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Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 review: Active diesel

EXPERT RATING
8
Hyundai's Santa Fe has always been hugely popular in Australia, so the new, fourth-generation model has a lot of love to live up to. It looks the goods, but how does it behave on the road?

Hyundai's Santa Fe has never been a car you could ignore. They are absolutely everywhere, and have been for nearly a decade. The name has been with us for twice that long, but the first one didn't make much of an impression, wobbling around awkwardly on too-small wheels and generally not being all that good. It did have an interesting boot handle, though.

The second-gen was better looking and holds the distinction of having one of its ads banned because apparently the Advertising Standards Bureau thought we'd all take to heart the idea of letting our toddlers drive a two-tonne SUV without adequate training. 

The third-generation was bold. As a country, we liked it, we liked it a lot, and bought them at a rate of knots that I'm pretty sure surprised even Hyundai. Like other Hyundais at the time, it was a huge improvement on what had gone before, but still took a while before it was finished. That doesn't happen anymore. Hyundais now arrive fully cooked. The fourth-generation car has a lot to live up to.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2019: ACTIVE CRDi (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$46,000

Is there anything interesting about its design?  9/10

As with the previous generation, the Santa Fe is bold, but this one is properly out there. Whereas the old car took conventional design and played with it, the nose on the fourth-gen Santa Fe is quite something. Sleek LED driving lights at the top where you might expect the headlights, a chunky grille and stacked headlights remind me of the Kona's arrangement, but on steroids. I wasn't sure at first, but the more I see them, the more I like it. It's as adventurous as a Citroen, which is really saying something.

As with the previous generation, the Santa Fe is bold, but this one is properly out there. As with the previous generation, the Santa Fe is bold, but this one is properly out there.

It's also nice to see that there isn't much in the way of model differentiation from the outside, apart from the 17-inch alloys, which the Active just about gets away with.

The Santa Fe's cabin is just as fanastic, if more skewed towards usability than avant-garde attractiveness. Hyundai interiors are pretty good these days and this one is no exception. The previous generation cars were a bit brash but this one is classy and sophisticated. M'colleague Richard Berry wasn't so keen on the Active's cloth interior but I quite like it and won't be swayed.

How practical is the space inside?  8/10

Despite the Santa Fe growing in all directions as well as scoring a longer wheelbase, it's not much bigger inside. That's okay, it was already pretty big. With seven seats, though, you've got a ton of people-hauling capability and the six cupholders and four bottle holders to keep everyone refreshed.

  • Despite the Santa Fe scoring a longer wheelbase, it's not much bigger inside. Despite the Santa Fe scoring a longer wheelbase, it's not much bigger inside.
  • Rear-seat passengers score fast-charging USB-C ports. Rear-seat passengers score fast-charging USB-C ports.
  • With seven seats, though, you've got a ton of people-hauling capability. With seven seats, though, you've got a ton of people-hauling capability.
  • The generous boot starts at 547 litres. The generous boot starts at 547 litres.
  • The boot expands to a whopping 1625 litres with all the rear seats folded away. The boot expands to a whopping 1625 litres with all the rear seats folded away.

The centre console has a huge bin with USB ports in it, while the rear armrest has a handy storage tray for losable items that shouldn't go to the beach. There's also a Qi charging mat under the dash. Rear-seat passengers score fast-charging USB-C ports.

The generous boot starts at 547 litres, expanding to a whopping 1625 litres (VDA) with all the rear seats folded away. There is also space under the boot floor to hide things.

Access to the third row is resaonably straightforward, with a lever tipping the sliding middle row seatback forward and releasing the seat to slide forward. The rear row is reasonably spacious for a small person but a small-ish adult could survive there for a short trip.

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

The Active is the entry-level model in the Santa Fe range, kicking off at $43,000 for the 2.4-litre petrol and $46,000 for the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, which was my steed for the week.

The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel Active is $46,000. The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel Active is $46,000.

Fresh off the boat from South Korea, you get 17-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo, air conditioning, keyless entry, excellent safety package, active cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, leather wheel and shifter, rear parking sensors, heated and folding rear vision mirrors and a proper, full-size spare.

