Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 Elite Review

Hyundai Sante Fe1

Now in its third generation, the flagship Hyundai Santa Fe recreational vehicle has landed on South African shores and I spent a few days getting to grips with the vehicle.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 Elite review by David Taylor

Hyundai’s striking looks

Hyundai has come a long way both in terms of product quality and design. Gone are the days of generic-looking bland passenger cars. Now, the Koreans are happily producing vehicles that not only match the established European competition, but soundly thump them in some departments too. Take this new Hyundai Santa Fe. Yes, it looks a little similar to the smaller IX35 yet still retains a staunch, masculine appearance. Dominated by a big shiny grille and eye-catching headlamps, the Santa Fe is one of the more attractive SUVs around.

Powerful and smooth engine

To lug the big Hyundai Santa Fe around, the 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is up to the job. With 145kW and 436Nm driving to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox, the Santa Fe effortlessly powers its way up to national highway speeds. The engine does sound a little like a tractor while idling but under acceleration, it settles into a silky smooth rhythm. Despite the vehicle’s size, the Santa Fe is surprisingly light on fuel. On a recent road trip to Mossel Bay from Cape Town, the vehicle was happily returning figures of under 9L/100km.

Luxurious and full-equipped

Speaking of road trips, I can only heap praise onto the way this thing drives. Not only is it comfortable, the ride is smooth and it feels as if you’re in something luxurious. As far as equipment and specification goes, the Hyundai Santa Fe is packed to the hilt. I’m going to save you time by listing the things that aren’t present, as the full comprehensive list is ridiculously long. The only things that aren’t fitted are satellite navigation and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity.

Things worth mentioning is the integrated rear camera that has a screen in the mirror, auto headlights, auto handbrake, auto wipers, a third row of seats which folds down neatly. There’s even a full panoramic roof, steering modes (Sport, Comfort and Normal) as well as heated seats. I generally mark a vehicle down if it doesn’t have a decent USB integration and I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy my iPod was able to communicate with the car. Better yet, the USB socket was located in a convenient position.

Useful offroad ability

Despite the fact that this vehicle is aimed at the urban family, the vehicle does come with a few offroad party tricks. It has a ground clearance of 185mm and all-wheel drive, two things which I believe will cover most offroad applications. There is also hill descent control which makes doing steep descents a breeze and should the vehicle become stuck in something like thick beach sand, the lockable diff will come into play.

Please note that this isn’t a vehicle to try conquering Africa in. Not only does it lack a low-range gearbox (vital for serious offroading) but the Hyundai Santa Fe needs the 50ppm low sulphur diesel – something that’s not readily available in the back and beyond. To be honest, these drawbacks don’t matter as most Santa Fe models will be owned and driven in and around the major cities.

Comprehensive warranty

I remember the days when Korean cars were mediocre and I can recall saying to people, “give both Kia and Hyundai some time. Soon you’ll see them making cars that rival the German trio.” The new Hyundai Santa Fe is proof of that. It’s a simply brilliant vehicle that offers astonishing levels of comfort and practicality. It can do a bit of offroading too and there is literally no reason why the South African buying public can scoff at the thought of owning a Korean vehicle.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 Elite - Price

The Hyundai Santa Fe is extremely well-appointed and when you consider what you’re getting, just under R500,000 doesn’t sound like silly money. Throw in the comprehensive Hyundai warranty of a five year/90 000km service contract and you’re looking at serious contender for this segment.
  • Why you should: Refined, drives well, engine/gearbox combo a treat, practical, impressive specification.
  • Why you shouldn’t: Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a serious off-roader. It’s not.
  • It would be better if: the radio had RDS, a Bluetooth phone system was fitted.
  • View the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 Elite: New / Used
  • Competitors worth checking out: Toyota Fortuner, Chevrolet Trailblazer, BMW X3, Audi Q5