2019 SANTA FE REVIEW AND ROAD TEST
Santa Fe Active ACTIVE is the only one with a petrol engine available – the 2.4-litre four. It’s $43,000 plus on-roads. You can also get the 2.2 diesel for $3000 extra.
Active includes Adaptive cruise (which is remarkable value for the price) plus rear cross traffic alert, forward collision mitigation, blind spot alert, lane-keeping assistance, Apple and Android phone integrations, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring and 17-inch alloys.
Elite adds front parking sensors, 8-inch sat-nav system, leather, proximity key, paddle shifters, power front seats, Infinity premium audio system, dual-zone air conditioning, privacy glass, auto folding mirrors, power tailgate and 18-inch alloys. That’s a lot of extra kit for $54,000.
Highlander is just packed with stuff – and so it would want to be for $60,500 plus on-road costs. And for that you get the 360-degree camera system, auto parking for parallel and reverse, dynamic LED lights, panorama sunroof, 14 different power adjustments for the driver’s seat, LED interior lights, heated and ventilated front seats and heated outboard row 2 seats as well, plus wireless phone charging, a head-up display and 19-inch wheels. Not cheap, but fully loaded. A burger with the lot.
Across the range, thankfully, Santa Fe has retained the full-sized spare wheel and tyre of its predecessor. Tow capacity is maintained at 2000 kilos (that’s with trailer brakes, obviously).
In standard form, 100 kilos the static download limit on the towball. If you want to boost that there’s a genuine load assist kit, which is essentially a set of variable rate rear springs that increases the download limit to 150 kilos.
The Santa Fe’s all-wheel drive system is called HTRAC now, and its operation is drive mode-dependent. In ‘Sport’ mode it’ll shunt up to 50 per cent of the drive rearwards to give you maximum traction under heavy acceleration.
In ‘Comfort’ mode, the rear gets up to 35 per cent of the available drive, and in ‘Eco’ the vehicle basically defaults to front-drive to maximise fuel efficiency. You can also lock the drive system manually in 50:50 for traction-limited off-road situations, by hitting a button on the dash.
In the context of off-roading, Santa Fe is at best a light-duty all-terrain vehicle. Dirt roads – no problem, and even some easy tracks and reasonably straightforward mud and sand. Ice and snow – OK, as long as you’re not aiming for the South Pole, or something.
But anything truly hardcore or rough – you’ll probably break something. And remember, abuse is not covered by warranty. You need a full-on all-terrain wagon, with low-range gearing, like a Pajero Sport, for the properly blue-singlet stuff.
Beating the wilderness into submission is not Santa Fe’s forte – but mild adventuring is OK.
Now perhaps some economically rational comparisons:
Kia Sorento: It’s no surprise that this vehicle shares the platform and the diesel powertrain with Santa Fe. So they’re – kind of – dizygotic twins. There’s the 2.4-litre petrol four in the Santa Fe Active, versus the V6 petrol in Sorento.
So that’s a key difference – no V6 on Santa Fe, at least for now.
Kia offers a seven-year warranty against Santa Fe’s five – both with unlimited kilometres for non-commercial use. The Sorento is a little cheaper, model for model, but the Santa Fe feels more polished.
Mazda CX-9 is slightly bigger, and has the most hi-tech petrol engine of the seven-seat SUV set – a turbocharged version of the 2.5 atmo engine in the CX-5.
CX-9 is also polished product, but it is hobbled by both a short warranty and a space-saver spare tyre – and that spare would concern me on long regional trips or if I was planning on tasking the vehicle with heavy towing, or if I was visiting a remote area.
Toyota Kluger: It’s a decent SUV from a reputable manufacturer, and you get a full-sized spare, but once you scratch the surface you discover that Toyota is the king of mediocrity – big, thirsty petrol V6, no Apple or Android phone integration, plus an anorexic warranty. Kluger is robust, but it would not be my first choice.
Hyundai is a good company here in Australia. Customer support is excellent, the warranty, likewise, and reliability is high. New Santa Fe is a great addition to the range of seven-seat SUVs you should consider buying.