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Hyundai Santa Fe 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.5
The Santa Fe is the biggest SUV in Hyundai's lineup, and it's the only genuine 4x4 model. With an all-new version on the horizon, how does the current model stack up in a red hot large SUV segment?

Hyundai has been on something of a new model blitz for the last two years, and that trend is set to continue into 2018. Of the new raft of products it's introduced, the company has almost completely revamped its SUV line - with one notable exception. 

The Santa Fe is the biggest SUV in Hyundai's local lineup, and it's the only genuine 4x4 model. With an all-new version on the horizon, how does the current model - now more than five years old - stack up in a red-hot large SUV segment?

Hyundai Santa Fe 2018: Highlander CRDi (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.8L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$45,430

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

The exterior design of the Santa Fe could be best described as inoffensive. The large seven seat, five door SUV was one of the first models to really benefit from the new design era of the Europeans who came in and turned the Korean company upside down when it came to fresh and exciting exteriors, without resorting to side steps or rear spoilers to get achieve a sporty look.

No body kits are in evidence across the line, though the faux side skirts do add visual bulk down low.

The Santa Fe's lines are bluff, yet still soft enough not to give it a too aggressive feel; it's not an overly macho 4x4 off roader. It's said that good design is invisible, and the Santa Fe is certainly testament to that.

The Santa Fe's lines are bluff, yet still soft enough not to give it a too aggressive feel. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) The Santa Fe's lines are bluff, yet still soft enough not to give it a too aggressive feel. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)

Colours include no-cost white as well as pearl white, black, blue, red and silver, but gold isn’t offered.

As for the interior, the Santa Fe was one of the first products to benefit from a new vision from Hyundai, an attempt to give their cars a more affordably premium feel.

While it's inaccurate to say that the interior has aged, it has been left behind by dint of the new era of interiors that the company has offered up in products like the I30 and the Tuscan. Side-by-side interior images show the Santa Fe is just a bit more bulbous and rounded in areas where other products are softer and more subtle. 

It sounds like a criticism, but it's really not; it's still a good place to be, but Hyundai has moved its own game on. In terms of function and in terms of visual appeal, it's still a great interior, though there is evidence of cheaper materials in eyesight that the newer models have tended to avoid.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

How many seats does a Hyundai Santa Fe have, you may ask. Well, Hyundai has equipped the Santa Fe as a seven seater with a third row pair of rear seats that fold completely flat into the floor. How many seats do you need? That’s a question only you can answer…

These seats are quite generously sized and the rear section has its own air vents and bottle holders to make passengers a little more comfortable. The second row of seats slides fore and aft, and the backs can be adjusted to give those rear seaters a little bit more room if required. Being able to juggle the second and third row of seats does mean a little bit more leg room can be found when required - as long as the other passengers aren't too tall.

While adults could clamber in and be safely seated in that area, it is definitely still an area better suited to smaller humans.

Second row passengers will need to share a single 12-volt power outlet on their centre console bin, while their air vents are situated in the B pillars. ISOFIX baby seat mounting points are attached to both outside rear seats.

Second row passengers will need to share a single 12-volt power outlet. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe model shown) Second row passengers will need to share a single 12-volt power outlet. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe model shown)

The interior of the Santa Fe is quite spacious, and even with the standard full length sunroof, headroom in front and back is plentiful, while rear leg room in the middle row is excellent. 

Up front the driver and passenger have plenty of room to get comfortable with broad medium/firm seats. They could be perhaps a little bit lower in the car, but it's only by a couple of millimetres.

Up front the driver and passenger have plenty of room with broad medium/firm seats. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe model shown) Up front the driver and passenger have plenty of room with broad medium/firm seats. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe model shown)

Visibility around the car is good with extra-large sized door mirrors and a porthole through the rear most pillar. The rear window aperture is quite narrow, but visibility is still okay.

Combined with that slightly too-high seat is a steering wheel that also sits slightly too low perhaps for taller drivers, although it is adjustable for both reach and height. 

There are a lot of controls in the Santa Fe; there's not a lot of consolidation of buttons with a panel to the right of the driver's hand controlling things like drive mode, lane departure control, parking sensors and hill descent mode. 

The centre console is quite crowded as well and the climate controls could be perhaps a little bit clearer to use, but it only takes a couple of minutes to get familiar with them.

The multimedia system's graphics are quite good, especially for an established model, and the addition of a reasonably seamless Apple CarPlay experience certainly adds to the drive experience of the Santa Fe.

The multimedia system's graphics are quite good, especially for an established model. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe model shown) The multimedia system's graphics are quite good, especially for an established model. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe model shown)

There are plenty of power points at the front with a pair of 12 volt (12V) plugs, along with a USB cable input, and a pair of side by side cup holders reside in front of a medium-deep centre console bin that comes standard with a phone tray in the top. 

There's plenty of storage on all four doors for large bottles and it's nice to see that the pockets are partitioned to stop items from rattling around unnecessarily.

