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Hyundai Santa Fe Review

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a large seven-seat family car that comes with a decent amount of equipment, but alternatives are more practical and have a wider range of engines.

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expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Roomy cabin
  • Lots of standard kit
  • Comfortable to drive

What's not so good

  • No petrol engines
  • Alternatives have bigger boots…
  • …And cost less to run

Hyundai Santa Fe: what would you like to read next?

Is the Hyundai Santa Fe a good car?

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a large family SUV that comes with plenty of equipment and (crucially for some) seven seats as standard. It also looks pretty eye-catching for a practical, high-riding family car. You certainly won’t mistake it for a hum-drum VW Tiguan Allspace or Kia Sorento in the school car park.

Even better is the fact that all of the Hyundai Santa Fe’s flashy trims – including the shiny roof rails and chrome grille frame – come as standard, so it looks just as good in SE guise as it does in range-topping Premium SE trim.

The same isn’t quite true of the Hyundai Santa Fe’s cabin, but it still looks pretty slick and comes with lots of soft-touch plastics in places you’ll touch regularly. Nicely laid-out buttons and intuitive controls make it all dead easy to use and every model comes with a good-sized touchscreen with built-in smartphone mirroring.

You also get loads of electric seat adjustment as standard, including all-important lumbar support to help prevent backache on long drives. Passengers won’t feel hard-done-by either, thanks to the Hyundai Santa Fe’s roomy cabin and sliding middle row with reclining seatbacks.

Unlike most large SUVs, the Hyundai Santa Fe comes with seven seats as standard. It’s just a shame that it is only available with a diesel engine.

Mat Watson
carwow expert

Even adults will be comfortable in the rearmost seats – for short journeys at least – and there’s still space left in the boot for a couple of small suitcases. Of course, if you need to carry more luggage than passengers, you can flip the back seats down and carry plenty more, or you can go the whole hog and fold down all but the front seats to open up a van-like load bay that’s a doddle to load.

Unlike almost every alternative, the Hyundai Santa Fe only comes with one engine – a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel. It’s great if you plan to pull lots of people and heavy luggage, but it isn’t the most economical engine out there – especially if you do lots of city driving.

That being said, if you spend more time on the motorway, the comfortable and quiet Hyundai Santa Fe makes a good travelling companion. The standard manual gearbox is easy to use, but it’s especially relaxing if you pay extra for the smooth eight-speed automatic unit. Whichever ’box you pick, you can rest easy knowing that every model comes with a range of active safety kit as standard to keep you safe.

If you’re looking for a practical seven-seater that’s also rather good fun to drive on a twisty country road, you’d be better off with something like a SEAT Tarraco, but if you’d rather have a comfortable motorway cruiser with a well-equipped cabin that’s just about spacious enough for seven adults, then the Hyundai Santa Fe is well worth considering.

How practical is it?

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a large seven-seat SUV with an impressive amount of space inside for passengers, but several alternatives have more room in the boot for luggage

If you’ve got five very tall kids who refuse to fly the nest, the Hyundai Santa Fe is one of the few SUVs on sale with space inside for all of them to sit comfortably

Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
547 litres
Boot (seats down)
1,625 - 1,652 litres

You won’t be left wanting for space to stretch out in the Santa Fe’s front seats. There’s plenty of headroom – even in Premium SE cars that have a panoramic glass roof – and all models except SE come with an electrically height-adjustable driver’s seat as standard.

You also get adjustable lumbar support on the driver’s seat in every model to help reduce backache on long drives. And, on top of that, Premium and Premium SE cars also get electric lumbar and seat-height adjustment on the front passenger seat.

Go for a Premium SE model and you get ventilated front seats and a memory function for the driver’s seat that’ll come in handy if you regularly lend your car to someone much taller or shorter than you.

Space in the middle row is also pretty generous. There’s easily enough space for a six-foot-tall passenger to sit behind an equally lanky driver without their knees brushing against the seat in front. The seats themselves are supportive and – in Premium and Premium SE models – the outer two include a heating function to make cold mornings that bit more bearable. You can even slide and recline the middle row of seats if your passengers fancy nodding off – providing no-one’s sitting in the rearmost row.

