Hyundai Santa Fe Review

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a roomy SUV that comes with seven seats and lots of equipment as standard but alternatives have bigger boots and lots more engines to choose from


This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Loads of passenger space
  • Generous standard equipment
  • Comfortable and relaxing to drive

What's not so good

  • Alternatives have bigger boots
  • Only one engine to choose from
  • Not particularly fuel-efficient

What do you want to read about Hyundai Santa Fe?

Overall verdict

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a roomy SUV that comes with seven seats and lots of equipment as standard but alternatives have bigger boots and lots more engines to choose from

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a comfortable and spacious seven-seat SUV that makes a well-equipped and easy-to-drive alternative to the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq and VW Tiguan Allspace.

Unlike these cars, however, the Hyundai Santa Fe comes with seven seats as standard and there’s even room in the rearmost seats for two adults to get reasonably comfortable on short journeys. The Santa Fe’s middle seats slide forwards to give your rear-seat passengers some extra legroom and there’s a handy button that’ll flip the seats forwards automatically so people in the back can climb in and out more easily.

Space in the second row is generous, too, with enough head and legroom to carry three adults side-by-side. In the driver’s seat, you’re treated to plenty of space and lots of seat adjustment to help you get comfortable, including adjustable lumbar support to reduce back-ache on long stints behind the wheel.

The Hyundai Santa Fe interior also benefits from a smart design that’s leagues ahead of the old car’s drab, cheap-feeling cabin. Plenty of soft-touch materials and faux-leather trims make it feel pretty plush, if not quite as fancy as the VW and Skoda, and you get lots of equipment as standard.

Chief among which is the touchscreen infotainment system that comes with smartphone mirroring as standard. Mid-range cars and above get sat-nav, too, and top-spec cars even get a digital driver’s display, instead of conventional dials, and a head-up-display. Unfortunately, all this high-tech kit isn’t quite as easy to use as the similar systems in a Kodiaq or Tiguan Allspace.

Unfortunately, the same can be said of the Hyundai’s boot. There’s just enough space for a weekly shop but fold the third row down and you have significantly less space to play with than in either the Skoda or VW. It’s the same story with the middle and rearmost rows folded down, but at least the flat loadbay means you can easily load some heavy or oddly-shaped items.

As if the Santa Fe’s imposing size wasn’t enough to make it stand out, Hyundai’s designers have given a seriously imposing grille and masses of eye-catching chrome details

Mat Watson
carwow expert

If you do plan to regularly carry very heavy luggage, you’ll be pleased to know the Hyundai Santa Fe’s 2.2-litre diesel engine is plenty perky enough to haul you around without feeling strained. Sure, this isn’t the fastest SUV on sale and alternatives are more fuel-efficient, but the Hyundai Santa Fe is impressively quiet on the motorway.

It’s even more relaxing to drive if you go for a version with an eight-speed automatic instead of the standard manual. It’s smoother than the auto ‘boxes you get in most alternatives and gives your left leg a rest in heavy traffic.

Also helping you rest easy are the Hyundai’s numerous standard safety features that should help it score highly when it’s crash-tested by Euro NCAP. So, if you’re looking for a safe, spacious and comfortable SUV, the Hyundai Santa Fe makes a great choice. However, other slightly less well-equipped alternatives do have bigger boots and a wider range of engines to choose from.

If you want to see what kind of saving you can expect on a Santa Fe, click through to our deals page.

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

Hyundai interiors of old were about as stylish and as well-equipped as a tent – thankfully, the new Santa Fe’s cabin looks more like it belongs in a boutique hotel than a campsite

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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 dramatically taller or shorter than you.

Space in the middle row is also pretty generous. There’s 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.

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 get three pairs of Isofix anchor points as standard in the Hyundai Santa Fe – 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 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 – and 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 and Skoda – 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 make passengers rather more comfortable back there.

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 or a small tablet 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.

It’s really easy to drop the rearmost seats and there’s enough space for four large suitcases or a pair of bulky baby buggies when the car’s in five-seat mode. However, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s 547-litre capacity lags far behind the 700-litre VW and 720-litre Skoda.

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.

Read full interior review

What's it like to drive?

Comfortable and easy 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 0-62mph in 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 35mpg. 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. 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 not 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. The Santa Fe hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP yet, but these features should help it score highly.

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