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by Karl Peskett

2009 Hyundai Santa Fe – Long Term Review: Update

The last time we left you with a cliff hanger. Was there really an issue with the Santa Fe’s suspension? Would the car fare well off road? Would I definitely put on more weight if I tried to eat any more cheeseburgers?

Fear not dear friends, we have the answers. But first, let’s deal with how the car is currently performing.



There are 5009km now on the odometer, and as far as the engine goes, we couldn’t be happier. It’s freeing up nicely, and fuel consumption has dropped to under 10.0 litres per 100 kilometres. Well, just under, anyway.

For the city run, we’re getting 9.9L/100km, which again, is more than what the trip computer shows at 9.7. It seems to be a pattern, where it always states 0.2-litres less than the actual consumption. Hey, at least it’s predictably consistent.

The engine is still a little noisy on start up when cold, which you sort of expect, but once it’s warmed, the diesel rattle settles down and it’s a smooth as you like. It’s still no match for a German/French diesel, but it’s better than some Japanese jobs, that’s for sure.


The car is also holding up to the daily grind, with the exception of a few scratches on the dark silver surrounds on the door trim. We had the chance to also test the rear row of seating when the entire family piled in for the weekend. As a 180+centimetre tall man, it’s a squeeze, but kids would have no issues at all.

The only problem for me was not having enough knee room, my head just made it under the roof line, so to solve that, you just tilt the second row backrest forward slightly.

Incidentally, sitting back there, you get your own air-conditioning, which can be varied in speed from the back row, and turned completely on or off from the centre stack. Also interesting to note that you cannot tell that it’s a diesel from the last row. It’s even, dare I say it, a pleasant sound.


Now let’s deal with those issues we spoke of earlier. Firstly the suspension, and in the last update we reported on a clunking sound coming from the suspension. To its credit, Hyundai began investigations immediately.

The car was temporarily replaced with a regular Santa Fe, one sans the Trek’N’Tow option. Our long term car was whisked away, placed on stands and the suspension removed and sent back to head office. The supplier was also called in to take a look and see if there was an issue.

Meanwhile, we tried the regular Santa Fe on the same areas which highlighted the Trek’N’Tow imperfections. The knocking from the rear was completely non-existent. Well, that solves that one, but the front was a whole different story. The thump was still there, admittedly not quite to the same scale, but there nonetheless.


Hyundai spokesperson Ben Hershman said to us that it’s a characteristic of this car. The way the front suspension geometry and set-up works will give you that thumping sound when the suspension extends very quickly. So there’s not a lot that can be done.

Introduce Trek’N’Tow to the equation and things just get worse. We got our car back with another Trek’N’Tow kit to see if the first kit was faulty and, lo and behold, the same result. The supplier did come back to Hyundai, too, with an answer as to whether there was really an issue with the kit.


There’s a bush at the top of the rear dampers that we’re told under certain circumstances doesn’t quite absorb the forces exerted as effectively as it should.

The supplier has come up with a fix for this, and should any customer inquire about the thump, it will be replaced free of charge. Since it’s not a safety issue, Hyundai won’t be recalling the cars, but will look after each customer on a case-by-case basis.

To put you in the picture, Trek’N’Tow is sourced from an Australian company for the Australian market only, which means all those jumping on the “anything Korean is dodgy” bandwagon can go and take a hike.

It’s fitted at the dealer you purchase the car from and was originally introduced on the Terracan, where it was a great success. It’s been redesigned to suit the Santa Fe, the idea being to give the car more ground clearance, and to increase the ball downforce for towing.


From that perspective, it works, for sure. It definitely helps you off road, and also stops the sag that comes with towing a lot.

You have to question whether the clunking, which is apparent in day-to-day driving, outweighs the benefits for the occasional tow, or off-road jaunt. It’s interesting to note, too, that Trek’N’Tow has been deleted as an option from the Santa Fe’s update in 2010.


As part of our long term investigation, we decided to take the car out for a trip along the beach, to also see how the Santa Fe went in some rough stuff.

