2015 Hyundai Santa Fe road test review | Gift of growth
If ever Santa has trouble with that sleigh, the 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe would prove a handy alternative...
I THOUGHT I was so ready for Christmas. Two weeks out I was congratulating myself on present shopping well done, a lunch menu all worked out, even the bon-bons were cooling their heels on the cupboard floor. Yet there I was on Christmas Eve, joining the grid-locked traffic, the frustrating car-park tango and stores bursting with frenzied last-minute shoppers.
I am happy to admit it took an operation of military precision to get my husband's new bike from the sports store to the car, negotiating laden trolleys, the line for the sausage sizzle and a dad trying to carry two kayaks.
An inquisitive man stepped out of his dual-cab ute, cast an eye over my purchase and laughed openly when he realised I planned to transport it in the Santa Fe.
"You'll never get it in there," he said helpfully and settled against his ute to watch the show.
I was a tad more hopeful.
After all, this newly tweaked SUV had already made light work of a load that included a skateboard, half the complete Sylvanian Families collection, two Lego cities, two boxes of mangoes and enough stocking fillers to keep a small town happy.
With a casual but pointed glance in his direction, I lowered the last two rows, pulled the passenger seat forward and smiled as the mountain bike snuggled in for the ride. I caught his shake of the head as I drove off, a little smugly, happy with a job well done.
Inside, the Santa Fe is spacious and practical. The console is uncluttered and easy to navigate, with those buttons and dials mostly used close to hand. The front seats are heated and ventilated and fairly comfortable despite their flattish appearance.
There is plenty of room and easy access to the air-conditioning for those in the second row, while comfort for third-row occupants is at its best for children. Those in the outer two second-row seats can have theirs heated too and also have the benefit of handy retractable window blinds.
Plastics are of a high quality and well fitted, with care taken with the leather seating and brushed metal highlights.
Family has obviously been kept at the forefront of the mind when it comes to design, with plenty of storage and cup holder options and side bins that are large enough to be useful. The boot, at 516 litres with all seats in use, is a nice surprise, although a couple of bag hooks wouldn't go astray.
On the road
A tweaked suspension is one of the changes to this new Santa Fe, with Hyundai adjusting damper combinations, bushes and front wheel bearings and knuckles to make the SUV better suited for Australian conditions.
The result is a vehicle that is much more responsive, especially if you sling it into a corner without much warning, but with a slightly bumpier ride than its predecessor.
The flex-steer electric-assist steering allows the driver to opt for sport, comfort and normal modes in a bid to increase driver involvement but changes are negligible.
The six-speed automatic transmission is a good fit for the grunty 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, hesitating only slightly during steeper descents when it chooses to stay in a higher gear, perhaps to save fuel.
This Santa Fe is easy to drive, easy to negotiate through tight streets and dependable in tricky highway situations. It is best after 1800rpm, free of that turbo lag and much smoother both in intent and actions.
What do you get?
A bucketful of inclusions peppers this latest version of the Santa Fe.
There is an impressive suite of safety features too, including seven airbags, anti-lock braking system with EBD and brake assist, stability and traction control, hill-start assist and downhill brake control.
Our Santa Fe was not far off Hyundai's claimed fuel consumption of 7.3L/100km. We hovered close to 7.9L/100km but managed to get 6.5L/100km on longer highway stretches, which is excellent for such a big car.
Of course, there is the peace of mind that comes from a five-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, 10 years of roadside assistance and capped-price servicing for life. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km.
The Santa Fe has to contend with its cousin the Kia Sorento (from $51,490), Holden Captiva 7 (from $40,990), Ford Territory (from $56,740) and perhaps even the Nissan Pathfinder (from $54,490) and Toyota Kluger (from $67,520).
Any car with the option of seven seats is a boon for a growing family; that the Santa Fe is pleasant to drive and has all the necessary creature comforts makes it more appealing. The hands-free automatic tailgate was a nifty aside. The tinted windows and retractable blinds are excellent features too, as is the easy-to-use sat nav. There are some blind spots but the reverse camera and front sensors help negate a few of them.
External tweaks have been limited to a chrome grille in a darker hue, LED fog lights and daytime running lights. This is a slick, modern-looking SUV.
This latest-edition Santa Fe has much to recommend it as it strengthens the appeal held by its predecessor. It is a tad dearer but filled with every convenience, is spacious, practical and nice to drive. It is a worthy addition to households with growing children or ones that like a bit of space. Perhaps even for a jolly man in a red suit.
What matters most
What we liked: Roomy cabin, practical nature, easy drive.
What we'd like to see: Steering paddles, more supportive seats.
Warranty and servicing: Five- year unlimited-kilometre warranty, fixed-priced servicing for life.
Model: Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive medium SUV
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 145kW @ 3800rpm and peak torque of 436Nm @ 1800-2500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Towing capacity: 2000kg.
Consumption: 7.3 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: From $53,240.