There’s no annoying lump in the rear floor so your middle-seat passenger has plenty of space for their feet. Sure, there isn’t as much shoulder space for three adults to sit side-by-side as in the Skoda Kodiaq, but three kids will have plenty of space to stretch out.

Speaking of kids, you don’t get three Isofix anchor points across the back seats as you do in a Peugeot 5008, but you do get one on the front passenger seat and one each on the two outer seats in the middle row. It’s a doddle to lift a bulky child seat through the wide front and rear door openings and the Hyundai’s tall roofline means you don’t have to stoop down to strap in a child. The only mark against the Hyundai Santa Fe is that the anchor points are hidden behind the seat padding which can make them a little tricky to locate.

All cars come with a third row of seats in the boot that you access by sliding the middle row forwards. To make this easier, there’s a handy button on the passenger’s side that’ll automatically fold and slide the seats forward and out of your way to help you climb in the back. The resulting gap is bigger than you get in either the Skoda Kodiaq or VW Tiguan Allspace, which means even tall adults can squeeze their way into the Santa Fe’s back seats reasonably easily.

If you leave the middle row positioned slightly forward, there’s even enough space in the rearmost seats for two adults up to six-feet-tall to get comfy – for short distances, at least. With the middle seats in their rearmost position, there’s still plenty of space for two kids to stretch out without fighting over leg or shoulder room. In this respect, the Hyundai Santa Fe leads the VW Tiguan Allspace and Skoda Kodiaq – both of which are slightly too cramped to carry adults in the very back.

The small windows and tinted glass do make it pretty dark back there, but at least there are some air vents to stop passengers overheating. 

The Hyundai Santa Fe comes with loads of handy storage bins to help you keep its smart cabin looking spick and span. The glovebox (which is chilled on every model) and front door bins are big enough to hold a 1.5-litre bottle and there’s room under the central front armrest to squirrel away plenty of valuables.

All models get a slim storage shelf above the glovebox that’s wide enough to hold a large phone and all but entry-level SE cars come with a wireless charging pad for your phone under the dashboard.

The front cupholders are fairly wide but not particularly deep so you might have to take roundabouts rather gently if you have a couple of extra tall frappe-mocha-chinos on board. Passengers in the middle row get another two cupholders in the folding rear armrest, an extra storage bin under the rear air vents and two door pockets that are wide enough to hold a one-litre bottle nice and securely.

There’s even a pair of USB ports between the front seats and a three-pin plug for charging larger devices, such as laptops. In the very back, the Hyundai Santa Fe gets a couple of extra cupholders and a small storage tray.

The Hyundai Santa Fe has 547 litres of bootspace which is rather less than you can fit in the 700-litre VW Tiguan Allspace and 720-litre Skoda Kodiaq. It’s really easy to drop the Santa Fe’s rearmost seats and there’s enough space for three suitcases, a soft bag, a set of golf clubs and a folded baby buggy when the car’s in five-seat mode. With all seven seats in place, you can carry a pair of small suitcases or a set of golf clubs.

If you need more space, you can flip the middle row of seats down in a two-way (60:40) split to carry some very long luggage and a rear-seat passenger at the same time. There are also some handy buttons beside the boot opening to flip the back seats down, so you don’t have to lean forward to do so.

Unfortunately, while the resulting loadbay is wide and a doddle to load, its 1,625-litre capacity isn’t quite on par with the 1,775-litre Tiguan Allspace and the cavernous 2,065-litre Kodiaq. Still, you won’t have any trouble fitting a bike with its wheels attached and the Santa Fe’s flat boot floor makes it easy to load heavy flat-pack furniture.

You also get plenty of tether hooks to secure fragile luggage and there’s space to store the load cover under the boot floor if you need to remove it. Unfortunately, if you do that, it takes up all the underfloor storage, so there’s nowhere left for a few soft bags.

There aren’t any handy netted cubbies or elasticated straps to hold smaller items in place, which you do get in the Skoda, but at least the Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a 12V socket in the boot – ideal for plugging in a portable vacuum cleaner if you fancy giving the boot a decent clean – and there’s space under the floor to store the load cover should you need to remove it. 

