2009 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi Review

$10,180 $12,100 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
- shares

2009 Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi Review & Road Test

A true contender in the family car market

Model Tested:

  • 2009 Hyundai CM Santa Fe Elite AWD CRDi, 2.2-litre, turbo-diesel, five-speed automatic - $46,990 (RRP)


  • Metallic Paint $375

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.

The Santa Fe is packed with nifty innovative ideas which are a definite appeal to those with kids and it also hits the nail on the head in the economy department, also a major requirement for family cars.

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 Santa Fe also comes with a 2.7-litre or 3.3-litre petrol engine option that, according to manufacturers specifications, chews up 10.6 and 10.7-litres per 100km respectively. That being said, in the Santa Fe CRDi as tested, my main gripe came from the driving stakes.

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.

Over the three weeks, I tested two different vehicles, both five-speed automatics, the turbo lag was more pronounced in the first car (which I had for the majority of the time) and I found it a challenge to find the right spot to bring the throttle to, wait for the delay, then take off without running into the person in front.

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.

Obviously the petrol models have an advantage here with naturally aspirated engines not presenting this issue. A manual transmission may also make a difference, but the Santa Fe stalls here being offered as a manual in the two SX five-seat models only.

Next page...

Pages: 1 2 3 4

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.

On unsealed roads, things couldn’t have been smoother and it was actually hard to tell the vehicle had even left the bitumen. The Santa Fe stayed very stable in the gravel and not once did it look like faltering. Road noise is at a minimum which provides a very comfortable ride for the family.

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.

Things were equally as comfortable inside the car with a well thought out interior combined with those afore mentioned nifty innovations. A concave mirror drops down from the roof, so it effectively sits above the rear view mirror, for a full view of rear seat shenanigans, preventing any dangerous turning around to see if all is peaceful in the back.

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.

The park brake in the Santa Fe is foot operated and located as a pedal on the left side of the brake and accelerator. In the beginning I wasn’t a fan of this and preferred the hand-operated version. However, towards the end I came to really like it, it freed up space where the hand brake would usually be and there was simply ‘on’ or ‘off’, no discrepancy as to whether it was on properly or not.

Next page...

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.

As an added security feature, the doors automatically locked as the vehicle’s speed climbed to the 50km mark. They wouldn’t unlock until the car had stopped and keys were removed from the ignition. This was another point which took some getting used to, I never realised how often I went to let the kids out or grab something from the boot with the keys still in the ignition until I found they were locked each time.

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.

Continuing the nifty features in the front, the driver and passenger both have individual overhead lights which come on automatically when the sun visor-back vanity mirror cover is slid back. Behind the rear seat mirror is a felt-lined sunglasses keeper which also drops down from the roof and holds a good sized pair of sunnies comfortably.

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.

The ‘control station’ of the dash has three blue LCD screens, a small one at the top displaying the time, then under the row of mode buttons is the largest screen displaying audio information. The stereo has well positioned USB and aux in as well as MP3 compatibility. The final screen shows climate control and external temperature. The climate control in the Santa Fe is very effective, working to quickly cool the car down even on the warmest of days. It is also very quiet.

Next page...

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.

To further please the family the Elite also has the option of becoming a seven seater with two fold-down seats in the ‘boot’. This is a great option if it is left at just that, an option, I’m not sure it would be hugely practical as a full-time seven-seater with young children involved.

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.

More of a logistical issue if anything and with boot space dramatically reduced with the third row in use, I would say six ‘full-time’ passengers would be my limit. The ride for the third row passenger isn’t too bad. While leg and head room isn’t overly generous, there is an air-conditioning vent and cup holder back there and my third row passengers were pleasantly surprised at the comfort factor.

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.

With the Santa Fe ranging in price from $33,990 to $46,990 it certainly present an affordable option in the SUV market. With families clearly in mind at the designing table, Hyundai has become a true contender in the family car market with the Santa Fe.

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

Road Test the (Diesel) Rivals: