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Hyundai Santa Fe 2023 review: Elite hybrid long-term | Part 1

Is this Hyundai Santa Fe the ultimate hybrid?

If you haven't yet got the memo, the automotive industry's future is definitely electric, but that doesn't mean all are ready to make the leap here and now.

Maybe the asking price for an EV is too high, or maybe there isn't enough charging infrastructure in your local area, or maybe there just isn't a tailpipe emissions-free model in the right size and shape for you.

What's a new car buyer to do?

Enter the petrol-electric hybrid, which acts as a bridging technology for those that want frugal motoring without splashing out for the latest all-electric model.

And up until now, the hybrid space has largely been dominated by just one brand – Toyota. But more and more manufacturers are starting to wake up to the fact that there is a very viable market in such powertrains.

Hello Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid, which is only the second attempt from the South Korean brand (after the now-discontinued Ioniq sedan) to steal Toyota's thunder.

  • Priced from $63,000, before on-road costs, for the Elite and $69,550 for the top-spec Highlander, we’ve taken delivery of the former. (image: Tung Nguyen) Priced from $63,000, before on-road costs, for the Elite and $69,550 for the top-spec Highlander, we’ve taken delivery of the former. (image: Tung Nguyen)
  • For the $63,000 asking price, you actually get quite a lot. (image: Tung Nguyen) For the $63,000 asking price, you actually get quite a lot. (image: Tung Nguyen)
  • There are downsides of course, and the biggest dealbreaker for some will be its towing capacity. (image: Tung Nguyen) There are downsides of course, and the biggest dealbreaker for some will be its towing capacity. (image: Tung Nguyen)
  • Another perceived negative would be the asking price, which is $6500 and $3000 more than the equivalent petrol and diesel versions, respectively. (image: Tung Nguyen) Another perceived negative would be the asking price, which is $6500 and $3000 more than the equivalent petrol and diesel versions, respectively. (image: Tung Nguyen)

Priced from $63,000, before on-road costs, for the Elite and $69,550 for the top-spec Highlander, we've taken delivery of the former to see if this is one family car that is worthy of the hype.

The most obvious reason to go for a hybrid over a diesel- or petrol-powered equivalent is its fuel-sipping ability.

Pairing a small 44.2kW electric motor with a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine, the Santa Fe Hybrid punches out a combined 169kW of power, but it's the 6.0 litres per 100km of economy that should be turning heads.

It comes with unique 19-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tung Nguyen) It comes with unique 19-inch alloy wheels. (image: Tung Nguyen)

A large SUV capable of seating up to seven passengers that is more efficient that a small hatchback? Yep, that's super attractive when petrol prices are sky high for the time being.

In our first month with the car, we didn't quite get those fuel-sipping levels, we averaged 7.0L/100km, but it's damn close and we largely remained in inner-city Melbourne and on short trips.

We're keen to see how the figure moves around as we continue testing the Santa Fe Hybrid over the coming months and on more open roads, but first impressions are very positive.

First impressions bode well for Hyundai’s latest foray into the hybrid space. (image: Tung Nguyen) First impressions bode well for Hyundai’s latest foray into the hybrid space. (image: Tung Nguyen)

And the hybrid powertrain also has an added side effect – it makes the Santa Fe much more refined than non-hybrid siblings.

When in electric mode, the Santa Fe is whisper quiet, and, in fact, features a chime in reverse to alert pedestrians that there could be a two-tonne SUV moving their way.

The switchover to petrol power is also seamless and smooth, and we found the Santa Fe smart enough to make the most of its small battery and electric motor when it could, never sipping on dinosaur juice for what seems like more than a few kilometres at a time.

Pairing a small 44.2kW electric motor with a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine, the Santa Fe Hybrid punches out a combined 169kW of power. (image: Tung Nguyen) Pairing a small 44.2kW electric motor with a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine, the Santa Fe Hybrid punches out a combined 169kW of power. (image: Tung Nguyen)

All this means the Santa Fe Hybrid is the smoothest Santa Fe out of the lot, certainly more refined than the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel and 3.5-litre petrol V6.

