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Car reviews - Hyundai - Santa Fe - range

Our Opinion

We like
Smooth, quiet and torquey engine, cabin space
Room for improvement
Lifeless steering, ride a little too firm, no digital radio reception


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9 Nov 2015

TORRENTIAL rain more akin to a typhoon greeted the facelifted Santa Fe as it departed Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport car-park, but the large SUV quickly showed it was undeterred by standing water on the freeway.

The rain-sensing wipers in the top-spec $55,990 plus on-roads Highlander (the only variant sampled during the short introductory drive) were fighting the downpour as the rain intensified yet again, but the seven-seater kept to its intended path well despite increasing water on the road.

Big mirrors with blind spot warnings made monitoring the other traffic fighting through the inclement weather easy and the smooth, quiet and flexible 147kW/440Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine makes easy progress through the frantic traffic.

The diesel has been near the top of the list for oil-burner favourites, and while some are now catching up in terms of outputs, the Hyundai engine still remains a quiet and flexible favourite.

Seating for the front two occupants is heated and cooled, of a decent size and comfortable – if a little flat – and the only thing found lacking was the range of adjustment.

The driver’s seat could offer more tilt range and height adjustment for the base to get the ideal position for a taller driver, whose headroom is encroached on a little by the panoramic sunroof.

Head and legroom in the sliding second row is good, enough to give third row occupants – teens at the eldest – some reasonable foot room both the second and third rows get ventilation from the climate control system.

The driver gets an electric park brake, a commanding view and a more than polite set of road manners.

From behind the helm there is also no shortage of information (except from the steering itself) including a digital speedometer to complement the clear and easy-to-read dials either side of the new centre display, which showed fuel use in the single digits thanks to plenty of open-road work.

The touchscreen infotainment system highlight is the top-spec Infinity 550-watt Logic 7 10-speaker sound system, from which the only thing missing is digital radio reception.

With fuel economy in the mid- to high-single digits while delivering more than adequate traffic pace and solid in gear acceleration — as well as the smooth, flexible and quiet demeanour and the small percentage it sells – it brings into question how much need there is for a petrol model at all.

The availability of a manual gearbox in more diesel models would be a nice choice to have, as would paddle shifters or a smart Sports mode, but some of that may be rectified in the top-spec SR model when it arrives early next year – let’s hope.

Using the active cruise control on Melbourne’s camera-laden toll roads shows the system to be more subtle and smarter than the set-up of the new Toyota Prado – the Hyundai is smoother on braking and throttle, as well as being able to hold speeds on downhills without a car in front.

The ride quality is probably firmer than it needs to be given the incoming presence of the SR sports model, but it's well-damped and overly firm for all-rounder duties.

Steering is light, a little vague and doesn't meat up off centre either, although the road conditions did show the seven-seater has ample grip and reassuring road manners in conditions more conducive to paired animals in wooden boats than road trips.

It’s got the gear and the grunt to more than match it with many in the segment and time will tell if the returning off-roaders steal a chunk of the new Korean’s thunder.

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