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Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 review: V6 Active

The Santa Fe V6 is a relaxed drive, but will respond well if mum or dad gets a rush of blood
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Hyundai's seven-seat Santa Fe SUV competes in a cut-throat part of the mainstream market where value, practicality, performance and safety are critical. The addition of a big petrol V6 has spiced up the range, and we've put the entry-level version to the test.

Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, the 47th US state, and according to that ever-reliable journal of record, Wikipedia, home to 27,569 households, 24.1 percent of which include children under the age of 18.

So, Hyundai had obviously done its sociology, demography, and geography homework in naming its evergreen, family-friendly SUV after this picturesque southern US city.

Or, of course, it could just be a suck up to the critical American market, along with the Tucson and Kona, helping the South Korean brand ease more readily into the North American landscape.

Either way, the Santa Fe has been a solid, if not spectacular performer since its local launch in the early noughties, with the latest, fourth-generation version arriving in Australia in mid-2018.

To freshen things up a new 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated petrol V6 version was added to the line-up in late 2019. And we spent a week investigating whether extra cylinders send the Santa Fe to the big leagues.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2020: ACTIVE (AWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency9.3L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$43,000

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

At $43,550, before on-road costs the Active is the entry-point to a three-grade Santa Fe line-up with the Elite and Highlander above it.

It lines up directly with the base-grade Toyota Fortuner GX ($45,965), and Mazda CX-8 Sport ($43,910), sitting a little higher than others like the Honda CR-V VTi-L7 ($38,990), Nissan X-Trail ST-L ($39,300), and VW Tiguan Allspace 110 TSI Comfortline ($40,490).

A 7.0-inch media touchscreen comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 7.0-inch media touchscreen comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Once you’re into the $40K bracket it’s fair to expect a solid inventory of standard equipment, and aside from the active and passive safety tech detailed in the Safety section, the Santa Fe Active delivers a decent rather than spectacular basket of fruit.

Highlights include a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshift, heated exterior mirrors, a 3.5-inch digital instrument screen (with trip computer and digi speedometer), front and rear fog lights (LED rear), auto headlights, roof rails, 17-inch alloy rims, keyless entry, cruise control, a 7.0-inch media touchscreen managing a six-speaker audio system (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity), and a rear-view camera.   

Once you’re into the $40K bracket it’s fair to expect a solid inventory of standard equipment. Once you’re into the $40K bracket it’s fair to expect a solid inventory of standard equipment.

But, while air conditioning is standard, it’s a manual system, the seat trim is cloth, and you’ll be adjusting the front seats manually. You’ll also be inserting and twisting the ignition key (no push-button start), there isn’t any nav (but that’s okay if you have a smartphone connected), forget digital radio, and rain-sensing wipers are missing in action.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Hyundai has a massive design card up its sleeve in the shape of Peter Schreyer, the person responsible for development of the look and feel of Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

A car design rock star, Schreyer has built a stellar team that’s managed to catapult the two main Korean car brands into the top tier, giving each a distinctive, confident personality.

At close to 4.8m long, just under 1.9m wide, and a touch less than 1.7m tall, the Santa Fe is big rather than huge, and within a classic SUV profile stands apart thanks to its large, black, egg crate grille, with slim, sweeping upper ‘positioning’ lights defined by LED DRLs either side, and an enormous, angular aperture for the main (bi-xenon) headlights underneath.

The Santa Fe is big rather than huge, and within a classic SUV profile stands apart. The Santa Fe is big rather than huge, and within a classic SUV profile stands apart.

A sharp character line running the length of the car’s shoulder, conspicuously raised and chiseled outer edges on the bonnet, and long strakes on the hood itself add visual interest without being too busy.

The standard 17-inch alloys don’t exactly fill the wheelarches (18s and 19s are standard on higher-tier variants), and the rear view is less recognisably Hyundai than the front, with irregular, vaguely boomerang-shaped tail-lights the only element not conforming to a generic family SUV treatment.

Inside, the cabin is neat and tidy without pushing the envelope too far. The dashboard follows a layered approach, accentuated by subtle colour differences between a gently curving top, protruding centre, and lower console area.

The standard 17-inch alloys don’t exactly fill the wheelarches. The standard 17-inch alloys don’t exactly fill the wheelarches.

Key elements are defined by bright metal-look surrounds, which also serve to highlight the fact there are several different shapes across the fascia, one being the relatively modest 7.0-inch media touchscreen, standing proud of the centre dashtop. 

Overall, the interior is user-friendly, but not as cohesive and unified as some. 

