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Car reviews - Hyundai - Santa Fe - 5-dr wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Diesel economy, light-to-medium off-road capability, space, cabin practicality and functionality
Room for improvement
The fact it's still no driver’s SUV

Hyundai logo28 Oct 2008

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NO ladder-frame chassis construction no hill descent control no low-range transfer gearbox... no worries in the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Let’s qualify this seemingly outrageous statement.

The second-generation, CM-series five/seven-seater mid-sized SUV – ever-so slightly facelifted, but not so anybody would even notice – is an on-road family conveyance, and not a 4x4 – not even in AWD all-wheel drive model guise.

Yes, these feature a part-time on-demand 4WD system that employ electronics to determine traction loss, which then automatically switches from front to all-wheel drive, determining which of the four wheels has the best grip.

Plus there’s also a dash-mounted dial for 50/50 front/rear drive up to 30km/h for more demanding 4WD situations, while Hyundai’s TCB Tight Corner Braking function aid turns on firmer, grippy surfaces.

But this car is a psuedo 4WD, a faux-by-four, for low-level soccer-ground car-park traversing... right?

You betcha. Yet don’t discount the Santa Fe’s impressive abilities to get you out of a tight off-road spot, thanks to all the 4x4 hardware underneath.

We hauled the Hyundai onto a rough, uphill track with plenty of ditches and potholes, as well as through a couple of knee-high river crossings, and the SUV sailed right through.

Care had to be taken so as to not snag the sizeable rear overhang on more deeply rutted surfaces, and we don’t know how well the sump guard is going to protect the Santa Fe’s oily bits over more demanding conditions, but the trek through a corner of one of our most beautiful national parks at Woollemi saw the Hyundai acquit itself impressively.

Yep, this car does what it says on the container.

As an everyday on-road proposition, the Santa Fe CRDi diesel is smooth, quiet, fairly refined and completely benign to drive.

Ford Territory owners might turn their noses up at this car’s light and feel-free steering and nobody is going to get all worked up over the Santa Fe’s handling prowess, but – once again – it is very fit for the purpose to which Hyundai developed this car for.

Families are likely to appreciate the nicely lit and professionally presented dashboard ‘conversation’ mirror for front-seat occupants to keep an eye on the rears easy-reach and simple-to-use switches and controls reasonably comfy seating and accommodating legroom and large cargo area.

Almost three years on since its unveiling, and the Santa Fe is holding up very well.

That it can also cope with a 4WD track certainly exceeded our expectations too.

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