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  • Accommodating boot; sliding second-row seats; rear vents and sunblinds; long-range comfort for four; audio system; efficient highway cruiser
  • Middle and rear-most seats for short trips only; third-row seats fill most of the boot when in use; steering and ride trail standard of class leaders

7 / 10

Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two

Like so many big, capable-looking four-wheel-drive SUVs with marketing campaigns spruiking their adventurous spirit and inexhaustible ability, our Hyundai Santa Fe long-termer has spent most of its first two months cooped up in the city, performing tasks better suited to an i20 or i30.

A long weekend, a soggy weather forecast and a doggedly enthusiastic bunch of campers presented the perfect opportunity for Hyundai’s recently released third-generation seven-seater to showcase its aptitude as a comfortable, accommodating and efficient getaway sidekick.

The journey before it was a circa-550km round trip from Sydney to Seal Rocks on the NSW South Coast, the first leg taking roughly four hours in the Friday afternoon city exodus.

After attending to the ‘tailgate open’ dashboard warning display that confirmed a driver, four passengers and camping gear for five was about the Santa Fe’s limit, we were away.

Actually, the 516-litre boot swallowed our kit with relative ease, without requiring us to slide the rear seats forward to expand the cargo area’s depth and volume. That meant legroom wasn’t compromised for our three back-seat passengers, who, being finely built five-foot-not-much 20-something-year-old girls, were cosy but far from cramped sitting shoulder-to-shoulder across the second row.

Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two

The B-pillar-mounted air vents earned praise, as did the integrated sunblinds in the rear windowsills, and with a mandatory halfway pit stop (technically a pie stop, really) breaking up the trip into twin two-hour stints, complaints about comfort were the sole domain of the back-row middle passenger, who grew a little restless with the firmer seat back and base combo.

The Santa Fe’s impressive audio system with seven speakers, two tweeters and subwoofer kept us entertained into the night, with the ability to pair up to eight Bluetooth devices a highlight for a quintet of wannabe DJs with individual ‘tastes’ in ‘music’. The ability to charge a phone on the go via the USB port also proved handy.

Hauling five plus cargo asks the Santa Fe’s 145kW/436Nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel to work a little harder than normal – particularly up hills where the torquey unit relies on the six-speed automatic transmission to keep it in a compromise somewhere between its 1800-2500rpm peak torque band and 3800rpm power zenith – but rarely did it feel like it was under strain.

The extra weight didn’t seem to hurt efficiency either, with the trip computer reading 7.5 litres per 100km as we rolled into our damp campsite to conclude the first half of our journey.

The return trip presented the Santa Fe with a fresh challenge, with a sixth passenger jumping aboard in what was an early exit from our waterlogged pitch. With the third-row seats occupying most of the boot space, erecting one forced us to offload half of our gear into a mate’s charming BJ42 LandCruiser – a car that makes a mockery of those aforementioned ‘lifestyle’ ad campaigns with its genuine ability.

Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two

While not ones to complain, the verdict from the valiant duo that shared the trip back in the rearmost seat was that, while the air conditioning vents were again superbly effective, the seat itself was small and hard, offered little leg or headroom, was positioned ear-achingly close to the basey subwoofer, created a sense of claustrophobia with its lack of light and windows, and was therefore best reserved for small kids and short trips. But the versatility of those extra part-time pews turned the Santa Fe into a hero in one of those rare occasions where you have an awkward sextet.

CarAdvice has spied Hyundai Australia testing a long-wheelbase Grand Santa Fe – a car even better suited to hauling five-plus – although the local division says it has no plans to add it to the line-up.

After a few suburban drop-off detours, our journey had come to an end. The trip computer read 594.1km, consumption remained steady at 7.6L/100km, and the fuel meter was still showing more than a quarter following a brimming of its 64-litre tank two days earlier.

So despite the soccer mum stereotype, the Santa Fe is arguably even more at home crushing kilometres four-up on the highway – particularly with the efficient R-Series diesel under the bonnet. Seats five through seven have their limitations, but Hyundai’s biggest SUV proved an otherwise comfortable, practical and willing companion for a weekend escape.

