like the Santa Fe will, obviously, outweigh the negatives. That said, be prepared to spend more time at the filling station and with your insurance company, for example.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

In seven-seat guise the Santa Fe offers the best of both worlds: plenty of cabin space and the flexibility to carry people or their belongings. That rearmost pair of seats fold into the boot floor and further extend the car's carrying capacity. Up the front, oddment storage space is generous: door bins, centre armrest and glove box offering ample capacity.

picture of car from the rear

Tailgate opens to reveal and large and versatile loadspace

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

There's nothing flash about the Santa Fe's interior - everything is laid out in a sensible fashion. Controls and displays are intuitive and clear respectively, while the steering offers a good balance of assistance and feedback. The foot operated parking brake might take some getting used to, though.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 8

Aside form the slightly firm ride on poorly surfaced roads, the Santa Fe offers a composed and refined experience. The diesel engine proves a little vocal when pushed hard, but otherwise the cabin remains a tranquil environment. The car's spacious interior means that there's no chance of rubbing elbows with fellow occupants.

Car security
Security Rating 7

Any SUV is a desirable object for thieves and the Santa Fe will be no different. The usual remote central locking and immobiliser package is, frankly, all you'll need, as it should thwart all but the most determined criminal. With plenty of cabin storage areas belongings can be kept out of sight. You might rue the absence of a load cover for the seven-seat car, though.

Car safety
Safety Rating 7

There's no shortage of kit in the Santa Fe; there are airbags everywhere and the inclusion of anti-lock brakes plus stability control should keep you out of trouble. The car's intelligent all-wheel drive can be locked in four-wheel drive mode - essential for very slippery conditions.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

For an SUV, the Santa Fe rides surprisingly well on road. Pitch and roll is well contained, while the car's agile nature puts it ahead of many rivals. Some might find the car's ride a little firm on poor surfaces and rough ground - assuming you venture off-road at all. Key to the car's performance is this punchy 2.2-litre diesel engine. Its torquey nature and high output ensure rapid acceleration, effortless overtaking and relaxed cruising.

picture of car interior

Solid build quality and refinement shame more expensive rivals

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 8

In five-seat guise the big Hyundai strikes a good balance between space and seats. If you find yourself transporting more people on a regular basis, the seven-seat version might be more useful. Access to the third row is acceptable, while those extra seats fold flat into the floor when not in use. Elsewhere in the cabin, the various materials appear durable and there's plenty of oddment storage options.

First car appeal
First car Rating 5

If as a novice you're presented with the Santa Fe there's no need to worry. All the major controls are straightforward, with the auto gearbox option saving you an extra layer of worry. The car's lofty driving position ensures good all-round visibility, although its size will take some getting used to.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 6

In the small car world Hyundai is well respected but there's still some way to go for the company to gain widespread acceptance in the mid-size SUV market. Land Rover's Freelander might dominate but the Santa Fe trumps it on price - if only the badge snobs would realise this. Boasting a generous five year warranty and solid build quality, there's no excuse to not having it on your shopping list.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

For an SUV cabin access is surprisingly good. Ground clearance is par for the class but getting in and out should pose few problems for anyone -even to the third row of seats. All the doors open wide, while the sizeable tailgate requires little effort to open and close.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

No complaints here as Hyundai has long since realised that a solid performance by the audio unit is a key attraction. An easy to use unit, the Santa Fe's combined radio and CD player also boasts an aux in socket and can be had with a USB connection for iPods - the menus system proves easy to navigate.

car detail picture

Third row of seats folds into boot floor for convenience

Colours and trim

To compliment the car's sophisticated appearance, subdued metallic colours are the order of the day. This way you can help boost the premium aspirations of Hyundai's mid-size SUV. Inside the Santa Fe it's a little sombre, but the plastics look and feel hard - missing the premium mark a little.

Parking

Despite its size the Santa Fe isn't a difficult car to manoeuvre. The rear parking sensors are accurate, although the steering could do with more assistance at low speeds. The car's lofty driving position does afford you a good view fore and aft, however.

Spare wheel

Conventional tyre fitted as standard.

 

Range information

Diesel engine options - 2.2-litre (194bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual or automatic gearbox depending on model. Trim levels: Style, Premium.

 

Alternative cars

Kia Sorento Similar concept and boasts a softer ride

Ford Kuga More polished performer but the trade off is the asking price and only five seats

Nissan Qashqai More a soft-roader than genuine 4x4 but a popular and acclaimed alternative family car

Mitsubishi Outlander Family-focused and capable 4x4 - cabin lacks 'wow' factor of some rivals



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December 2009