2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Road Test, Review
I had to search my soul to find something I didn’t like about Hyundai Santa Fe. It looks the business, especially the SR with its bright red Brembo calipers showing through big ,shiny, black 19” rims.
We recently drove her smaller sibling, the Tucson, and are left with one question: Why the American names? More importantly, why is no “CarPlay” in the top models? But, more about that in a minute.
Hyundai Santa Fe comes in 5 grades: Active, Active X, Elite, Highlander and SR. I drove the SR.
Rather confusingly, some of the features available in the Highlander have been left out of the higher grade SR.
Even more bizarrely, only the 7” infotainment system of the lower spec models has Apple Carplay. What is this madness all about? Despite lack of CarPlay, the sound system is excellent.
I love digital radio for its clarity, but it is currently unavailable in the SR, but I’m reliably informed this will all change as the models are updated.
The handsome SR has a 147kW/440Nm, 2.2 litre turbo-diesel, and gets a claimed economy of 7.9L/100km in the auto, and 6.1L/100km in manual.
Both auto and manual transmissions are six-speed.
Our SR had a beautifully smooth automatic. The turbo engine is an E-VGT model (electronic control variable geometry).
The Active X 4WD system has lock-up mode up to 30kph for the rear wheels.
Although Hyundai says this is a 4-wheel drive system, it is more accurately described as AWD (all-wheel-drive). It lacks hi-lo gear ranges, and full lock-up diff mode.
The electric steering is fairly light more akin to American tastes, but once you get used to it, it feels more of an asset.
Engaging ‘Drive’ will disengages the electric parking brake when you move off, so there is no need touch the Parking Brake button.
You quickly discover there is little point in shifting the gears manually because the automatic does a great job left to its own devices.
Economy is the aim of the game so the system tries to stay in as high a gear as possible. It quickly kicks down if needed, and when it does, the 2.2L diesel grows wings.
Smart cruise control is brilliant in city traffic. When activated, the system starts, stops, and keeps distance from the car in front.
There is plenty of poke thanks to the mountain of torque and a low 1st gear.
The SR doesn’t have the semi-automated parking system from the highlander. Why?
The suspension is Macpherson struts up front, and multi-link at the rear. The SR has the addition of TUIX Performance Springs all-round.
The subtlety and sophistication in the ride and handling you once only dared expect from a posh European.
A quick spin in an entry level model showed a slightly softer ride because of softer springs, and higher profile tyres.
I’m not sure which I prefer. The lower tyres and red brake calipers look dead sexy and I’d be loathed to give them up.
There is LED lighting, HID Xenon headlights and daytime running lights for added safety.
The SR-grade of Hyundai Santa Fe has these active safety features:
- Autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning,
- Lane departure and blind spot warning,
- Rear cross traffic alert (handy when reversing out of parking spots)
The coupe-style profile has some stylish accents, including a convenient fully-automated tailgate, and it actually works.
How many times have you waved waved an arm or leg to get a gesture-controlled system to activate? All you do is look silly because nothing happens.
Approaching rear of the car elicits a series of beeps. The first beep activates lights, but if you remain at the rear for a further 3 seconds, the beeps continue as the tailgate swings upwards.
You press the button on the underside of the tailgate to close and lock. The other doors stay locked so no one can jump in the front seats while you’re busy around the back.
It works each and every time.
Cabin entry via the smart system means the key stays in your pocket.
The driver only has to press the button on the door handle to either lock or unlock the car. You can program the system to unlock the driver’s door, or all doors.
The doors auto-lock as you drive off. It is all programmable by the owner.
There are seven leather seats. The description specifies “appointed” which means a mix of real and simulated material. See if you to pick the difference.
The 3rd row folds flush with the back floor when not used.
The 2nd row has a one touch fold down feature. The cargo area is flat making the whole thing very useful. The power front seats are heated and cooled.
The tilt/reach steering adjustment and comfortable seats allow for a perfect driving position. You sit high, as you do in all SUVs, even on the lowest setting.
There are power outlets and cubby holes front and back, and a plethora of cup and bottle holders.
The overall quality is excellent.
All of the switches feel sturdy with an ergonomic layout. The hard plastics have a similar quality feel. I particularly like different materials and surfaces meeting so the lines match up.
The air vents have excellent adjustment. The air either blasts the occupants, or avoids direct flow.
Set aside everything you thought you knew about Korean cars.
The “cheap-and-cheerful” make-do moniker is a few decades out of date. In fact, you might wonder why you’d pay more to get less from other brands.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe SR
- Engine: 2.2 litre turbo-diesel producing 147kW/440Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed auto
- Safety: Five stars
- Warranty: Five years
- Origin: South Korea
- Price: SR from $64,260