At 1615 litres VDA luggage capacity with the seats down, the Santa Fe’s dimensions lag behind both Toyota’s Prado (1833L) and Kluger (1872L) in total area, but it beats the Prado for boot space when only the second-row seats are in place, and is line ball with the Kluger, at 516L.

  • There is almost no room when the third row is up. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) There is almost no room when the third row is up. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)
  • The Santa Fe will take a full size bicycle without the wheels removed with the 40/20/20 split-fold seats folded flat into the floor. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) The Santa Fe will take a full size bicycle without the wheels removed with the 40/20/20 split-fold seats folded flat into the floor. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)
  • The Santa Fe has 1615 litres of boot space with the seats down. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) The Santa Fe has 1615 litres of boot space with the seats down. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)

However, there is almost no room when the third row is up, which again raises the issue of just how impractical seven-seaters are when actually used as seven-seaters. Luckily, roof rack rails allow for additional storage options to be explored.

The Santa Fe will take a full size bicycle without the wheels removed with the 40/20/20 split-fold seats folded flat into the floor. Hyundai offers a clever recess for the cargo cover underneath the floor, but no cargo liner/tonneau cover is included as standard. A barrier can be fitted aftermarket if required.

A full sized spare tyre resides, 4x4 utility-like, behind the rear bumper under the floor of the cargo area.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Hyundai’s Santa Fe range has a price list that starts from $40,990 plus on-road costs for the 3.3-litre Active X front wheel drive petrol powered model, with the $41,850 all wheel drive 2.4-litre Active next in line.

In case you’re wondering where the Hyundai Santa Fe is built, it’s sourced from the company’s main plant in Ulsan, South Korea.

The other three Santa Fes are all diesel powered, with the RRP of the Active $44,850, and the Elite model $51,990. How much is a Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander, you ask? It starts at $57,060, and drive away pricing is offered on the Santa Fe from time to time, as well.

When you look at a model comparison, the Santa Fe’s standard features across the range include traditional hydraulic power steering, SmartSense safety with AEB, electronic stability control, hill descent control, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, traction control system, a multimedia system with iPhone compatible Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (but no CD player or DAB radio).

The multimedia system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) The multimedia system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)

A trip computer, climate control air conditioner, reverse camera and LED daytime running lights are also standard. Media can be added via USB and line-in ports, and for convenience there are four 12-volt (12V) sockets throughout the car. 

The Active X is the cheapest but most powerful Santa Fe, with a 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine under the bonnet. It gets part-leather trim, 19-inch rims and heated front seats. It’s almost the default sport model in the line up.

The slightly dearer petrol-powered Active gets all-wheel-drive with 17-inch rims, as well as a smaller capacity 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. Seats are cloth only, and the dual-zone air con disappears.

The Santa Fe Elite offers a more luxury pack feel, with a 2.2-litre diesel-powered engine and all-wheel-drive, 18-inch alloy wheels, powered leather front seats, a larger infotainment touch screen system with sat nav, smart key with pushbutton start, auto tailgate, window blinds for the rear seats and a 10-speaker stereo with amp and subwoofer.

The Santa Fe Highlander, meanwhile, offers a more premium package with 19-inch rims, keyless entry, self-parking (or park assist), sensors, a full leather interior with heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats, GPS navigation system, HID headlights (as opposed to LED headlights, and all other grades use xenon lamps) radar cruise control and a panoramic sunroof. No heated steering wheel, sorry.

The Santa Fe Highlander, offers 19-inch rims. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) The Santa Fe Highlander, offers 19-inch rims. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)

While Hyundai uses Homelink in overseas markets – which allows the car to talk to devices like garage doors, for example – the technology is not yet available locally.

Accessories like floor mats, nudge bars and cargo barriers are available through dealerships. Bull bars and snorkels aren’t sold through Hyundai, but can be fitted aftermarket.

The Santa Fe competes in a space where cars of various sizes co-mingle in the large SUV segment, including Mazda CX-9, the Toyota Kluger and Nissan's Pathfinder, with other products from Ford and Holden set to join the fray in 2018.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

There are three engines on offer across the Santa Fe range with differing specifications and ratings, comprising two petrol powertrains and a single diesel.

A direct injection 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine was added to the range in 2017, which makes the most horsepower at 199kW along with 318Nm. The biggest motor in the range drives the front wheels through an automatic; no manual transmission is available in the Santa Fe (you could previously get a diesel manual model but it was deleted for 2018).

It’s complemented by a four-cylinder petrol with an engine size of 2.4 litres, which drives all four wheels. It makes 138kW and 241Nm, and it’s also backed by a six-speed auto gearbox.

A 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with direct injection is also offered in all-wheel-drive only. Its torque specs are the strongest at 440Nm. No rear wheel drive is offered. It’s also worth noting that a diesel particulate filter isn’t fitted to the Santa Fe, but black smoke isn’t an issue.