Kids were thrown in the car, and the associated katundu, like Tonka trucks, buckets, spades, chips, lollies, water, etc. We let the tyres down to 16psi, and despite the very flexy sidewalls, headed off making sure our steering inputs were straight so as to not roll a tyre off the rim.

We came up against some very, very boggy stuff, but with the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) off and four-wheel lock on, the Santa Fe triumphed admirably. The diesel engine also proved better than I expected, with a very strong, torquey pull, especially from low revs.


Counting against it was its desire to change gear every time we hit the redline, despite leaving it in manual mode. The gaps between ratios are too much for the diesel to regain any power, so it wallows for a bit, and if you’ve lost enough speed, you’re sunk.

The trick was to keep it clicked into first gear, and very carefully modulate your throttle, so it wouldn’t hit the redline and slip into second.

Easier said than done, especially when your body is bouncing around in the cabin, and your foot flexes a bit too much. I did get the hang of it though, and as long as it stayed in first, it would climb boggy, sandy hills with no problems. Along the flats on the beach second gear was fine, too.


But that knocking and thumping continued in the background when you went in and out of ruts, and across varied surfaces and bumps. I would say you could get used to it, but in my opinion, you shouldn’t have to.


The Santa Fe’s off road ability was surprisingly good, though, and if you did option the Trek’N’Tow, there’s not much that would hold you back.

Don’t keep the four-wheel lock on for too long, either, as it does tend to overheat the rear drivetrain with a lot of work, and reverts back to front-wheel-drive (see the above photo). You then have to stop and let it cool down for a bit before you can head off again.

Best to leave it for the “oh my god, we’re never going to make it out of this” moments, because it’s responsive enough to not have to keep it locked.

We’ll put our car down on the list for getting that bush replaced, and let you know how it pans out. Oh yes, I almost forgot; I’ve given up cheeseburgers.


  • http://Caradvice.com.au Baddass

    I love the way the Santa Fe looks. Really pretty. I remember I saw the model very early in a Seoul Airport. I thought it was great.

  • Nuwanda

    Excellent review, good to see these being used porperly and getting dirty. I have just over 10,000Kms on ours and not one ounce of trouble and consistenly under 10L/100km around town, love it.

    I have taken our SantaFe off road and kept up with the supposed “real 4×4’s”, where they needed low range, our SantaFe just cruised in Lock with no worries, approach angle just not so great but if you know that you make allowances. As long as you are not rock hopping like others with 33″ tyres etc these are very capable off road. They just need to get more aftermarket accessories available like bars, suspension and maybe a snorkel and you would see more of these out there getting dirty. I dont have the “T’n’T” kit but would love to get an extra 2″ lift from a suspension kit like OME or alike.

  • DipStiK

    Great long term review and detailed too. I got an Impreza R this year, not quite enough clearance for paddock bashing and creak crossings. Looking to get the new SantaFe when it comes out 2010-2011 any news on the new model? Hopefully will have 6 speed auto with diesel and low range then it will be ideal for my country life.

  • Reckless1

    Meanwhile, we tried the regular Santa Fe on the same areas which highlighted the Trek’N’Tow imperfections. The knocking from the rear was completely non-existent. Well, that solves that one, but the front was a whole different story. The thump was still there, admittedly not quite to the same scale, but there nonetheless.

    Hyundai spokesperson Ben Hershman said to us that it’s a characteristic of this car. The way the front suspension geometry and set-up works will give you that thumping sound when the suspension extends very quickly. So there’s not a lot that can be done.

    To put you in the picture, Trek’N’Tow is sourced from an Australian company for the Australian market only, which means all those jumping on the “anything Korean is dodgy” bandwagon can go and take a hike.

    There’s a big focus on the clunking, an admission from the factory that it’s designed to clunk at the front, then a statement that it shouldn’t be labelled “dodgy Korean” because the Trek’n’Tow is Aussie built.

    Sounds like the car is a clunker to me – annoyingly rattly cold diesel (the Sorento was the same when I tested that), poor front suspension designed to clunk, poor fuel economy by today’s standards (OK when the Snata Fe was released though).