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Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
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  • F1orce

    I prefer the rear end styling of the previous gen

  • F1orce

    And if they want to get serious they should bring in the LWB Santa-Fe with either 2.2L-R or the 3.3L GDI V6

    • Prodraw555

      I agree totally!!! I emailed Hyundai Aust. 2 weeks ago to say exactly this (need LWB 2.2L-R) – still waiting for a response. Not holding my breath!!!

  • Mark

    Pictures of  finely built five-foot-not-much 20-something-year-old girls?

  • Backyard Enterprise

    A shocking case of style over practicality.

    If one buys a car with 7 seats, it generally means using the third row often and usually by kids.

    I would give it say 5 minutes, and a few corners, before one or both of these kids are painting the backs of the middle rows with the contents of their stomachs.

    Main reason – no windows back there.

    Perhaps Hyundai should offer 5 years of vomit bags with the 5 year warranty.

  • Mad Max

    I don’t generaly like SUV’s but this one has me interested. Its a great looking car, good fuel economy for the size and weight and from what I can find out, they appear to be well built and reliable. I’m looking at a small caravan and it would make a good tow vehicle.

    • Jack001

       make sure you get load assist kit to increase down ball rate to 150KG! with your towing kit for caravan… other than that it is a good car….

    • Sam

      Buy a Territory instead. It’s built in Australia and is practically made for towing caravans.

      • Cars

        It’s a great car except it drinks more, costs more and doesnt have split-fold rear seats. In QLD the rego is $200 more a year being a 6 cylinder.

  • Steven

    I’d take the third row of seats out for more storage.

  • greatlegs

    The only problem in Sydney is availability

    To me it seems that Hyundai have very limited stocks and are
    only dribbling them out to dealers just to maintain some presence in the

    • Jack001

       on carsales, there are advertise for 2013 model diesel active auto for $41,980. that is below RRP… if the stock is so limited .. why do they adertise it so cheap?

      • greatlegs

        The vehicle in this long term test is an Elite and that is
        what I am referencing, maybe no one wants the Active ?

        • Jack001

          Elite drive away around $50k, for someone doesn’t need leather seat, bigger rim, 6 speaker, sat nav, window blind, auto head light, climate control. but perfer diesel than gutless petrol and they are mechanically identical. Active diesel auto sound pretty good for around $42k drive away.

          • greatlegs

            I could not find it, was the Elite on “carsales dot com” are
            you able to give a reference suitable for admin

          • Converted

            The elite diesel is blowing out to around 5 months waiting period. They are not offering heavy discounts as they simply can’t  get the vehicles. Our local dealer put in an order for them last month and the factory told them to “try again next month” and refused their order.

               The active is available readily but then the step up in equipment levels to the elite has given most people a reason to wait for the elite.

          • Jack001

            Seems like there are few 2012 active, petrol, diesel kicking about. And few 2013 highlander, but no 2013 elite, active in Sydney.

  • Cars

    “with the trip computer reading 7.5 litres per 100km”
    You know I’m sure most people would prefer if CA were slightly more scientific than reporting on what the trip computers tell them. Of the many brands I have driven, I’m yet to find a trip computer that has realistic fuel consumption readings. It’s really not that hard to fill it up, reset the odo, do the driving. When it comes time to refill, take note of how many litres you put in and do the sums.
    Then be sure to tell us what sort of driving was done and what sort of load it was carrying.
    The point being we are interested in real world figures. Not ADR and not trip computers assumptions.

  • Rocket

    Pretty good family bus. Do these have DPF as I here of some horror stories in regards to diesels that spend most of their time in th city?