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

A 2765mm wheelbase is sizeable relative to the Santa Fe’s overall length, the driver and front passenger enjoying plenty of space as well as multiple storage spaces including, a large lidded storage box (doubling as a centre armrest) between the seats, big door pockets (with room for full-size bottles), twin cupholders in the centre console, a small oddments tray ahead of the gearshift, an overhead sunglasses compartment, and a decent glove box.

Connectivity and power options run to a 12-volt (180W) socket, two USB ports (one for media connection, and another for charging only), plus an ‘aux-in’ audio plug.

The driver and front passenger enjoys plenty of space as well as multiple storage spaces. The driver and front passenger enjoys plenty of space as well as multiple storage spaces.

Moving to the centre row and sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm position, I enjoyed more than adequate head and legroom, with enough shoulder room for three adults abreast for short journeys. Kids on a road trip will be fine, and adjustable air vents for rear-seaters is always a plus.

Here, storage includes twin cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, map pockets in the front seatbacks, an oddments tray below the centre air events, and lengthy door bins, again with space for bottles. There are also two USB  power sockets to keep devices charged and occupants happy.

There's more than adequate head and legroom in the back row. There's more than adequate head and legroom in the back row.

Getting in an out of the third row seat is reasonably awkward for grown-ups, despite the centre seat folding and sliding forward easily, but a cinch for the pre--teen kids that will inevitably occupy it.

The centre seats slide, so a legroom compromise can be reached between the rear rows, but no matter how far that goes in favour of the ‘way back’ seat, it’s very tight on head and legroom for adults. This is a small person zone.

There’s plenty of storage with a deep tray on the left-hand side, and a pair of cupholders on the right, as well as a 12-volt outlet and rear A/C control with a vent. Nice.

  • The boot offers 547 litres of space with all seats up. The boot offers 547 litres of space with all seats up.
  • Drop the 50/50 split-folding third row, and that number grows to 625 litres. Drop the 50/50 split-folding third row, and that number grows to 625 litres.
  • Lower the 60/40 split centre row, and you have 1625 litres at your disposal. Lower the 60/40 split centre row, and you have 1625 litres at your disposal.
  • There are six tie-down points, a luggage net, and a small under floor storage area. There are six tie-down points, a luggage net, and a small under floor storage area.

Then the boot offers 547 litres of space with all seats up. Drop the 50/50 split-folding third row (via buttons in the boot space), and that number grows to 625 litres. Lower the 60/40 split centre row, and you have 1625 litres at your disposal, with a completely flat floor. There are six tie-down points, a luggage net, and a small under floor storage area, which is handy for wet swimming gear or muddy boots.

Towing capacity is 2000kg for a braked trailer (interestingly, the same rating as the AWD diesel model), and 750kg unbraked, and the spare is a full-size alloy.

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

The Santa Fe V6 is powered by the Hyundai Group’s ‘Lambda II MPi’ all-alloy, 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine.

Featuring direct-injection, variable valve timing (on the exhaust and inlet side) and a timing chain (rather than a belt) it’s claimed to produce 206kW at 6300rpm, and 336Nm at 5000rpm.

The Santa Fe V6 is powered by the Hyundai Group’s ‘Lambda II MPi’ all-alloy, naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine. The Santa Fe V6 is powered by the Hyundai Group’s ‘Lambda II MPi’ all-alloy, naturally aspirated V6 petrol engine.The engine is manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama, as are US market Sante Fes, although Australian cars are assembled in Hyundai’s main production plant in Ulsan, South Korea.

Drive goes to the front wheels only via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.2-litre turbo-diesel version of the Santa Fe is all-wheel drive, with that engine’s low-down torque delivery making it better suited to towing and off-highway work.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 10.6L/100km, the V6 emitting 249g/km of CO2 in the process.

Over around 250km of city, suburban and freeway running, we recorded 11.3L/100km, which isn’t exactly miserly, but unusually close to the claim, and equates to a real-word range of just under 630km..

Fuel required is standard 91 RON unleaded, which helps, and you’ll need 71 litres of it to fill the tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The Santa Fe received a maximum five-star ANCAP assessment in July, 2018.

Standard active safety tech includes the usual suspects like ESC, ABS, and EBD, as well as traction and stability control systems.

But more advanced features include ‘Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist’ (Hyundai-speak for AEB) city/urban/interurban to 65km/h (incorporating pedestrian and cyclist detection via camera and radar), ‘Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist – rear’, ‘Driver Attention Warning’, auto high-beam, lane-keeping assist, and ‘Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist.’

