Hyundai Santa Fe Limited medium term test: into the sunset
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Hyundai Santa Fe CRDi Limited
As we get close to the end of summer proper, New Zealanders are trying to get the most out of the combination of great weather and great road trips.
That’s been the case for DRIVEN and the Hyundai Santa Fe that joined our fleet over the warmer weeks (hence the "medium-term" test tag). Why the Santa Fe? Well, it’s a hugely popular family seven-seater in the Kiwi market: according to Motor Industry Association figures, it was the top seven-seat SUV last year by a substantial margin with 1113 sales, ahead of the Mazda CX-9 (757) and Toyota Highlander (705). With a lot of family use anticipated around the DRIVEN office, it was also the right type and size of SUV for summer road trips.
Go big or go home, right? Hyundai NZ provided us with the flagship Santa Fe Limited diesel AWD, which adds a lot of high-tech and luxury equipment to the already loaded Elite (yes, we reckon those names are the wrong way around too). It comes with the full digital dashboard including head-up display, remote parking, a panoramic roof (kids love it), laminated windscreen for improved refinement, 14-way adjustable driver’s seat with three-stage ventilation and heating, LED interior mood lighting and (perhaps more relevant for owners than us multi-user media borrowers) the full Hyundai Auto Link Premium “live” connection to the car via your phone, with a range of remote features.
So the Santa Fe is not nearly as humble as it was two decades ago, when it was a new and unknown model from a fairly new and little-known brand. Hyundai now mixes it up with some premium brands, hence all the high-tech stuff. But the Santa Fe comes at a premium price, too: the Limited’s equipment list made some office heads spin, but then so did the $89,990 ask for the flagship model. Not that buyers are fazed: the Limited is traditionally the biggest seller in the range.
Our Santa Fe crossed a few boundaries during its time with us, from Waikato to Northland. Record number of seats filled was seven; not so surprising… that’s how many there are. But we used ’em.
Record amount of luggage for one trip was painstakingly catalogued thus: four suitcases, two overnight bags, two boogie boards, two skim boards, beach cart, beach tent, six beach chairs, case of wine, camping table and two laptop bags. Like we said, it’s a handy size: big.
The performance and ergonomics of the Santa Fe occasionally polarised the team, which probably says more about us and the vastly different types of driving we did than the vehicle itself. Some were irked by the lethargic takeoff of the turbo-diesel engine/dual-clutch transmission combo around town, while others revelled in the freight-train torque delivery on the open road.
Canterbury | Christchurch
$241.92 p/w $967.69 p/m
One staffer even described it as being a refreshing change and more engaging drive than the plethora of BEVs we’d tested in 2021. That’s right, a diesel engine and eight gears felt like a bit of a novelty.
Some found the customisation of the digital dashboard overly complex (especially when other members of the team changed it over to the strange “cube” theme and then ran away), but all loved the Blind-spot View Monitor, which gives the dashboard a high-res video feed of the area outside the car during lane changes. The reverse collision avoidance sensor that also comes with the Limited thankfully wasn’t needed, but it was nice to know it was there when manoeuvring this large (and often loaded) SUV in unfamiliar road-trip locations. A Surround View Monitor system is also standard on the Limited.
In an age of minimalist interior design, the Santa Fe has a lot of buttons. A lot. The centre console is absolutely covered in them, including the selectors for the gearbox. Good or bad? Again, a matter of taste. Once you learn your way around them, the tactility of the physical buttons is actually quite pleasing, reassuring even, on what’s a fairly complicated vehicle.
Stuff like the all-speed adaptive cruise control kept the drivers cool during road trips, while the dual zone air conditioning with second and third-row outlets did the same for the passengers. With dual USB charging ports in the second row and a single for the third, there was almost enough phone/tablet infrastructure to keep families happy. Almost.
There’s quite a bit of family-focused family equipment too: like Safe Exit Assist (SEA), that warns of approaching traffic when a rear door is opened, and Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) that reminds you’ve got kids (well, probably a sleeping baby is the idea) in the back when you exit.
Would we recommend? For the most part, yes. The diesel Hyundai’s ability to cruise effortlessly and return fuel economy in the sixes, yet also haul everything including the kitchen sink (and tow an impressive 2.5 tonnes) when required is a great combination of real-world talents.
We’re not surprised the majority of buyers go for the diesel AWD (there are also petrols, including a V6 FWD), although it’d be tempting to eschew a little of that luxury equipment and look further down the range for a less expensive option; the diesel AWD actually starts at $69,990. Or are we still a bit badge-snobby? Like we said, most buyers go for the fully loaded version.
HYUNDAI SANTA FE CRDi LIMITED
ENGINE: 2.2-litre turbo diesel four
GEARBOX: 8-speed automated dual clutch, AWD
ECONOMY: 6.1l/100km, 160g/km