  • Wayno

    Diesel is pretty good for high way cruising. Little difference from petrol if u are in city driving…

    • Cars

      Rubbish. There is less difference between petrol and diesel on the highway. It is in start stop traffic that the efficiencies of diesels are most pronounced. I’ve have both and I can go a lot longer around town in the diesel than the petrol in relative terms.
      This is why Toyota sells hybrids. They use petrol engines because the electric propulsion can compensate with frequent start/stop driving and be used as a generator when braking to recoup the motive force that is otherwise lost to heat through your brakes. It is also why hybrids have little to no advantage over regular petrol engines on highways.

      • Hyahhsah

        Actually hybrids have an advantage as they run the Atkinson cycle which is more efficient on the highway. The reason normal petrols cars don’t run Atkinson cycle is because it means not enough power for city driving – not a problem with hybrids due to their electric motor supplement.

        • Karl Sass

          Ah ha! I’ve always though in theory hybrids should have no advantage on the highway, but in my experience they consistently get better economy on the hwy than their petrol equivalent (despite being heavier).
          Thank you, you’ve solved the mystery! lol

  • S3

    the interior layout looks like the Tribeca

    • Cars

       I don’t much like the spacy center console.

  • prestige worldwide

    It amazes me with all of you, (reporters) say that there is no room when the third row seats are up . You all say it about every car . Unless its something like a Suburban, which is the size of a house, none of these cars will ever have any room behind the 3rd room seats Find something credible to whinge about !  

    • Jack0001

       try toyota kluger, mazda CX9, volvo XC90

  • Guest

    Did Seal Rocks get washed south from the mid north coast in the storms???

  • MisterZed

    Long term… that makes it sound so old.

  • Sumpguard

    The claims that CA edit out any post against Hyundai have just proven to be rubbish. I spent a week in one of these with a couple of business partners last week and sang its praises without swearing and that post has been stopped too.

       Meanwhile my neighbour is now considering one and has his one year old Territory diesel on the market. Too noisy!

    • Galaxy

      yes, very easy to bag Hyundai in reviews because everyone wants to drive a car and SUV like  a track car. Truth is that Hyundai makes excellent cars and SUVs. Toyota could certainly learn a lot these days (RAV 4 and Kluger) from Hyundai quality and design. My how the tables have turned.

      • Jack001

        Amen~ true to da!

  • Thumbs Up for Santa!

    Yes, I was hesitant when my husband wanted to purchase the New Hyundai Santa Fe. We have had Japanese and European Cars and this SUV is proving to be outstanding. I’ve watched people go up to it, in car parks and literally peer into it, point at servos and stare at it on road. My 8 and 12 year old boys love the back and argue who will sit there with their friends. I have not had any one loose their stomach contents as stated by “backyard enterprise”. The third row comes with it’s own air conditioning, and having the luxury of the Highlander you can open the curtain or the sunroof and it’s just wonderful. I have friends with the Kluger, Captiva and the CX9 and this car far out shines them. With a diesel engine we get 3 weeks out of a tank – unlike the firsty Kluger and CX9!

Hyundai Santa Fe Specs

Car Details
ELITE CRDi (4x4)
Body Type
New Price
Private Sale
$34,100 - $38,750
Dealer Retail
$34,130 - $40,590
Dealer Trade
$26,500 - $31,000
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
Engine Size
Max. Torque
435Nm @  1800rpm
Max. Power
145kW @  3800rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
Bore & Stroke
Compression Ratio
Valve Gear
Drivetrain Specifications
Drive Type
Final Drive Ratio
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
Fuel Tank Capacity
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
7.3L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Ground Clearance
Towing Capacity
Brake:2000  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
Turning Circle
Front Rim Size
Rear Rim Size
Front Tyres
235/60 R18
Rear Tyres
235/60 R18
Wheel Base
Front Track
Rear Track
Front Brakes
Rear Brakes
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Control & Handling
Traction Control System, Vehicle Stability Control
Power Steering, Reversing Camera, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer
Radio CD with 10 Speakers
Rear Spoiler
Power Windows
Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats, Side Front Air Bags
Optional Features
Metallic Paint
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
60 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Eng Scuttle
Country of Origin