ROAD TEST: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe makes safer SUV power play

NOTHING like some old-school grunt to rekindle fond memories.

Most manufacturers are travelling down the road of smaller capacity turbocharged powertrains, while the short-term future looks to be hybrid power... electric motors powered by battery packs and supplemented by combustion engines.

Hyundai is also treading that path, but it's been refreshing to get back behind the wheel of something with V6 power.

Earlier this year the South Korean carmaker added V6 grunt to it's seven-seat Santa Fe line-up and has just included an array of excellent safety equipment without changing the bottom line. Pricing starts from $40,990 which makes it the least expensive in the range, undercutting the 2.4-litre petrol all-wheel drive by $860.

Those not phased by the safety upgrades can also pick-up a bargain on the outgoing MY17 variants.

The Santa Fe Series II Active X is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine.
The Santa Fe Series II Active X is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine.


Belying its position at the bottom of the Santa Fe tree, the Series II Active X has an excellent equipment list.

Comfortable trim is a combination of faux and real leather, while you also get dark grey 19-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, automatic lights, heated front seats, dual zone air con, seven-inch touch-screen with six speakers as well as smartphone mirroring capability through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

While this is the second series, there are a few things missing.

There are no steering wheel mounted controls for your phone or voice control. Not big absences, but the functionality is commonplace on the circa $22,000 i30 hatch nowadays.

Shock horror, you also have to turn a key rather than a push button start.

Servicing won't break the bank, with capped price maintenance at $1595 over five years if you return to the dealer where they include the check, lubricants, filters, plugs and labour. That's about as good as it gets. Intervals are annual or 15,000km.

The Santa Fe Series II Active X is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine.
The Santa Fe Series II Active X is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine.


Gaining bigger wheels than the four-cylinder sibling, the Santa Fe V6 is quiet and refined with a hairy-chested response.

It's surprisingly quick, too. Jump on the accelerator and it moves with rapid intent, sometimes accompanied with tyre squeal, although it all feels predictable and well-sorted with seamless changes from the auto shifter.

Braking feels strong and robust, which collectively makes the large SUV feel remarkably lithe. Parking is easy despite the dimensions.

Average fuel consumption is a heavy 10.5 litres for every 100km. It will, however, run on regular unleaded.

The driver has a concise instrument structure courtesy of a now larger 4.2-inch colour screen sitting between the analogue speedo and tacho.

With the third row of seats folded there is 516 litres of space in the boot (bigger than a Holden Commodore), and with the second row folded it expands to 1615 litres. In the back are some handy hooks to stop the shopping bags sliding.

The Santa Fe Series II Active X is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine.
The Santa Fe Series II Active X is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 engine.


It gets a five-star rating, with seven airbags, the usual suite attached to stability control like anti-lock brakes and traction control, along with LED running lights, hill-start assist, rear-view camera with parking sensors, along with radar cruise control which has three settings to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.

Brilliant new functionality includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, which can automatically avoid a frontal collision or lessen the impact, rear cross traffic alert for when reversing out of a park, as well as blind spot warning that is great peace of mind in traffic when changing lanes.

Tether points and Isofix anchors for child seats are only available in the second row, which restricts the use of the third row to older kids or smaller adults. The curtain airbag does extend into the third row, but not all the way back to the rear pillars near the head rests.


Ground clearance is 185mm which is an easy height for entry and exit. That means no reason for running boards and reduced difficulty for skirt-wearing passengers.

Getting into the third row takes some flexibility.

It's not the easiest seven-seater to access, but the two rear pews are designed for occasional use. They are best suited to youngsters as the leg room is restricted. For those in the back they do have their own air con controls.

The ride is smooth and the Hancook rubber does a good job of soaking up the road imperfections, but they can struggle for grip if you exercise your right ankle with intent.


Good looks and a surprisingly fun drive courtesy of a strong V6 donk.


Pretty thirsty by modern day standards, more like consumption we would expect from the previous model Commodores and Falcons.

The MY18 Hyundai Santa Fe.
The MY18 Hyundai Santa Fe.


Kia Sorento Si $40,990 plus on-roads

The close cousin from within the company umbrella, it shares the same engine, just a matter or which style you like inside and out.

Holden Captiva 7 LTZ $40,490

Not the best performer in the line-up, but comes with some good kit as the range-topper.

Skoda Kodiaq $42,990 plus on-roads

Gains all-wheel drive, and is the impressive new kid on the large SUV block.

Mazda CX-9 Sport $43,890

Refined and another impressive all-round performer.


Maintaining the charge of delivering an excellent balance of features and performance, Hyundai has delivered in spades with the Santa Fe Active X.

We can forgive the thirsty V6 for its burly abilities. It's smooth and quiet with a lovely turn of speed when you want it most.

While it may not have European interior finishes, the Santa Fe is a loveable family chariot with room for extra friends and family.


Hyundai Santa Fe Series II Active X

PRICE $40,990 + on-roads (good value )

WARRANTY AND SERVICING 5yr unlimited km, servicing $1595 over 5 years (excellent)

ENGINE 3.3-litre V6 199kW/318Nm (strong)

SAFETY 5-star, seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise, rear traffic alert, blind spot warning (excellent)

THIRST 10.5L/100km (thirsty)

SPARE Full size alloy (brilliant, a rarity nowadays)

BOOT 516 litres, expands to 1615 (good size)

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