2009 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi Review

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2009 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi Review & Road Test

A true contender in the family car market

Family friendly; quiet highway cruising; comfortable

Turbo lag issues; hindered lower rearward visibility

CarAdvice Rating:

Family marketing slogans are often touted by car manufacturers and when one claims to be ‘Built Family Tough’, the precursor has been set for family practicality to be leaking out the doors.

When I took loan of the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi, I was expecting big things in this department and I have to say, despite some small issues I had with the car, it lived up to its family friendly claim.

I had a whole three weeks to put the Santa Fe through its paces, including a lot of driving around Victoria over the busy holiday season. To me, it is the little things that matter, a car can go fast and as hard as you like, but if the kids are cramped, it is a chore loading and unloading the boot and you need to take out a bank loan to fill the thing up, you can keep what’s under the bonnet.

Hyundai’s economical 2.2-litre, CRDi (common rail diesel) engine sat between 8.0 and 9.0-litres per 100km on around-town trips and on a long drive, it worked its way down to steady 7.0-litres per 100km.

The initial turbo lag provides what I can only best describe as ‘sporadic acceleration’. When I put my foot down to take off from traffic lights or to make it across a road before oncoming traffic, nothing would happen and then suddenly the car would take off quickly and unexpectedly and I would then be grappling for the brake.

However the acceleration seemed a lot smoother in the second vehicle, so it could have been an isolated problem. In both though, they seemed to lack the take-off expected when I wanted to make a quick move in traffic with the slower acceleration expected from a single spool turbo-diesel.

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Once on the open road, the Elite really came into its own, it took to driving long distances with ease and the diesel economy meant there wasn’t a worry about where the next service station was (or if they were open over the holidays for that matter!). The manual shift mode on the auto was useful when overtaking.

For such a large car, I was surprised to find I didn’t have an issue swinging into any type of park, however it was a different story when it came to reversing out of a tight spot. I had no idea what was behind me and after a nervous first try at reversing out of a tight car park, from then on I made sure I was well able to drive directly out of parks.

Reversing sensors (which are available on the list of genuine accessories) or even better, a reversing camera certainly wouldn’t go astray. I would be happy to forego one of the LCD displays in lieu of a reversing camera.

Then there rear air conditioning vents, instead of being located on the back of the centre console, the rear vents in the Santa Fe are on the side pillars, making the cooling system very effective.

The leather seats in the Elite are very comfortable but you sure know they are leather when you jump back in a pair of shorts on a hot summer day, while leather has the advantage of ‘easy clean’ the perforated detail in the seats of the Elite would be a nightmare to clean with the sort of things children like to drop on seats. The driver and passenger seats have electronic positioning and height adjustment and leg and head room wasn’t an issue.

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The instrument panel is large and easy to read. The speedometer had a red notch at 50km/h as opposed to the white ones at the other speed increments. This was very effecting in making sure the needle never went past the red when driving in domestic areas.

It did however force me to be more vigilant and ensure the keys were with me whenever I left the driver’s seat. Also from the driver’s seat, the fuel door release is located on the door below the controls for the electric windows and mirrors.

The Elite’s imitation maple wood woodgrain finish doesn’t have the tackiness that can sometimes come with such trims. The darker colour and combination with a chrome trim gives it an understated appeal. The Elite’s steering wheel is fitted with stereo controls and cruise control. The seven-speaker stereo has fantastic sound output, 12 was the loudest I could go and there at least double that many notches on the dial.

The front central interior light has individual controls for both the driver and passenger. The rear vision mirror in the Elite has a built-in compass displaying green LED letters (N, NE, SW etc) in the top left corner. Have to say I found this highly distracting on an average drive and even when the green letters were turned off, when I glanced in the rear vision mirror, my eyes were wanting to focus on the small blank black screen.

However, I’m sure it would be useful when it came to true off-roading. The Elite also offers an electric sunroof with blind and a very clever central console which has two compartments, a shallow top part for general items needed close to hand and a deep part underneath which, when the vent at the bottom is turned on, doubles as a cool box - fantastic for keeping baby formula and kids drinks cold!

The cup holders are a great size, they are big enough to hold a 1.25 litre bottle and the retractable knobs mean the smallest coffee cup also sits snugly.

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In the second row of seating, two childseats fit quite comfortably with room for a central passenger. However, the central seat isn’t as comfortable as the others with the backrest quite stiff. The middle seat drops down to reveal two cup holders with a lid, probably the reason behind the stiffness of the seat.

There are no child seat anchors on the third row which means any child seats would need to be on the second row. That’s not an issue; most parents would probably want the younger children closer to them anyway. But the problem arises with entry for third row passengers.

One isn’t a problem, it is simple to erect one seat and for the passenger to enter through the tailgate, however for a second third row passenger, they would need to enter over the second row of seats and if child seats are involved, that means unanchoring the seat to fold down the second 60:40 split seats for the seventh passenger to enter.

The Santa Fe looks good and certainly doesn’t scream budget end of the SUV market. The styling is right up there with the best in my opinion. Forward and side visibility is always that bit better in a 4WD due to the added height factor, but as mentioned, rear visibility could be improved.

The tailgate is easily opened one handed, but I found it a little heavy/stiff to close. The bonnet on the other hand was the complete opposite, it is hydraulic operated so no need for fitting a strut.

Safety is not overlooked with airbags everywhere you look, extending right back to the third row. ABS, ESP and TCS are standard across all models.

CarAdvice Overall Rating:
How does it Drive:
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How does it Go:


  • Engine: 2188cc SOHC four-cylinder (16 valve)
  • Power: 114kW @ 4000rpm
  • Torque: 343Nm @ 1800-2500rpm
  • Induction: Common-rail & turbocharged
  • Transmission: Five-speed automatic
  • Driven Wheels: All
  • Brakes: Discs with ABS & EBD
  • CO2 Emissions: 218g/km (Combined)
  • Fuel Consumption: 8.2-litres/100km (Combined)
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 75-litres
  • Fuel Type: Diesel
  • EuroNCAP Rating: Four stars
  • Airbags: Fron, side & curtain
  • Safety: ESP with traction control
  • Spare Wheel: Full-size alloy
  • Tow Capacity: 1800kg (Braked)
  • Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
  • Warranty: Five Year/Unlimited Kilometre
  • Weight: 1996kg (Tare)
  • Wheels: Alloy 18 x 7.0-inch

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