What's it like to drive?

Rather than trying to feel sporty to drive, like some SUVs, the Hyundai Santa Fe focusses on being relaxing instead. Sadly, you can only get it with one engine – a 2.2-litre diesel

All the extra driver assistance features on top-spec cars really help take the stress out of long drives and even make this gigantic seven-seater fairly easy to park

Mat Watson
carwow expert

Every Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a 200hp 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, but you can choose between manual and automatic gearboxes and two or four-wheel drive.

The quickest model in the range is the two-wheel-drive automatic version that’ll accelerate from 0-60mph in less than 9.3 seconds. A mere tenth of a second behind it are the two-wheel-drive manual and four-wheel-drive automatic models, while the four-wheel-drive manual Santa Fe takes 9.5 seconds. You can hardly call this performance exciting, but the Santa Fe has more than enough poke to accelerate down a motorway slip road or overtake slow-moving traffic.

In terms of fuel economy, Hyundai claims cars fitted with an automatic gearbox will return slightly more than 47mpg – although in normal driving conditions you can expect to see a figure in the region of 38mpg. This isn’t particularly impressive when you consider a Skoda Kodiaq with a 2.0-litre diesel engine and an automatic gearbox will happily return 45mpg in real-world conditions.

Cars fitted with four-wheel drive produce more CO2 and cost more to buy. As a result, only consider a four-wheel-drive model if you live somewhere prone to particularly poor winters or plan to regularly tow a heavy trailer.

The eight-speed automatic is impressively smooth around town and doesn’t lurch in stop-start traffic. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as responsive as the dual-clutch unit you can get in the Kodiaq and Tiguan Allspace, so takes a few seconds to kick down when you accelerate hard. Cars with a manual gearbox lose out on a few miles per gallon compared with the automatic and aren’t quite as relaxing to drive – especially around town.

The Hyundai Santa Fe’s tall body and raised seating position give you a great view out. The pillars between the front doors and the windscreen aren’t particularly wide, so you can easily spot traffic approaching at junctions, and the large side windows mean you can make sure the coast is clear before changing lanes on a motorway.

The Santa Fe’s steering is relatively light which helps make this large seven-seater feel reasonably manoeuvrable around town. Sure, squeezing through tight gaps and into small parking spaces is a bit of a tall order, but at least you get a reversing camera as standard across the range. To help make parking as easy as possible, top-spec Premium SE cars get a nifty surround-view camera system that’ll help you avoid scraping your alloy wheels on particularly tall kerbs.

The Hyundai Santa Fe comes with slightly softer suspension than the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq, which helps it iron out small bumps around town – if not quite as well as a VW Tiguan. Hit a monster pothole, however, and it tends to buck and bounce more than many sportier alternatives. You’ll find its tall body leans a little more in tight corners than some other SUVs, but never to the point that your passengers will start to feel car sick.

On the motorway, this soft suspension helps the Santa Fe cruise along comfortably and quietly. The large door mirrors whip up a bit of wind noise at 70mph but it’s no worse than in other tall seven-seaters and tyre noise is mostly muted. The diesel engine doesn’t grumble or drone and all models come with cruise control as standard to help give your legs a rest on long drives.

Pick an automatic version and you also get adaptive cruise control as standard that’ll help maintain a safe distance to cars in front and all models come with lane-keeping assist to stop you straying out of your lane on the motorway.

Other standard safety features include automatic emergency braking that’ll perform an emergency stop if it detects a car or pedestrian in the road ahead. Mid-range Premium cars and above also get blind spot detection and a system that warns you if you’re about to reverse into the path of a moving car. In versions with an automatic gearbox, it’ll also apply the brakes automatically.

What's it like inside?

Upmarket materials and lots of high-tech equipment make the Hyundai Santa Fe a fine place to spend your commute, but it doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as some alternatives

Next Read full interior review
Buy a new or used Hyundai Santa Fe at a price you’ll love
We take the hassle and haggle out of car buying by finding you great deals from local and national dealers
RRP £39,420 - £44,465 Avg. carwow saving £4,297 off RRP
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