    Hyundai should replace the engine with the new R series and fix the front end.

  • Marc

    Reckless, it sounds like Hyundai is replacing the engine in the updated model coming next year.

    I reckon that Hyundai needs to fix the front end, too, and if they did that for the next model, it would be a cracker!

  • Jade

    Hyundai are responsible for the suspension no matter who supplies it. Something is wrong at Hyundai if they didn’t know about the thumping.

  • Andrew

    You’ve got to admit that in recent times Hyundai has been very responsive to engineering issues in their cars. This is a great example, as is the launch of the current Elantra and it’s initially over-assisted power steering.

  • John of Perth

    To be honest the front suspension noise only occurs rarely, usually after exiting say a 20km/hr speed hump and I am not sure if this a characteristic of the 18″ wheel/tyre combination on the Elite or occurs on the 17″ versions as well.

    However in perspective it is not an issue.

    The diesel engine has more than adequate power for this vehicle and I have not found it wanting for accelaration/overtaking. Sure a newer more powerful engine would be great but you will be surprised how good this vehicle is.

  • scamma

    John. I have the SLX with 17 inch rims and the thumping occurs on this over speed humps also if take a little too agressively. It is only a minor component of the drive experience. Agree with the rest of your comments with respect to this motor.

  • Nuwanda

    I have the SLX also with the 17″ rims and it does it only if as you said scamma you go flying over the speed bumps but so did my mazda CX7 in exactly the same way. Just slow down before you go over the speed hump, that is after all why there are there, to slow traffic down otherwise you will damage your car. With all the positive points about this car, size, comfort, economy, features and pricing I suppose they have to pick on something.

  • realcars

    Responsive manufacturer good.

    Unresponsive out of business.

  • Sean

    So if the Santa Fe 2010 update won’t have trek’n’tow will it still be able to have a different towing unit fitted (and still keep the warranty valid)? For that sort of car you would think a towing option would be a given.

  • Jordan

    Great review, I have the deisel elite which is nearly up for its first service. The engine is a bit rattly on start up, more so than my 95 hilux diesel. The fuel economy is okay, much better than our previous car (04 Maxima). We purchased the Santa Fe due to my wifes’ soccer mum aspirations. Power from he diesel is adequate, some lag from the turbo, finish is good, some cheap plastics but no marks yet. Space is great, have utilized the seven seats a couple of times and found them to be suitable for short trips (which is all that we would use them for). We compared the vehicle to a number of others (Kluger(nice, too expensive & no diesel)/Captiva(reliability issues)/Pathfinder(more expensive, reservations about Nissan response to issues of other models)/X-trail(styling of new model ad hoc and see previous).
    I have not noticed the suspension thump referred to but then I slow down for speed bumps. Generally we are very happy with our purchase.

  • Terry Norman

    Great report and very interesting reading. I am almost sold on the Santa fe but just wondered if anyone would like to share any comments regarding towing a caravan. The van is about 1500kg plus about 300kg of junk by the time its loaded. With a few negatives around about the Trek n Tow I’m getting a bit worried as to whether it would handle it without the upgrade.

  • Roy

    I would like to know if South Korean made Sante Fe 2009 crdi SUV is as durable and long lasting as compared to many German and American competitors ?
    Has anyone had a reasonably trouble free 80,000 km on a Sante Fe 2008 or 2009 model ?
    I would also like to know If the Brakes, Transmission and Suspensions lasts Long for mostly safe highway drives ?

    Can experienced owners help me with my Queries ? thanks

    • Andrew

      We took our 2007 SLX CRDi from Queanbeyan to Rockhampton and back towing a Jayco Eagle Outback camper trailer, and also to Kangaroo Island and back with the same rig. Two adults, 2 kids, 4 bikes and plenty of gear – I reckon about 1750kgs at least. Over both trips, averaged 11.5l/100kms and the vehicle did it easily – without Trek n Tow but with a weight distribution hitch.

      We’ve been so impressed with the Santa Fe after 85,000kms, not a rattle and very comfortable on all sorts of roads, and well under 10 l/100km around town, that we traded it in on a new 2010 Santa Fe Highlander. The new one has all the good features of the previous model plus the great new R series engine and 6spd auto.