The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel proudces 147kW/440Nm. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown) The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel proudces 147kW/440Nm. (2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander model shown)

A diff lock system enables even distribution of torque between front and rear for off road work.

Oil types and capacity varies across the three, while all three eschew a timing belt for a timing chain. If you’re looking for LPG or a plug in hybrid, you’re in the wrong place.

Gross vehicle weight varies between the models, with the lightest variant weighing 1717kg at the kerb and the heaviest at 1984kg. Towing capacity tops out at 2000kg across all variants, while a relatively low 100kg downball weight limit applies to the tow bar. The un-braked towing capacity for all models is 750kg.

Load capacity, of course, reduces in line with the weight of the trailer you’re pulling. The diesel, for example, has a gross vehicle mass of 2600kg, leaving 600kg of load capacity for people and stuff.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Diesel fuel economy is rated at 6.4 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, while fuel consumption for the V6 is rated at 8.4 litres per 100km. Mileage for the 2.4-litre four, meanwhile, is rated at 7.5L/100km.

All Santa Fes have the same size fuel tank capacity at 64 litres, and all are equipped with a single battery.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Around town and on country roads, the Santa Fe really is a nice thing to drive. A three-stage drive mode switch offers Eco, Normal and Sport modes, with throttle response and gearbox mapping changed to suit. Sport mode is good around town as well as on the open road, sharpening the shifts from the six-speed automatic that features across the entire line; it can feel laggy when left to its own devices in Eco mode, particularly.

The locally-tuned front MacPherson and rear multi-link suspension is almost perfectly balanced between ride quality and road holding, with the ‘old school’ hydraulic steering adding feel and finesse to the wheel.

Road noise is well surpressed, while its 10.9m turning radius is acceptable for such a big rig. It’s not so much about 0-100 acceleration performance and top speed in the Santa Fe, but its light off road capability adds an extra level of flexibility.

Hyundai doesn’t offer a wading depth figure, but its 185mm ride height is surprisingly less than the Kluger (200mm) and the Mazda CX-9 (222mm).

The front wheel drive (commonly called 4x2) Active X is the least capable off-road, while the on-demand 4x4 with 50/50 front and rear lock mode in the AWD cars gives them more ability when the going gets slippy.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

Safety rating wise, the Santa Fe range is equipped with features like automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane change assist and lane departure warning as standard, as well. 

All cars have at least four front and rear sensors, while the Highlander gets six to support its auto-parking system. The Active X also gets a tyre pressure monitoring system as standard.

Tinted windows are only added to the rear section of the car. Of note, the Santa Fe's curtain airbag does not extend all the way to the third row, which sets it apart from most of its rivals in the space.

It still qualifies for a maximum ANCAP safety rating score of five out of five (based on a 2012 rating). 

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

You’ll get a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with your Santa Fe; not quite as good as Kia’s seven years (and not even as good as Hyundai’s own 10-year warranty in the US), but it’s better than average – and you can always purchase an extended warranty.

A lifetime capped price servicing plan is available if you let Hyundai look after your car – service costs equal around $409 every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first, when maintenance is amortised over five years or 75,000km. Just keep that owner’s manual stamped.

The Santa Fe isn’t the subject of complaints or issues, with its drivetrains garnering an admirable reputation for reliability, durability and avoiding common faults and defects. In fact, Hyundai scored top ratings in the latest J.D. Power Australia Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI) Study in 2017.

Transmission problems and issues are almost unheard of, while things like oil pumps, the turbo unit and other parts like suspension hold up well to Australian conditions.

Resale value is reasonable, with a 2014 Elite shedding some $20,000 of its $48,000 initial purchase price. Second hand Santa Fes actually make for pretty good buying in general; the car hasn’t changed much since its introduction in 2012, after all.

Verdict

It's no secret that there is a new Santa Fe around the corner (relatively speaking), but even though the current car is more than five years old, it certainly hasn't lost anything in that time. In fact, the Series II car represents good value buying for a family looking for a roomy five-seater with seven-seat flexibility.

It pays to be aware of the limitations of luggage and curtain airbags when thinking about using those rearmost seats, and be mindful of its relatively underdone towing specs if a van is in your driveway.

Overall, it's a practical, good looking, understated rig with a bit of style, and it benefits from Hyundai's latest engineering in terms of its drivetrain and active safety.

The Santa Fe Active diesel AWD is the sweet spot in the range, combining a good box set of add-ons with the efficient oiler/all-paw drivetrain at a value-packed price.

Have you considered the Hyundai Santa Fe as your next family car?

Pricing Guides

$54,990
Based on 427 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$30,999
Highest Price
$63,000

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Active (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $34,870 – 41,470 2018 HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2018 Active (4x4) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE (AWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $37,470 – 41,990 2018 HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2018 ACTIVE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Active CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $30,999 – 43,640 2018 HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2018 Active CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE CRDi (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $37,990 – 46,990 2018 HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2018 ACTIVE CRDi (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design8
Practicality7
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety7
Ownership8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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