There are downsides of course, and the biggest dealbreaker for some will be its towing capacity.

The Santa Fe Hybrid is rated at only 1650kg of braked towing capacity, whereas the diesel and V6 petrol will happily haul along up to 2500kg.

  • A large SUV capable of seating up to seven passengers that is more efficient that a small hatchback? (image: Tung Nguyen) A large SUV capable of seating up to seven passengers that is more efficient that a small hatchback? (image: Tung Nguyen)
  • Yep, that’s super attractive when petrol prices are sky high for the time being. (image: Tung Nguyen) Yep, that’s super attractive when petrol prices are sky high for the time being. (image: Tung Nguyen)

Another perceived negative would be the asking price, which is $6500 and $3000 more than the equivalent petrol and diesel versions, respectively.

Of course, you'd expect a cheaper fuel bill to compensate, but we'll dive more into the fuel economy and servicing figures in a future review once we've put a few more kilometres under our belt.

So, the Santa Fe Hybrid is frugal on fuel, but what about the list of features?

It comes with a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. (image: Tung Nguyen) It comes with a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. (image: Tung Nguyen)

For the $63,000 asking price, you actually get quite a lot.

Our test car is fitted with electronically adjustable and heated front seats, a wireless smartphone charger, leather interior, rear seat sun shades, unique 19-inch alloy wheels and a 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

It's a shame the multimedia system doesn't feature wireless smartphone mirroring like the one offered on the 8.0-inch unit of lower-grade Santa Fes, but the built-in satellite navigation is painless to use.

The Santa Fe Hybrid is rated at only 1650kg of braked towing capacity, whereas the diesel and V6 petrol will happily haul along up to 2500kg. (image: Tung Nguyen) The Santa Fe Hybrid is rated at only 1650kg of braked towing capacity, whereas the diesel and V6 petrol will happily haul along up to 2500kg. (image: Tung Nguyen)

Safety systems also run the gamut, and include everything you might need for your family, with highlights including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera and front/rear parking sensors.

But the Santa Fe Hybrid isn't the only petrol-electric powertrain to offer this much practicality, there is also the dominant Toyota Kluger Hybrid and the Santa Fe's cousin, the Kia Sorento HEV.

The former starts at $57,620 for the barebones GX, but to get similar levels of equipment, buyers have to shell out $67,140 for the mid-tier GXL.

Safety systems also run the gamut, and include everything you might need for your family. (image: Tung Nguyen) Safety systems also run the gamut, and include everything you might need for your family. (image: Tung Nguyen)

As for the Kia, the Sorento HEV starts from $66,750, but that nets you a front-wheel-drive version, whereas opting for all-wheel-drive to match our Santa Fe Hybrid raises the asking price to $69,750.

Does this mean the Santa Fe Hybrid is a bit of a bargain? Cheap to run, (relatively) cheap to buy and all that with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty?

We're keen to find out more over the next few months to see if this is really the case, but first impressions bode well for Hyundai's latest foray into the hybrid space.

The most obvious reason to go for a hybrid over a diesel- or petrol-powered equivalent is its fuel-sipping ability. (image: Tung Nguyen) The most obvious reason to go for a hybrid over a diesel- or petrol-powered equivalent is its fuel-sipping ability. (image: Tung Nguyen)

Acquired: March 2023

Distance travelled this month: 628km

Odometer: 3713km

Average fuel consumption this month: 7.0L/100km (measured at the pump)

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The Wrap

Likes

Fuel-sipping powertrain
Ultra-refined ride
Attractive pricing

Dislikes

Sedate driving dynamics
Ho-hum exterior aesthetic
Second-row space trails some rivals

Scores

Tung:

The Kids:

$44,990 - $77,888

Based on 328 car listings in the last 6 months

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