      Hyundai won’t fit a Trek n Tow to the new model because of the problems with the previous one. They say they have modified the rear suspensionin the new model but I cannot tell the difference.

      We’ll be taking it around Australia with the Jayco, bikes, kayak etc this year and I’ve no doubt it will excel.

  • james

    Does anyone know how to tell visually whether a Santa fe has the trek n tow pack fitted?

    • Nuwanda

      Hi James

      If Trek n Tow has been fitted, the vehicle will have blue coils all around, that is the easiest way to tell. If a towbar has been fitted, there will also be a sticker on it indicating the kit has been fitted and the new towball weight.

  • MAL

    I have slx santa fe diesel with 83000 on clock. I have towed a camper that weighs 1700kgs + when fully loaded from melb to queensland, the vehicle without trek & tow went great, sat solidly on open road, returned good fuel economy (11-12 l per 100)
    normally get 8-9 av combined driving

    i have not had any faults, with just regular services & a few light globes, replaced kumo tyres at 70k, still have not replaced brakes
    great for family with aircon located for 2nd row in b pillar & in third rows being better than any other vehicle I\’ve had which is a big item for kids on long hot summer trips. wife likes car type ride also

  • jon

    i own a 2002 santa fe if you want them to go off road you need a sports exhaust no headers S.T.D. headers are fine then a set of ALL TERRAIN T/A tyers i find the suv needs the tyer psi down to 10 psi out there i go out to the spot were the pics are take i live 3 km away from there quinns also the hyundai sneed a K&N air filter i disconected the air silencer bottle and sealed the hose that helped and i also disconected the main breather hose that leads to the air box got under the car undone a 8mm bolt and pulled the hose down and ran it to fog light tunnel mellted 2 holes into the plastic at the end of the hose then wire tyed to the plastic insert that takes the place of the fog light as my car didnt come with the fog light now i get cold air every time the engine starts and aso as say 70km air rushes in to the fog light tunnel to the air box i also fited a drain at a bend at the lowest point of the air hose so water wouldnt find its way in to the air box the K&N AIR FILTER IS WASHABLE we climb all those hills out winter or summer time there some ppl knock the hyundai santa for off road they dont knock ours

  • Nellie Ouellet

    Will the Santa Fe Limited pull 3000 lbs. and have good braking power towing

  • Rohan Raut

    I’m intending to buy a hyundai santa fe, I live in India so the only option i have for a 7 seater suv are toyota Fortuner(MT), Ford endeavour(AT)(similar to ford everest) and hyundai santa fe (MT). We have lot of bad roads here and want something to ride good. I would be doing off roading less often to my farm. can you suggest me if santa fe is a good option for muddy roads and what setting to use when off roading for santa fe.

  • http://www.carsfeed.net carsfeed

    Ahaa, its pleasant conversation regarding this post here at this blog, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting here.

  • Howard

     I purchased a 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe about 3 weeks ago with 59,000 miles. I was impressed with the running of the vehicle engine and how well it seem to have been taken care of.
    But to my surprise after  I purchased the vehicle and started driving it more I  notice thumping noise coming from the rear. I had only a few miles before the warranty expired so I ran back to the dealer where I purchased it and they replaced the front and rear suspension bar stating that the problem has been fixed. I drove off thinking that my problem was solve until I ran over some ridge bumps in the road and thats when I realized the thump was still there. My warranty has expired, so I decided to take my car to a outside mechanic that specilized in body and suspension and he drove and check everything and he went on line and pull up all the reviews that I have read for myself. Can anybody tell me what I can do to get this problem fixed. Will another dealer fix this problem without charge? It is very hard to ignore a thumping noise when you just purchased a vehicle. Someone please help!

    • Froglover67

      Hi Howard, How did u go sorting out the thumping noise?
      I would think that if the problem was originally dealt with under warranty then it should still be fixed free as it wasn’t fixed originally.

      I am looking at a 2007 SLX CRDi at the moment.