The Santa Fe received a maximum five-star ANCAP assessment. The Santa Fe received a maximum five-star ANCAP assessment.Plus, there’s active cruise control (with stop and go), ‘Emergency Stop Signal’, rear parking distance warning (four sensors, with guidance display), a rear view camera (with dynamic guidelines), a speed limiter, and tyre pressure monitoring.

If all that isn’t enough to prevent an impact, there are six airbags, but two of them could be better. There are head and side (thorax) bags for the driver and front passenger, but the side curtain airbags only cover the first and second row seats.

The ‘Hyundai Auto Link’ app provides an emergency assist function that allows you to send alert messages to Hyundai customer care or family and friends, ‘Accident Assist’ which keeps a log of data during a crash, and an automatic roadside assistance alert in the event of a breakdown. 

There are also three top tether points across the centre row seat for securing child seats/baby capsules with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

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

Hyundai offers a five-year/unlimited km warranty, with 24/7 roadside assistance included for up to 10 years when the car is serviced at an authorised dealer.

Service is scheduled every 12 months/15,000km, with a pre-paid service plan available as follows - three years (up to 45,000km) $1050 / four years (up to 60,000km) $1440 / five years (up to 75,000km) $1770, the latter working out to $354 per year..
 

What's it like to drive?   8/10

When you attach a turbo, or turbos, to a car engine, the result will be pulling power, and typically plenty of it, with the peak output arriving low in the rev range.

Well, there’s not a single turbo to be found under this Santa Fe’s bonnet, and despite its relatively large, 3.5-litre capacity, the V6 sitting in there coughs up it’s maximum 336Nm of torque way up at 5000rpm. 

To put that in context, the turbo-diesel Toyota Fortuner pumps out 450Nm from just 1600rpm, right in the sweet spot for around town driving.

But, that’s not to say the V6 feels puny, far from it. The upside of a naturally aspirated engine is smooth, linear throttle response, and flicking the Santa Fe into the ‘Sport’ setting (‘Comfort’, ‘Eco’, and ‘Smart’ are also available) puts the polished eight-speed auto in a more energetic mode, keeping the 1720kg seven-seater on the boil.

The suspension layout is strut front, multi-link rear, and Hyundai Australia scores many brownie points for tuning its cars for local conditions. 

Ergonomically the Santa Fe keeps things, clear, clean and simple. Ergonomically the Santa Fe keeps things, clear, clean and simple.Once again, ride quality is great, helped in no small part by the Active’s comfy 235/65 Hankook Ventus Prime 3X rubber sitting on the standard 17-inch alloy rims.

Unlike many of its competitors, the Santa Fe relies on hydraulic (rather than electric) assistance for its rack and pinion steering, and the result is swift response and good road feel.

The driver’s seating position is excellent, and ergonomically the Santa Fe keeps things, clear, clean and simple. It’s a relaxed drive, but the Sante Fe will respond well if mum or dad gets a rush of blood and decides to hurry through a few of their favourite corners.

With that, and this car’s 2.0-tonne towing capacity in mind, braking performance becomes even more important. And with ventilated 320mm discs at the front and solid 305mm rotors at the rear, stopping power is strong with nicely progressive pedal feel.

It’s also worth calling out the ‘Hyundai Auto Link’ app, which connects the car to your smartphone, tracking your driving style and fuel efficiency, monitoring the car’s condition and registering any faults. Yes, it’s Big Brother, but one that cares.

Under the heading of ‘Any Other Business’, we like the extendable front sun visors that help keep sun coming in from the side, out of your eyes. The chunky cloth seat trim looks a bit stuffy, but feels great. And the steering wheel controls for phone, audio, cruise and other functions are super easy to use. 

Verdict

Practical and refined, with a huge focus on safety, and a great ownership package, the Hyundai Santa Fe V6, even in entry-level Active trim, is a quality seven-seat, family SUV option. That said, value-for-money lags key competitors, and the big, smooth V6 is thirsty relative to smaller capacity turbo fours more common in the category.

Pricing guides

$52,173
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$43,000
Highest Price
$61,345

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
ACTIVE (AWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $43,000 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 ACTIVE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE CRDi (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $46,550 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 ACTIVE CRDi (AWD) Pricing and Specs
ACTIVE MPi (2WD) 3.5L, ULP, 8 SP AUTO $43,550 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 ACTIVE MPi (2WD) Pricing and Specs
ELITE CRDi (AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $54,550 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 2020 ELITE CRDi (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.8
Price and features6
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety9
Ownership8
Driving8
James Cleary
Deputy Editor

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