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Hyundai Santa Fe Active X 2017 review: weekend test

The seven-seat Santa Fe Active X plays in one of Australia's most contested segments. So we're putting it to the ultimate test to see how it measures up; transport duty for a kid's birthday party.

If there is a Hell, I have little doubt it will be filled with a rolling procession of children's birthday parties; an eternity damned to eating fairy bread and attempting to calm gaggles of sugar-hyped children.

These birthday parties can be seriously exhausting work, and when kids under the age of 10 are involved, they don’t always go according to plan. So this year, for the twin's eighth birthday, we decided it was going to be different, with only a handful of kids invited. For my part, I would be driving my son and three of his mates about 80 minutes west to an tree-top adventure play park.

Explore the Hyundai Santa Fe range:

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My hand-selected car for this mission was the new Santa Fe Active X. And there are few better ways to test its mettle than taxiing around four hyped-up eight-year-old boys for the afternoon. It's the kind of task SUVs like this one are designed for.

The 2017 Active X is the most recent addition to the Santa Fe range, with its price tag of $40,990 putting it just above the entry-level Active Petrol ($39,350) and just below the $42,350 Active Diesel

Powered by a 3.3-litre V6 matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, the Active X is the only front- wheel-drive model in the range, and it's also the most powerful. 

So how did the Santa Fe cope with birthday duties? 


My first mission of the day is to tick off my son's football match, scheduled to kick-off at 8.30am. First things first, the Santa Fe Active X is a good looking car. Styling is less rugged than its competitors, with more of a swept roofline giving it a sleeker, sedan-like appearance.

At 4700mm long and 1880mm wide, the Santa Fe Active X is actually 375mm shorter than the CX-9 and 165mm shorter than the Kluger end-to-end, and looking at it, it’s hard to imagine this thing has seven seats. 

The interior of this suburban warrior unashamedly favours functionality over form, making for a kid-proof cabin. Hard plastics are the material of choice throughout, accompanied by comfortable leather seats. For a practical family SUV the materials used are fit for purpose, designed to withstand the hard knocks, dropped food and muddy football shoes that are all par for the course in this segment.

The hard wearing interior is fit for purpose. The hard wearing interior is fit for purpose.

We come away from the football after being on the end of a rare loss. Whilst I was hurting from the defeat, my son was completely unfazed and barely able to contain his excitement about his impending birthday party. 

My son's three friends arrive on time and I quickly herd them into the Active X - two in the middle and two in the third row. Despite their height, I felt the need to adjust the middle row forward slightly to accommodate the two boys in the third row comfortably.

Another thing to note about the third row is the visibility out of the back windows is not great, however the separate air-con controls are a welcome feature. Not a place for adults or older teenagers to sit for any lengthy period, though.

A space best reserved for kids. A space best reserved for kids.

Given the trip was expected to take a while, I took the liberty of placing water bottles in the middle and third row bottle holders for the boys in what was to be my first stupid mistake of the trip. But more on that in a moment.

Storage is generous throughout the car – up front there are decent-sized bins in both the dash and under the centre console armrest, along with a hidey-hole for phones and keys in front of the shifter. Up the back, there's a small tub for the third row.

Using all seven seats leaves little boot space; barely big enough to fit my overnight bag. With the third row of seats folded down (50/50 split), boot space is an ample 516 litres, increasing to a hefty 1,615 litres with both the second (40/20/40 split) and third rows folded down. 

Generous amount of space when both rows are folded flat. Generous amount of space when both rows are folded flat.

With the Active X forgoing satnav, I synced my Android Auto app with the seven-inch touchscreen (Apple CarPlay is also offered) and set my destination. According to Google Maps our trip was expected to take 75 minutes. I had a front seat full of snacks, a full tank of petrol and four boys itching to reach their destination.

Well laid out dash featuring an easy to use 7in touchscreen. Well laid out dash featuring an easy to use 7in touchscreen.

Our trip gave me a good opportunity to test out the engine on a combination of urban and motorway driving. The smooth and quiet V6 provides more than ample power, but the heavy throttle feel and related response point to a clear emphasis on efficiency. But it is a massively composed package, and is just as happy to cruise as it is to overtake. 

V6 power plant makes this most powerful Santa Fe available. V6 power plant makes this most powerful Santa Fe available.

After two hours doing multiple laps of the tree-top obstacle courses the boys piled back into the car energised and ready for mischief. Remember that mistake I mentioned earlier?

The return trip was painful, and involved me constantly yelling at the boys to cease and desist from squirting water bottles and throwing food (which I gave them – mistake number two) around the car which then prompted them to up the ante and begin using my head for target practice. This resulted in a stop where stern words were uttered before the trip resumed.

Once back at the house I quickly vacuumed up the popcorn and bread roll pieces from the floor mats and seats. All offending scuff makes were easily wiped off and the car was quickly restored back to its former glory. Easy.


The Santa Fe Active X was on shopping duty as I was taking the twins out to get their birthday presents. 

It's worth noting it uses a foot-operated park brake, rather than a traditional handle or button. For drivers unfamiliar with it, it may take some time to get accustomed to it. I didn't find it to be intrusive in the foot well, the only issue is the foot rest leans a little further back than usual to accommodate the park brake. 

Highlight features of the Active X include auto wipers and headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, four power outlets and dual-zone climate control and proximity unlocking. It also carries the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, and includes a suite of safety gear like AEB, as well as rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

The second row has child seat anchor points, with two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether hooks. There are seven airbags, however the curtain airbags only extend to the second row. 

There are three different modes that affect the throttle and gearing, too: Eco, Normal, and Sport, each of which can be activated via a switch on the centre console. In Sport mode, there was noticeable change in throttle response, unshackling the hefty V6 and allowing it to stretch its legs a little. I was becoming a bigger fan of this engine by the kilometre.     

With Hyundai going to the effort of tuning the Santa Fe’s suspension for Aussie roads it felt comfortable and composed, even on the dark grey 19-inch wheels with 235/55/R19 Michelin rubber. 

The dark grey 19in wheels are unique to the Active X.

The dark grey 19in wheels are unique to the Active X.

Arriving at the local mall's car park, I'm thankful for the Santa Fe's smaller sedan-like dimensions which combine with rear parking sensors and reversing camera to help make threading this SUV through the parking lot a breeze.   

All up, I covered around 350km driving a combination of motorway and urban roads with fuel consumption, according to the car's trip computer, of 10.5 litres per 100km, matching Hyundai’s claimed/combined fuel consumption figures. 

Perhaps more importantly, I survived another of my kids' birthday parties. Better still, so did the Santa Fe.


This no-nonsense SUV was adept at handling birthday duties in true family-hauler fashion. Helped in no short measure by the addition of the powerful and fuel-efficient V6 engine, which made light work of everything we threw at it. 

What it lacks in outright size it makes up for in practicality, drivability and refinement. It's a worthy addition to the line up and is definitely worthy of your consideration.

Would you use the Santa Fe as the family transport? Let us know in the comments below.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Active CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $26,000 – 34,430 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe 2017 Active CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Active (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $24,100 – 32,670 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe 2017 Active (4x4) Pricing and Specs
30 Special Edition 3.3L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,400 – 31,790 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe 2017 30 Special Edition Pricing and Specs
Elite CRDi (4x4) (Sunroof) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $30,200 – 39,600 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe 2017 Elite CRDi (4x4) (Sunroof) Pricing and Specs
Dan Pugh


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