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Hyundai Santa Fe SR 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Richard Blackburn road tests and reviews the Hyundai Sana Fe SR with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

It was fitting that in the week Hyundai's new Santa Fe SR hit the CarsGuide garage, Hyundai announced it had poached the vice president, engineering, of BMW's M division.

The move is a clear sign that Hyundai wants to add some sizzle to its line-up.

Its first statement of intent was the Veloster, now the SR range is designed to attract the buyer with a sporty bent.

The Santa Fe SR is no X5M. At the moment, the sports tuning is confined to a body kit, brakes, suspension and wheels and tyres. And it all comes tied to a distinctly unsporty diesel engine. But it's a start, and the Santa Fe is a good vehicle for the experiment, with 48 per cent of buyers already willing to stump up the extra cash for the most expensive variant. The new model will be available in March.

Design

The SR's signature styling cue is a set of black, matte-finish 19-inch wheels, with red Brembo brakes nestled within the rims. On a white test car, they definitely make a statement. The SR also gets a body kit that makes the car look as if it's sitting lower on the road. Add in daytime running lights - part of a model-wide minor upgrade for the Santa Fe - and it is a smart looking family car.

Unfortunately the sporty styling doesn't extend to the cabin. Inside there are none of the highlights you'd expect on a sports model; no body-hugging seats, no stitched logos, no sporty dials or fake carbon fibre highlights. Not that the interior feels down-market. The dash layout is neat and uncluttered, with clear blue instrumentation and easy to navigate menus for the climate control and multimedia systems. The seats could do with more support for longer journeys and luggage space is a scarce commodity when the third row seat is in place.

About town

Although it's officially classified as a large SUV, the Santa Fe is more compact than some of its competitors and that means it's a little more city friendly, with good vision and manoeuvrability. That's helped by the technology on board. 

The 2015 model year update gets a smart tailgate that will open automatically if you stand behind it for three seconds. Front parking sensors and automatic parallel parking make life easier. For those that prefer to park manually, the side mirrors automatically dip when the car is in reverse, allowing you to line up the kerb. Satnav is standard.

On the road

Hyundai's model upgrade for the Santa Fe range included tweaks by local engineers to the car's suspension and steering designed to improve the balance between road-holding and comfort. On top of that, the SR gets H&R performance springs, the bigger brakes and more expensive Michelin Latitude tyres to improve grip.

It's still no sports SUV, but the changes have made the Santa Fe feel more confident through the bends. The ride, meanwhile, is firmer without becoming crashy over potholes or jittery over corrugations. Ground clearance is a soft-roader-like 185mm.

Performance

The 2.2-litre turbodiesel is an impressive unit, with plenty of grunt for family and trailer hauling duties. The secret to the performance is loads of torque, or pulling power. With 436Nm, it puts a lot of bigger six-cylinder petrol engines to shame.

The Hyundai lopes along at highway speeds, with very little of the noise and vibration you'd expect from a diesel engine. Around town at lower speeds, the engine noise is more intrusive, but still respectable.

The six-speed auto does a commendable job of extracting the most from the engine. Claimed fuel use on the combined city-country cycle is just 7.3 litres per 100km, but we saw about 11L/100km in the traffic.

Verdict

The SR pack costs more than $6000, which is a lot of dough for a package that's more show than go. But it's pretty good value for Brembo brakes, new wheels and tyres, retuned springs and a body kit.

What it's got

Ventilated front seats, a full-size alloy spare, sunroof, auto parking, rear camera, satnav, lane departure warning.

What it hasn't

No blind spot monitoring or low-speed collision avoidance.

Ownership 

Hyundai's five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is among the best, and it has recently introduced lifetime capped servicing and a 10-year roadside assistance program. Resale is strong at 58 per cent, and capped price servicing costs $1137 in the first three years.

Pick of the range

It's a $20,000 leap from the Active petrol model at $38,490 to the SR at roughly $58,000. Apart from the more powerful and efficient engine and the performance tweaks, the big ticket items you get for that money are satellite navigation, sunroof, leather trim, climate control, parking assist, lane departure warning and the fancy auto tailgate. For mine the base diesel is the pick.

Also consider

Ford Territory 2.7 Titanium - $56,740

Thirstier, shorter warranty, but good to drive.

Kia Sorento - $51,490

Twin under the skin to Santa Fe. Classy interior finishes.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited - $62,000

More power and torque, better off-road, but less gear for money

Pricing guides

$27,999
Based on 205 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$15,999
Highest Price
$37,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Active (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $17,700 – 24,640 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe 2015 Active (4x4) Pricing 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
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
EXPERT RATING
8