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First Drive

First Drive: Hyundai Santa Fe

The story:
Hyundai’s largest model, the Santa Fe is now into its fourth-generation at the top of the Korean’s brand range, having been in Europe since 2001.
Category:Large 4x4
Key rival:Kia Sorento
Hyundai Santa Fe
Emissions: 164g/km
On sale:Now

The Santa Fe is a big off-roader offering seven-seat practicality. Powered by a 200hp 2.2-litre diesel as the only engine choice, the new car comes with either a six-speed manual or new eight-speed automatic gearbox, and with either front- or four-wheel drive.

There are three trim levels: SE, Premium and Premium SE. The entry level is only available with two-wheel drive, while Premium comes with all four powertrain options. Premium SE, meanwhile, can be either two- or four-wheel drive, but has only an automatic transmission. Emissions range from a reasonable 150g/km for the SE to a less-impressive 164g/km for the range-topper.

First drive - December 2018 - Hyundai Santa Fe - Image 1

The new Santa Fe wears Hyundai’s company face well, offering a link to smaller models such as the new Kona crossover; it’s a successful update.

The interior is recognisably Hyundai from across the range, and it’s nice enough without being a big step up from lesser models in the line-up that don’t cost in excess of £40,000.


The third row of seats, fitted as standard on all models, are fine for occasional adult use and fold away neatly, although getting into and out of them is an inelegant exercise. Still, the centre row of seats slides to vary legroom, so it’s possible to find a decent compromise for everyone.

First drive - December 2018 - Hyundai Santa Fe - Image 5To drive, the car’s light steering and very sensitive throttle are both instantly noticeable, and the ride takes a turn for the choppy over nastier road surfaces. The 200hp 2.2 diesel is plenty for the Santa Fe, because it’s not a car that enjoys being hustled along unnecessarily.



Hyundai claims best-in-class safety features, including all cars getting autonomous emergency braking, driver attention alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist. Premium upwards also adds blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as the rear occupancy alert system that sets off the horn and lights if it detects movement in the rear of the car when the driver has left the vehicle, in an attempt to avoid heat-related injury to or death of kids or pets.



Paul Barker






The verdict

The Santa Fe is a pleasant and sensible workhorse, but this top-end model is far from cheap, and the high CO2 makes running costs harder to justify.