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Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 review: road test

The model rejuvenation frenzy at Hyundai continues apace with a new Santa Fe large SUV out this week. It's gen' three of a vehicle that's progressively won greater favour with mum and dad family buyers seeking a practical, value solution to the family transport issue.


Pricing starts at a tempting $36,990 for the six-speed manual Active 2.4 petrol. Six-speed auto adds two grand and the diesel is a further 3K. Prices rise to a snip under fifty grand for the auto only Highlander diesel. The petrol engine is only available in the entry Active version and both Elite and Highlander are diesel auto only. Hyundai may introduce a front wheel drive of the new model down the track.

All are seven seaters and come with auto headlights, rear view camera, park assist, electric lumbar support adjust, front and rear aircon, locally fettled suspension and steering, Bluetooth phone and audio and dial select 4WD lock.


The direct injection 2.4 petrol is good for 141kW/242Nm output while the 2.2 diesel, featuring variable geometry turbo charging grunts out 145kW/421Nm. It's the performance engine in the range by a long shot. Hyundai has adopted all wheel drive across the board in the three model lineup with the availability of a new 2.4-litre petrol four cylinder from the i45 sedan (suitably modified) to go with the carry over 2.2-litre turbodiesel.


Hyundai took pains to reduce noise inside the cabin adopting specially thickened windscreen glass and additional sound deadening material but at the same time reduced weight by 70kg. More high strength steel goes into the chassis/body this time around and the suspension features dual flow dampers for consistent response under heavy use.

There's a full size alloy spare in all three models Active, Elite and Highlander. The two rear rows of seats have a one touch fold flat mechanism for easy operation. But the real stand out thing about this vehicle is the lengths to which Hyundai has gone to deliver a premium look and feel.

The interior is as good as some vehicles costing nearly twice as much and looks better than most with modern styling and functional switchgear. Most surfaces are soft touch and we counted four different textures to the various fascia and pad facings.


All Santa Fe models get torque vectoring safety systems and five star crash ratings.


We drove all three variants back to back and liked all of them. The 2.4 acquits itself better than you'd think but the diesel is strong and silent offering impressive performance, minimal noise and as low as 6.6-litres/100km. Local tune suspension delivers the right mix of comfort and sporty feel while retaining the ability to sort out our crappy roads unobtrusively. We tried the three mode Flex-steer and it was good but unnecessary.

Of all three and if it was our money, we'd pick the mid-spec Elite because it gets nearly as much kit as the Highlander at a lot less money. Leather is included as is SUNA satnav and the large touch screen as well as everything else mentioned. Wheel sizes are 17, 18 and 19-inch in ascending order. And we did drive it off road without any problems.


Hyundai can do no wrong at present. It’s a vehicle that ticks all the boxes and makes them feel at ease with their choice. New Santa Fe is a fine example.

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Range and Specs

Active (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $16,500 – 21,990 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Active (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Active CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $11,813 – 26,990 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Active CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Elite (FWD) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,190 – 18,700 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Elite (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Elite CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $15,500 – 27,888 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Elite CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
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