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Hyundai Santa Fe Series II 2015 review

Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the updated Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander and SR, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at their Australian launch.

It’s the end of the week, Melbourne’s weather is dreadful, and we’re escaping south to the Mornington Peninsula aboard the top-spec version of Hyundai’s updated Santa Fe.

It sounds a bit like Australianised version of the opening sequence from The Sopranos, but I’m no mob boss, and the Santa Fe Highlander is a far better family machine than Tony’s gilded commercial vehicle Escalade ever was.

Explore the Hyundai Santa Fe range:

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Hyundai Santa Fe Active X 2017 review: weekend test

When the current generation Santa Fe first arrived in 2012, it played an important role in Hyundai’s transformation from a cut-priced value brand to a respectable mainstream player.

Its feature-laden seven-seat interior, capable and efficient drivetrains and downright good looks have helped boost Australian sales by 59 per cent since its introduction, even if it does still trail the Toyota Kluger and Ford Territory for outright class honours.

Three years on, and key rivals like the Kluger, Kia Sorento and Nissan Pathfinder have appeared as new generations, and we’re expecting big things from the new Mazda CX-9 that’s just around the corner.

To help fend off these newer models, Hyundai has treated the Santa Fe to a mid-life facelift that brings the looks in line with the recent return of the Tucson mid-sizer.

A new nose, lights and wheels across the board are joined by revised materials on the inside and new multimedia screens that bring the latest Siri Eyes Free (iPhone) and Google Now (Android) voice activation tech.

Santa Fe Active variants are now prepped for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto full smartphone integration, but these functions are still pending certification (Update: Active models certified January 2016) from Apple. Hyundai spokesman Bill Thomas admits this certification has taken longer than expected, and while he still can’t offer firm timing, he describes the situation as “in the works but close.” Elite and Highlander Santa Fe variants with the built-in sat nav are not compatible with CarPlay or Android Auto.

The Santa Fe deserves kudos for being the first of its immediate rivals to offer AEB.

Active safety has also been given a significant boost on the top Highlander and upcoming SR grades, with auto emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, forward collision and blind-spot alerts, rear cross traffic alert with lane change assist to bolster the Santa Fe’s already-five star safety credentials.

The Highlander’s existing auto parking function has also been expanded to include 90 degree parks, and new exit guidance for parallel spots.

As is often unfortunately the case, these extra features cannot be optioned onto lesser grades, but the Santa Fe deserves kudos for being the first of its immediate rivals to offer AEB.  

List pricing for the base Active is unchanged from $38,490, with the six-speed auto adding $2500 and the diesel drivetrain available for a further $3000.

The diesel auto-only Elite rises by $1500 to $49,990, but balances this with the addition of premium audio and electric driver’s seat adjustment with memory.

The also diesel auto Highlander is up by $2750 to $55,990, but brings all the new active safety gear and could at least be partly offset by insurance savings.

The Sports-flavoured SR isn’t set to return until early next year and its pricing is yet to be finalised, but will once again pack Brembo brakes, stiffer H&R springs, bodykit and black OZ alloys, but no extra power from the diesel.

  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II
  • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe SR Series II

Only the Highlander and a preview version of the SR were on hand at the Santa Fe’s Australian launch, and our drive took us from city crawl to motorway to bitumen and dirt country backroads.

The turbo diesel has been retuned to improve driveability, with an extra 2kW/4Nm also yielding a 0.4L/100km combined fuel consumption improvement with the automatic.

The difference isn’t perceptible from behind the wheel, but the 2.2-litre unit is still an impressive performer beneath the Santa Fe’s girth.

The 2.4-litre petrol engine in the Active has also been tweaked to improve mid-range responsiveness, but loses 3kW and uses 0.3L/100km more on the combined cycle as a result.

All models feature revised bushing and an extra link to the rear suspension, which combined with local tuning for both drivetrains and all wheel/tyre combinations is aimed at improving both ride quality and handling.

The result still feels softer than the Sorento, Kluger and Territory, and comes at the expense of some body control, but is the pick if you favour comfort over outright handling.

The SR is only marginally stiffer with its unique springs, and the sturdier Brembo brakes once again deliver its greatest performance advantage. 

The Santa Fe is also not as quiet inside as we remember from the generation-ahead new Sorento, but the Hyundai is hardly what you’d call harsh.


Tony Soprano would probably only choose the Santa Fe after witness relocation, but the facelifted version should be near the top of your list of options. And you don’t need a contract over your head to appreciate that the top-spec models are now the segment leaders when it comes to active safety.

What's new 

Price - Base Active unchanged, but $1500 Elite rise balanced by extra features and Highlander’s $2750 rise justified by added safety.
Equipment - New bigger multimedia screens for all, Elite gets premium audio and electric driver’s seat, and Highlander scores a bunch of extra active safety gear.
Performance - Slightly less power (-3kW) and higher combined fuel rating (+0.3L/100km) for the petrol offset by improved power delivery.  Diesel adds 2kW and 4Nm but fuel consumption improves by 0.3-0.4L/100km.
Driving - Revised rear suspension hardware and local tuning make for a comfortable all-round package.
Design - New nose, lights and wheels refresh an already good-looking design.


Is the new Santa Fe's added extra safety enough to make it your number one choice in its class? Tell us in the comments below. 

Pricing guides

Based on 154 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

Active CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $19,000 – 26,510 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe 2015 Active CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Active (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $17,700 – 24,640 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe 2015 Active (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Elite CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $21,600 – 29,370 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe 2015 Elite CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Highlander CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $26,100 – 34,540 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe 2015 Highlander CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor


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