Our Hyundai Santa Fe long-termer is now into its fifth month, and continuing to clock up the kays without skipping a beat.
After deputy editor DeGasperi travelled from Sydney to Canberra and back for our last update, the past month has seen the large SUV reverting to typical everyday duties.
SUVs such as the Hyundai Santa Fe are sometimes disparagingly referred to as ‘soccer mum’ vehicles, and coincidentally enough the seven seats have allowed us to ferry our six-a-side office football team to the park in just the one car.
It’s a short-straw scenario for the third row, though the enforced knees-up position for adults is easily bearable for short trips. And good of Hyundai to put air vents back there when some SUVs don’t even place them in their back seats.
Heavy urban use has had a noticeable effect on average fuel economy. Where the Santa Fe averaged 7.0L/100km for our last report after that Hume run south, the past month it’s used 61 litres to go 496km – at an average of 12.3L/100km.
The latest role for the Santa Fe is to become the temporary family vehicle for the Spinks clan while we go through the process of buying our new car (which I’ll also report on).
The little one’s only a few days old as I write, so more on that in our next report – and we’ll get Mrs Spinks contributing the mother’s perspective on the Santa Fe.
For now, we previously said we’d try to get a Ford Territory diesel into the office for a natural comparison.
Rather poignantly, our Territory arrived in the same week that Ford announced it will kill off the home-grown SUV as we currently know it, as well as the Falcon large car on which it’s based, when it shuts local manufacturing operations in October 2016.
Our RWD Titanium TDCi is the second-most expensive Territory at $58,060.
Already that’s a fair jump over our mid-spec Elite AWD Santa Fe that’s priced from $45,990, and even jumping into the range-topping Highlander you’ll find Hyundai asks only $49,990.
The Elite has includes standard features such as 18-inch ally wheels, seven-inch touch screen with satellite navigation, premium audio, leather/leatherette seats, climate control, rain-sensing wipers, tinted rear glass, cooled glovebox, auto-dimming rear view mirror, keyless start, heated and folding electric side mirrors, and with all Santa Fes coming with full-size spare, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth with streaming, seven airbags and five-year warranty.
Highlander adds bigger, 19-inch alloys, glass panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, electrically adjustable front passenger seat and memory driver’s seat, and heated front seats.
The Territory matches virtually all of the Highlander’s features but has smaller, 18-inch alloy wheels and misses out on rain-sensing wipers, auto-dipping side mirrors.
Our test ‘Tezza’ was also in five-seat-only guise with the no-cost delete option on the third row ticked .
Its key interior extra is an Alpine rear DVD system with 10.7-inch screen, but the value battle here is a clear win for the Hyundai – especially when you throw in the Santa Fe’s warranty that lasts two years longer (five) than the Ford’s.
Add in a far more resolved and nicely proportioned exterior design for the Santa Fe, as well as a more contemporary-looking interior, the Hyundai further presses its subjective showroom appeal.
Both offer comfortable and clever interiors.
We’ve previously spoken about the practical and smart touches of the Santa Fe in our long-term report one, such as the cargo blind that stows away under its own cargo floor section, release levers for the second row seatbacks, and large cargo capacity.
The Territory makes use of its bigger dimensions – 193mm longer and 36mm taller – to offer even vaster boot space (with no dual-seat third row here, remember).
There are no handy seat release levers, though the rear seatbacks fold completely flat unlike the Hyundai’s – and the operation (up/down) is by a simple lever on the side of the outer seats.
Ford’s neat tricks are a hidden compartment particularly useful for wet gear such as towels and swimmers, and a two-piece reversible cargo floor with one side carpet, one side grippy plastic. (Ford Motor Company should have perhaps involved its Australian engineers more on the US-Euro-developed mid-size Kuga SUV that lacks such Eureka moments of practicality.)
If there’s little to separate the big Australian and South Korean SUVs in this area, however, the Ford emphatically trumps its Hyundai rival for on-road manners.
Where the Santa Fe’s suspension constantly fidgets and allows excessive body movement, the Territory’s underpinnings – while not always quiet when doing their work – make the cabin a picture of relative of calm when travelling over rough patches of bitumen.
You may hear the suspension working at times (as you do with the Santa Fe), but you won’t feel the dips and bumps it’s coping with.
Steering, too, is terrific – superior to the Hyundai’s regardless of driving scenario. It’s been that way since the Territory was launched in 2004, though for the 2011 update Ford Australia’s engineers made it even better by removing the touch of sharpness just off centre
The Territory is simply a joy to drive whether in the city – where it shares a good turning circle with the Santa Fe but does feel its bigger size – or on freeways or country roads.
It’s a tougher call between the two diesel engines – as both perform well.
Ford’s 2.7-litre V6 and Hyundai’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder produce similar amounts of power and torque – with the Santa Fe edging the former (145kW v 140kW) and the Territory edging the latter (440Nm v 436Nm).
The V6 has an extra 200kg to haul, but the Territory still moves around with ease and is the quieter diesel of the two.
Officially, the Territory Titanium RWD diesel uses 8.2 litres per 100km versus the Santa Fe diesel’s 7.3L/100km.
Strong and weak points for both models, then. For the perfect affordable large SUV, you need the Hyundai’s overall design, cabin presentation and perception of quality mixed with the Ford’s stand-out ride, steering and handling.
If we were to make a pick, though, it would be the Territory for its higher levels of driving satisfaction. The Santa Fe, however, is the vehicle that will still be around come 2017.
Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi
Date acquired: January 2013
Odometer reading: 4938km
Travel this month: 496km
Consumption this month: 12.3L/100km
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report three
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report two
Hyundai Santa Fe Review: Long-term report one