The Santa Fe Elite is a seven-seat family wagon and proud of it, making no attempts to disguise its size and proudly serving up the level of luxury equipment you expect of a near $70k vehicle
Base price: $67,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.4-litre petrol four, 141kW/242Nm, 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 9.0 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4690mm long, 1690mm high, kerb weight 1864kg, luggage capacity 560 litres, fuel tank 64 litres, 18-inch wheels on 235/60 Nexen N8000 tyres.
We like: Much lower price than diesel model, sized to suit a big family.
We don’t like: Lazy transmission, some aspects of cabin a bit cheap.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
There’s a hero model in the Hyundai Santa Fe range and this isn’t it! The Korean maker has become known for its excellent R-series diesel engines and they seem to be the default choice when you’re talking big SUVs like the Santa Fe.
However, that compression-ignition quality does come at a high cost: the Santa Fe diesel costs $73,990 in Elite form, which is a hefty $6000 premium over the same-spec 2.4-litre petrol featured here.
In short, the petrol should certainly be on your shopping list.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The chassis is well configured for this type of car: relatively soft and tending towards understeer if you drive into a corner too hard, but still composed and very safe. The on-demand four-wheel drive system provides extra traction under power when required.
The steering is not hugely communicative, but accurate enough. The jury is out on whether Hyundai’s FlexSteer system – which allows you to choose from three different weightings for the electric assistance – is really necessary, though.
The petrol engine lacks the character and sheer grunt of the equivalent diesel, but it’s certainly not lacking in performance; it’s a new direct-injection unit that produces some impressive numbers. The big four pulls this seven-seat wagon along with surprising aplomb and refinement.
It would be better still if the six-speed transmission was quicker to react to changing driving conditions. True, you don’t want a manic gearbox in a full-size family car, but the transmission does tend towards the relaxed side when you’re looking for that little bit of extra performance. With less torque to draw upon, you do notice this shortcoming more in the petrol Santa Fe than the diesel.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
The Santa Fe Elite is a seven-seat family wagon and proud of it, making no attempts to disguise its size and proudly serving up the level of luxury equipment you expect of a near-$70k vehicle.
Despite its outwardly lavish nature, there are a few disappointments. The interior finish is garish, although some may consider that a plus. The seats are upholstered in leather but they’re not the last word in long-haul comfort – an area Korean makers often fall short in, although they’re getting better. Some of the cabin plastics are also a bit too hard and shiny for what is a pseudo-luxury vehicle.
However, there is plenty of space for the family, technology treats such as satellite navigation with Suna traffic information and a premium audio system. The cabin of the Santa Fe is still a happy place.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
You’re certainly not missing out on technology and ability with the petrol engine, although it still doesn’t have the eager character and sheer rush of torque that you get with the diesel.
In short, for a $6000 saving the petrol is a smart choice. But we understand if the heart still says go for the R-series turbo diesel.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: No
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: No
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: No
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Power boot or tailgate: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: Middle row 60/40, third row 50/50 (folds flat)
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find a Hyundai Santa Fe HERE