  • Features include 17-inch alloy wheels. Features include 17-inch alloy wheels.
  • The Santa Fe Active comes with a full-size spare. The Santa Fe Active comes with a full-size spare.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen hosts the perfectly fine Hyundai multimedia system but also the rather better-than-fine Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Annoyingly, it doesn't have sat nav, though, so you'd better be happy with what your phone can dish up.

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

Hyundai makes all its major componentry, including engines and transmissions. Here in the Active diesel you have a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, serving up 147kW and 440Nm, both pretty decent figures for this type of engine.

Here in the Active diesel you have a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo engine. Here in the Active diesel you have a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo engine.

Power goes to all four wheels via Hyundai's own eight-speed automatic. The all-wheel-drive system is what Hyundai calls "active on-demand", with 50/50 front and rear lock mode for when things get slippery.

It's worth pointing out that the diesel produces both more power (9kW) and a heck of a lot more torque (219Nm) than the petrol, which also makes do with a six-speed automatic. That might also explain the lack of petrol engines in the Elite and Highlander models.

The extra power and torque more than offsets the weight penalty of 125kg.

Both can tow 2000kg braked and 750kg unbraked with a towball weight of up to 100kg (150kg with an optional assist kit).

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

Hyundai claims a combined cycle figure of 7.5L/100km. Hyundai numbers, in my experience, are usually fairly close to real world and, as it turns out, I got 8.4L/100km over the week I had the big bruiser. With a 71-litre fuel tank, that means a pretty good real-world range of 845km.

 

What's it like to drive?  8/10

If you've read a review of a Hyundai from the last five years, you'll be aware that there is a local suspension team that works very hard on making the car more appealing to Australian tastes.

Either in town or out on the highway, the car is very comfortable and quiet. Either in town or out on the highway, the car is very comfortable and quiet.

And, pretty much without fail, it has worked. From the Tucson to the i30 to the Kona and now the Santa Fe, they've done an impressive job putting together a balance between ride and handling (and modest off-road ability). I was expecting a solid experience from the Santa Fe - it's a big fella, so you don't really have a great deal of hope it's going to be anything more than comfortable and competent.

The big Hyundai's body control coped with a winding, undulating road with unexpected aplomb. Obviously it wasn't like chucking a Mini down the same stretch, but it stayed reasonably flat and changed direction without the lurching histrionics of, say, a Kluger.

The diesel is a smooth, torquey engine and it's well-matched to the eight-speed automatic. Together they sweep the car along with a verve the petrol engine couldn't hope to manage. Once up to speed, the torque of the diesel means you'll find seventh or eighth gear pretty quickly and it settles to a distant growl.

Either in town or out on the highway, the car is very comfortable and quiet, regardless of whether you're on your own or you're full up. Well, the quiet thing is entirely dependent on your passengers, of course. The tyres on the Active are higher profile and a bit quieter than I expected but also hold on a bit more grimly than I would have predicted.

I was pleasantly surprised, even though recent history told me the Santa Fe was going to impress.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

The Active has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, high and low-speed AEB, forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane-keeping assistance and reverse cross traffic alert.

There are also three top-tether car seat restraints and two ISOFIX points. The third row has neither.

The Santa Fe scored five ANCAP stars in December 2018.

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

Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty with a year of roadside assist. If you stick with servicing your Santa Fe with Hyundai, you get another year of roadside up to 10 years, which is pretty good.

You're expected to bring your Santa Fe in for a service every 12 months or 15,000km and the company offers a lifetime servicing plan. Each service costs around $400 with a few jumping up to $500 or $600 as the car gets older. You can also choose to pre-pay your servicing.

Pricing Guides

$51,898
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$43,000
Highest Price
$60,795

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ACTIVE (AWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $43,000 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 ACTIVE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE CRDi (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $46,000 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 ACTIVE CRDi (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ELITE CRDi DARK (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $54,000 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 ELITE CRDi DARK (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ELITE CRDi SATIN (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $54,000 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe 2019 ELITE CRDi SATIN (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Price and features8
Design9
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership8
Driving8

“It's all so easy in the Santa Fe. Easy to get in and out of, easy to own, easy to drive, easy to like. I really liked the old car, for all its flaws, thinking it good value for money, nice enough to drive and a good looker.”

Does the new Santa Fe find itself on your large SUV list? Tell us in the comments.

Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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