Hyundai’s big seven-seat SUV combines all the essential features to keep the whole family happy. With one very important safety feature that could turn out to be a lifesaver.
For modern families, Hyundai’s Santa Fe seven-seater SUV ticks the boxes for size, safety, features, and minimized ownership costs.
The best seller comes in the top-spec Highlander, featuring Benz-like luxe including airconditioned front seats, heated rear seats and a digital dashboard. We’re testing the diesel-powered entry-level Active.
Kelly: Do you know the worst thing about getting old?
Jody: Wrinkles, a sore back, and you yelling at the television for no reason?
Kelly: No. It’s that suddenly I don’t want a noisy, impractical sports car, I want a seven-seat SUV. With a Hyundai badge.
Jody: Somewhere, your younger self is screaming.
Kelly: I know. But my priorities have changed, and SUVs have come a long way. I like how we can seat our three kids and a couple of their best friends, my bike fits in the back with a swift drop of the seats, and these on-road-specific seven-seaters actually drive really well.
Jody: Your pipe and slippers, sir? I take it you love the Hyundai Santa Fe?
Kelly: It just makes perfect sense. It has a diesel engine and our Active doesn’t feature fancy equipment. But Hyundai’s not skimped on safety or practical buttons to quickly rearrange the cabin furniture.
Jody: It looks quite flash. I’m a fan of its big front grille and slitty front lights. The wheels are way too small though. They really should fill those plastic-covered arches.
THE LIVING SPACE
Jody: Entry-level maybe, but there’s a lot of quality here. The cloth seats are sink-in cosy and the lumbar adjustment’s electric.
Kelly: It’s a big, simple layout, with good attention to detail. The dashboard’s stitched, soft and attractively curved, with lots of smart storage for phones and the like.
Jody: It may not be jazzy, but at least there’s a mix of greys, blacks and even brown to liven the cabin. Great to have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too.
Kelly: If I’m being picky, there’s no keyless start and the 7-inch touchscreen looks small by today’s standards.
Jody: Santa Fe’s aren’t like those other SUVs, where it feels like you are driving a truck. It’s easy to drive and doesn’t feel cumbersome.
Kelly: Hyundai’s set it up really well. It doesn’t lean too much in corners despite its size, but does a fine job of soaking up road bumps. Radar cruise control in the entry-level’s excellent.
Jody: But that diesel’s noisy when you push it. I like its pace off the mark, but it doesn’t sound as refined as some modern diesel engines.
Kelly: You spend too long in BMWs. I reckon it’s perfect for everyday family driving. I’d prefer the V6 petrol Santa Fe for the drive experience, but we returned 7.6L/100km in this diesel. We’d get nowhere near with a V6.
Jody: We rarely need the third row of seating, and they fold with just a simple pull of a strap. The middle row of seats slides forward, making the boot mighty.
Kelly: I agree. Really versatile. There’s no electric tailgate on the Active, or a 360-degree camera. You need to spend big on higher grades.
Jody: Why does a car like this have a Sport mode?
Kelly: One of life’s mysteries. I pressed it and the engine made more noise, but I don’t think progress was quicker.
Jody: I’d happily spend a weekend cruising highways in a Santa Fe, rather than backroads. It’s quiet at speed, purrs along and chews through the kilometres with ease.
Kelly: All-wheel-drive too, so you could tackle a bit of unsealed road for a family camping trip.
Jody: It’s big enough to sleep four of us inside. Why bother with a tent?
Kelly: Credit to Hyundai, they’ve thrown all the active safety you need at this Active. It automatically brakes if you’re going to hit a car, pedestrian or cyclist, including when reversing.
Jody: The lane-keep assist works well too. The kids loved it steering itself between lines.
Kelly: Speaking of kids, it also has a rear occupant alert that uses an ultrasonic sensor, monitoring rear seat movement, and flashes lights and sounds the horn if you’ve left a child inside the car. Excellent, lifesaving technology.
Jody: Two USB ports and air vents in the back, though not climate control. The legroom is massive for the middle row.
Kelly: There’s a one-touch walk-in switch to easily access the third row of seats, so no need to manually flip and slide. The rearmost seats just about accommodate adults and they have their own airconditioning controller back there too.
Jody: Not as desirable-looking as seven-seaters such as the VW Tiguan Allspace or Mazda CX-8, but I’m impressed with the all-round package.
Kelly: The Santa Fe hides its size well on the drive and is one of the few SUVs that could tempt me out of a family station wagon. A standout seven-seater.
HYUNDAI SANTA FE ACTIVE 2.2D AWD VITALS
Engine: 2.2-litre 4-cyl turbo-diesel, 147kW/440Nm
Safety: 5 Stars, 6 airbags, reversing camera, AEB (includes pedestrian and cyclist), blind-spot collision avoidance assist, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic assist, radar cruise control, rear occupant alert
To view our demonstrator models click HERE