Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 5-Seat
Streamlined appearance boosts the car's appeal
- Genuine off-road ability is sufficient to tow trailers across muddy fields
- Bang up-to-date styling brings genuine desirability
- Smooth, quiet drivetrain is very relaxed
- Materials quality raises the bar towards premium manufacturers
- Boot space limited when rearmost seats are in place
- Only one engine choice across the range
- Acceleration is dented by the relatively low power to weight ratio
- Some plastic exterior panels vulnerable to damage
You might know Hyundai better for its range of low cost small and medium size cars, but the Korean giant is also pretty successful in the global 4x4 business. The Santa Fe is a good example of what Hyundai does best.
In the past, Korean SUVs tended to be a little rough around the edges. There was no disputing their off-roading abilities but they lacked the finesse of their European rivals. The Santa Fe does much to dispel such perceptions.
With its smooth, streamlined appearance, this Santa Fe is much removed from the boxy 4x4s of old. With the firm having experienced considerable success in North America, it's not surprising that cars like its Santa Fe present a slick visual front. This polished approach continues inside, with lots of smooth plastic surfaces on show.
Look closely and you'll see that the quality of the materials could be better; they can't quite match those of the main European rivals and some of the brightwork isn't terribly convincing. This won't matter the more pragmatic buyers, as there's no doubting the cabin's durable surfaces.
And this is where the Santa Fe scores higher than most of its road biased European rivals, as the big Hyundai combines acceptable refinement with genuine off-roading talent. From the generous ground clearance to the torque diesel engine and switchable all-transmission, it's not phased by the rigours of off-roading and towing.
Our verdict on the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 5-Seat
If it's an affordable, durable yet refined and spacious SUV you're seeking, Hyundai's Santa Fe should be given some serious consideration. It might lack the prestige of its more polished European rivals, but pound for pound many lack the off-roading capability and cabin space.
With only one (diesel) variant offered there's little you can do to influence running costs. The auto model is a little less frugal than the manual, but the trade-off is a more relaxed driving experience. At least Hyundai's warranty is one of the more generous ones and the standard specification easily trumps that of its closest rivals.
Space and practicality
In seven-seat guise (there's also a standard five-seat model) the Santa Fe is highly versatile. The third row can be folded away to increase boot space, while the cabin boasts plenty of storage options. Head and legroom in the first two rows is very good, with the third row more than acceptable for children.
Controls and display
The car's central fascia contains a sensibly laid out selection of key controls and displays that should prove intuitive at first glance. Furthermore, the main dials are easy to read, and the steering offers plenty of assistance.
With large seats and a lot of interior space, the Santa Fe is amongst the best for comfort in this price bracket. The car's supple ride helps to cushion the worst of a road's imperfections, while the seats offer a good balance of support and adjustment.
Packing a comprehensive anti-theft system, there's little else the Santa Fe needs. The car's sturdy load cover is a useful inclusion, although you might want to add a steering lock to properly deter opportunist thieves.
For families there are child locks to prevent little ones opening doors when they shouldn't, while the front passenger side airbag can be turned off - and that's alongside the seven airbags covering the cabin. All-wheel drive and the usual electronic stability control aids complete the comprehensive package.
The ideal combination is the diesel automatic drivetrain, which excels at being smooth, quiet and relaxed. Don't expect the big Hyundai to be a fast car, but for those who value refinement the Santa Fe is likely to exceed your perceptions of the brand. For cruising and towing the Santa Fe is for the job, while its off-roading potential is considerable thanks to its easy to use switchable transmission modes.
Family car appeal
If you need something more rugged and versatile than a conventional people carrier, cars like the Santa Fe are a sensible alternative. With the potential to accommodate seven people or a large amount of clobber, plus travel off-road and tow in comfort, Hyundai's big 4x4 is an impressive all-rounder. You might want to avoid cars with leather seats if you have small children and pets, though.
First car appeal
It's a little on the large side and rearward visibility from the driver's seat could be better, but the Santa Fe is an easy car to drive if you really need a full-size 4x4.
Quality and image
With a long standard warranty and an enviable reputation for reliability, the Hyundai brand has gone from strength to strength in recent years. Only badge snobs still have any objection. Moreover, the Santa Fe is a truly high-quality product within its ultra competitive price range.
The car's large dimensions result in big doors, while secondly its raised ride height means that all its seats are positioned higher, requiring less of a bend to get into and out of. The rearmost seats are relatively easy to get to, but do need occupants to be of medium build and flexible.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The basic set-up is a good one and, crucially, easy to use. More speakers, better amplification and music player inputs improve the experience, as does the inclusion of secondary buttons on the steering wheel.
Colours and trim
Most colours look good but you might be tempted to try white as it contrasts well with the trim details. Inside, the interior is much improved over the old model, with better soft-touch plastics and a more modern detailing.
Rear parking sensors help to offset the fact that the high door shoulder lines reduce rear visibility a little. Otherwise, the Santa Fe is easy to park thanks to the light yet accurate steering and good size mirrors.
Full-size spare wheel fitted as standard.
Diesel engine options - 2.2-litre (194bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed auto. Trim levels: Style, Premium.
Ford Kuga Good to drive on-road but not really a genuine 4x4
Kia Sorento Similar proposition to the Santa Fe and equally good value
Nissan X-Trail Rugged Nissan is a safe bet if you need a purposeful all-roader
Volkswagen Tiguan Smaller and more road biased than the Hyundai but a polished, family-friendly alternative