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Hyundai Santa-Fe 2012 review

For parents with a yearn for adventure and an equal love of in-car peace.

A wallaby jumps in front of us on a dirt road, but the Santa Fe Trail comes to a controlled stop, keeping Skippy from ending up a horrid memory in the kids’ minds. That is, if the kids weren’t too engrossed in their Nintendo game on the rear entertainment screen to notice. And if the kids were actually children instead of my husband and his immature mates.

For parents with a yen for adventure and an equal love of in-car peace, the Hyundai Santa Fe Trail may be the handiest new addition to the household. An affordable SUV that can handle city and off road driving, the Santa Fe Trail comes with extra perks to please the entire family.

Price and Equipment

The automatic Santa Fe Trail diesel is priced at $41, 590 (the manual version is $2000 less) and shares many specs with the SLX spec – including front and rear fog lamps, and USB audio input with iPod compatibility. But the Trail comes with $4000 worth of extras, sporting an upgrade to 18-in alloy wheels, rear-view camera with electrochromatic mirror display, leather/leatherette seats, privacy glass, and roof-mounted entertainment system with DVD, Sony and Nintendo compatibility.


145kW/436Nm gives this four cylinder, direct injection 2.2-litre CRDi diesel plenty of power and torque, delivered to the on-demand all-wheel drive system via a six-speed sports automatic. The Trail has a surprising amount of pick-up, so much you’ll forget you’re driving a seven-seater. The official fuel figure is 7.5L/100km, though our drive on bitumen and dirt roads found a surprisingly thirsty 10.6.


From a distance the Santa Fe looks like your average family SUV, but it’s the little touches that move the Trail up a class. Chrome tailgate garnish and streamlined front and rear skid plates add a dash of glamour to the exterior, and internally you’ll find several up market features.

The leather/leatherette seats are stylish, the dash is solid, and wheel mounted audio and cruise keep the driver at the control centre, though we were surprised Bluetooth didn’t come standard.

The third row is similar to other seven-seaters: okay for short adults on a quick trip, but only kids could endure a long one. Take the Santa Fe off road with adults in back and they’re going to have some rather harsh headaches from the low ceiling.   Boot space is sacrificed when all seats are up, but it does let you take your extended family out on the town.

The roof-mounted entertainment system in back is a glowing deity of sanity for parents taking the kids on a long trip. Cordless headsets let the kids enjoy Dora while you’re the explorer, tackling off road tracks with the confidence afforded by AWD. Those without kids will enjoy the Trail’s storage space, enough to swallow two surfboards or a bike with ease.


Anti-lock brakes with electronic aids, stability and traction control systems and an array of airbags -- driver and front passenger, dual side front, and front and rear passenger side curtain SRS airbags that extend to the third row -- give the Santa Fe Trail ANCAP’s highest five-star  rating. Roll over sensors, child safety rear door locks, and side impact intrusion bars bring additional peace of mind.


The best thing about the Santa Fe Trail is it’s fun to drive. Sure you get a bit of body roll and feel back heavy on braking, but it’s not much considering the size of the vehicle. There was a slight spin on the front right wheel when we were going up a rough patch in the bush, but the Trail quickly corrected itself and gave an otherwise sturdy ride.

With large windows you get great visibility, and the rear-view camera makes sure you don’t miss anything when parking, while privacy glass in back keeps you from feeling exposed.

Off road the MacPherson strut and multi-link suspension keeps you from getting rattled and the 18-in alloy wheels give good clearance and grip. The six-speed sports automatic transmission is smooth and swift-changing, and the engine gives decent acceleration response.


Hyundai’s Santa Fe Trail is a package of attractive features in an affordable diesel SUV.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

Active (4x4) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,500 – 18,040 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Active (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Active CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $14,990 – 21,990 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Active CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Elite (FWD) 3.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,400 – 16,720 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Elite (FWD) Pricing and Specs
Elite CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $8,000 – 24,488 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 Elite CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs