2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Active Review
Isaac Bober’s 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Active Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: All-new Hyundai Santa Fe features a more refined and practical interior, usable third-row seating, all-wheel drive as standard and the choice of grunty diesel or petrol engines.
2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Active Specifications
Price From $43,000+ORC (petrol); From $46,000+ORC (diesel) Warranty five-years unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety N/A Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine; 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine (as tested) Power 138kW at 6000rpm; 147kW at 3800rpm (as tested) Torque 241Nm at 4000rpm; 440Nm at 1750-2750rpm (as tested) Transmission six-speed automatic; eight-speed automatic (as tested) Drive on-demand all-wheel drive Dimensions 4770mm long, 1890mm wide, 1705mm high (roof rails), 2765mm wheelbase Turning Circle 11.42m Ground Clearance 185mm Angles 18.5-degrees approach, 21.2-degrees breakover, 20.7-degrees departure Boot Space 545L-1625L Weight From 1745kg Towing 2000kg maximum braked; up to 150kg towball download Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 71L Thirst 9.3L/100km claimed combined petrol; 7.5L/100km claimed combined diesel; 8.1L/100km as tested
SUVs are big business and their rise and rise has effectively killed off the passenger car segment. And while plenty of people flock to things simply because one of their mates has purchased one, it can be hard to argue against the practicality some SUVs offer. Let’s take a closer look at the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe with its improved features, safety, local tuning, and practicality story.
What’s the price and what do you get?
The Santa Fe is available in three variants and for an overview of all the models in the range, read our first drive review of the Santa Fe HERE. Our test vehicle is the entry-level Active which is the only vehicle in the range available with either a petrol or diesel engine (both Elite $54,000+ORC and Highlander $60,500+ORC are diesel only); our tester had a diesel engine which is a $3000 premium on the petrol engine. The price, thus, jumps to $46,000+ORC up from the petrol car’s price of $43,000+ORC. But the diesel engine also brings Hyundai’s in-house developed eight-speed automatic transmission.
Pricing also sees the Santa Fe undercut its Kia twin (Sorento) with the equivalent model, Sport, priced from $48,490+ORC; from there, though, the Kia is cheaper per model than the equivalent Hyundai. Beyond this, the Santa Fe which sits in the large SUV segment is up against a heap of more off-road oriented vehicles but there are some direct competitors like the Mazda CX-8 and CX-9 and both are more expensive than the Santa Fe. It’s the same story with the Skoda Kodiaq and the Toyota Kluger although it can’t be had with a diesel engine.
In terms of what you get for your money, the Santa Fe is well equipped from the get-go with all-wheel drive and Hyundai’s active safety suite, SmartSense, standard across the range. Other key features include a 7.0-inch infotainment screen that doesn’t seem as small as it sounds with Apple CarPLay and Android Auto connectivity, cloth interior, 17-inch alloys, single-zone climate control but with vents in all rows and rear temperature controls, LED daytime running lights, front and rear fog lights, dusk-sensing headlights, roof rails, tyre pressure monitoring, and Hyundai’s clever ‘Walk-In’ control switch for access to the third-row seats, and more.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
The Santa Fe measures 4770mm long, 1890mm wide and 1680mm high with a wheelbase of 2765mm. Compared with, say, the Mazda CX-8 the Santa Fe seems quite small but climb inside the thing and it feels anything but small, indeed it feels much bigger on the inside than either the CX-8 or CX-9.
And a lot of that is down to some clever design trickery which begins with the low, horizontal layout of the dashboard which gives a stretched sensation across the Santa Fe. Then you’ve got a large glasshouse that floods the vehicle with light, adding to the sense of space, as well as ensuring good vision all around.
The Active we tested gets manual adjust, cloth covered seats but the cloth in our tester was not only an interesting pattern but it felt like it would be hard wearing and easily handle family life. The seats themselves are comfortable with more than enough adjustment, coupled with reach and height steering adjustment, to ensure drivers of all sizes can get comfortable behind the wheel. For me, with my long legs, the length of the seat base meant good under-thigh support, something you only notice the benefits of when you’ve been sat behind the wheel for longer periods.
The other thing worth mentioning was the texture of the materials used inside the cabin, even in this entry-level model there are some interesting finishes like the textured speaker covers and the wood veneer inlay. It gives the interior an air of being more expensive than it is.
Open the back door and access to the second-row is easy. The doors open nice and wide and are light in their opening and closing action but with a solid thunk when closed, meaning children will have no problem getting in or out. Once in, the back seats offer plenty of room for an adult with good foot, leg and headroom in almost all seating positions; Hyundai lowered the rear floor tunnel from 53mm to 26mm to improve leg room for an adult travelling in the middle seat.
The second-row seat is adjustable too, meaning you can slide it forwards and backwards to either provide a little more legroom for those in the third-row or more for those in the second-row. And you can recline the back rest too. The seats are 60:40 split fold. There are directional air vents and charging outlets at the back of the centre console.
Getting into the third-row is made easier by Hyundai’s ‘Walk-In’ button which is mounted on the shoulder of the kerb-side second-row seat. You simply press the button and the seat folds forwards leaving a gap to climb through.
The third-row seats are nice and comfortable although there isn’t a huge amount of room for an adult (I found foot room and headroom if I leaned back against the seat to be tight and that’s despite head room being increased compared to the old car) but there’s enough that you could travel in the back in a pinch. For children who’ve outgrown a booster seat, there’s more than enough room. There are cupholders in the back, air vents and fan speed controls.
The boot is impressive too with 130 litres if all three rows are being used. This expands to 547 litres with the third-row seats folded flat into the floor and 1625 litres with the second-row folded too. One neat feature is the ability to drop the second-row seats via two buttons in the boot; press them and the seats are folded down electrically. And one you don’t expect is a floor mat which is included as standard and can be laid across the third-row seats when they’re not being used. It’s a nice touch although rolling it up and stowing it when you do need to use the third-row seats can be a pain.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
About the same size as some smartphones, the 7.0-inch infotainment screen in the Santa Fe Active doesn’t sound very big. But, fortunately it’s a good unit. The screen is nice and clear and perched (er, floating, according to Hyundai) on top of the dashboard.
The finish on the screen means glare has no effect on it and the simple combination of touchscreen and short-cut buttons around the outside make it a very easy system to use. There’s not a lot to explore; there’s no sat-nav or vehicle controls but you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Beyond this, the climate control (single-zone) is easy to use on the fly while all the other controls are clearly labelled and easy to read and reach from the driver’s seat. As mentioned earlier, the seat controls for the second- and third-row seats are easy to use too and the ‘Walk-In’ button is something other brands should take a look at.
While some competitors offer a spare mounted under the boot floor, the Santa Fe hides its spare underneath the vehicle which means you’ll have to get dirty to get to it but you won’t have to empty your whole boot if you’ve got the thing packed for holidays.
What’s the performance like?
The entry-level Active can be had with either a petrol or diesel engine but our tester had the diesel engine and we reckon it’s the pick. The 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel makes 147kW of power at 3800rpm and 440Nm of torque from a low 1500-2750rpm.
On paper, it reads like the grunt band might be a little too short, even for a diesel engine but on the road, it’s anything but because the thing feels strong from the get-go, never seeming to fall off once you’ve gone beyond peak torque.
The engine is perfectly partnered by the eight-speed automatic transmission which is one of the best you’ll find. It gets the best from the engine and never seems to be in too much of a hurry to get to top gear and chase fuel economy. But even if it does run to top gear there’s plenty of torque on tap that the thing never feels strained.
The engine is Euro 5 compliant and fuel consumption is a claimed 7.5L/100km but in our week of testing we returned 8.1L/100km which is still very impressive for a seven-seater.
What’s it like on the road?
Hyundai calls its all-wheel drive system HTRAC and while the system, in general, apportions torque from front to back depending on vehicle and wheel speeds, it can also be ‘forced’ into a specific set-up via the several drive modes which along with torque distribution also tweak throttle and transmission behaviour. These are Comfort, Eco and Sport.
In Comfort mode will shuffle up to 35 percent of drive to the rear if needed, in Eco it predominantly behaves as a front-wheel drive vehicle for fuel efficiency while in Sport mode up to 50 percent of drive can be sent to the rear. There’s also a Lock function to distribute torque 50:50 front to rear for very slippery roads.
The Santa Fe isn’t a rock-hopper like, say, a Jeep Grand Cherokee but thanks to a comfort oriented ride and a clever on-demand all-wheel drive system it’ll take rough-ish roads in its stride. Indeed, clearance and tyres are the major issues.
Like just about every other vehicle in its range, the Santa Fe’s suspension and steering were tuned by Australian engineers. With a stiffer structure compared to the old car, Hyundai said it worked on stiffening the rear-end compared to the old car; the aim, its engineers said was to maintain the vehicle’s ride comfort but add in a bit of ‘fun’.
And I’d suggest they’ve largely succeeded in that, the ride is comfortable and relaxed with enough spring in its step that it won’t fall over in a corner. I put it across the Practical Motoring road loop and the bump control was impressive, especially across some of the badly pock-marked sections of our loop. And the body control through tighter corners, for such a big car, was similarly impressive.
But what did let the handling package down was the steering. Not much, I might add, but compared to the rest of the thing’s composure it just knocked some of the shine off. Some of this was down to the lane-keep assist which is far too intrusive when it doesn’t need to be. You can switch it off and away from highways I’d suggest you do that, otherwise you end up with a constant and unnecessary nibbling at the wheel. Once switched off the steering does feel better but it’s a little doughy in the straight-ahead before weighting up off-centre and there’s a total lack of feel.
There’ll be a video review rolling out in the next couple of weeks of the Santa Fe and you’ll see that while I didn’t take it off-roading, I did venture onto some rougher dirt roads with it. Some of the tracks between where I filmed were rutted and some were boggy and slippery. The Santa Fe’s tyres aren’t exactly rough-road oriented but lifting a wheel here and there showed that the all-wheel drive system is capable of shuffling drive and pulling drive from wheels without traction.
In general, though, the Santa Fe ate up the dirt roads I drove across with the entry level Active’s 17-inch alloys wrapped in taller tyres no doubt adding to the comfort levels across the rougher sections of track. Don’t misread me, this isn’t an off-roader, but for general dirt road driving it’s a more comfortable and effective vehicle than the old car and many of its competitors too.
What about ownership?
Hyundai offers a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty across its range a warranty that’s now become commonplace. The first service (one month or 1500km) is free, beyond that Hyundai offers Hyundai iCare which includes the five-year warranty, lifetime service plan which is transferrable, roadside assist which grows if you service within the dealer network and the sat-nav update plan. The five-years capped price servicing runs from $399-$499 per service for the diesel and $315-$420 per service for the petrol engine. Servicing schedule is 15,000km or 12 months.
Does it have a spare?
Yes, the Santa Fe Active has a full-size spare underslung at the back of the car.
Can you tow with it?
Hyundai quotes 2000kg as the maximum braked towing capacity but the towball download is only 100kg which grows to 150kg if you fit the factory-fit towing pack. The GVM for the diesel is higher at 2630kg although the front and rear maximum axle load limits are the same at 130kg and 1395kg, front and rear. The roof rack load limit is 100kg.
What about safety features?
ANCAP still hasn’t announced a safety rating for the Santa Fe but the thing, even in the base spec we’re testing, is well equipped with active safety via Hyundai’s SmartSense suite. This includes blind spot collision avoidance assist (rear); rear cross traffic collision avoidance; driver attention warning; forward collision warning and avoidance which recognises vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians; lane keep assist; smart cruise control with stop and go. It also features all-wheel drive, traction and stability controls, rear parking sensors, reversing camera with dynamic guide lines, speed limiter and a tyre pressure monitor.