With the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe just around the corner, we thought we would slip behind the wheel of the MY15 version of the seven-seat SUV to see if it still represents value for money in this segment, with now being a great time to snag a bargain.
The third-generation Santa Fe has been on the market locally since 2012 and has remained predominantly unchanged since it launching. Starting from $38,490 plus on-road costs for the petrol-powered Active manual variant, the Santa Fe range runs all the way through to the sporty SR at $59,990.
In addition to the base 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol, six-speed manual Active (producing 141kW of power and 242Nm of torque), buyers can opt for the six-speed automatic for an extra $2500.
Another $500 will snag buyers a 2.2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine (producing 145kW of power and 421Nm of torque), which comes standard with a six-speed manual and can also be had with a six-speed auto for an additional $2500 (it also produces an extra 15Nm over the manual).
From there, the rest of the range is powered exclusively by the 2.2-litre diesel and paired with the six-speed auto. The Elite (as tested here) is priced from $48,490, while the Highlander slots in beneath the SR at $53,240.
Despite its age (pushing on four years), the Santa Fe still looks great from the outside. The high-ish ride height works well with the hunkered appearance of the alloy wheels and cladded wheel arches, while the Elite’s privacy glass helps it stand out from other SUVs in this segment.
The front proudly wears Hyundai’s badge and broad grille, while the LED daytime running lights and underbody cladding help round off the front end. Around the rear, the tucked-in design features wrap-around tail-lights, a power tailgate and dual exhaust pipes. All models get alloy wheels, with the Active starting out with 17s and the SR topping out with 19s.
Inside the cabin, it’s a fairly elegant affair. The fit and finish is impressive and soft-touch plastics surround the driver, though it’s let down by some scratchy surfaces and a number of blank buttons surrounding the gear shifter.
The central cluster is neatly laid out with the 7.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system controlling satellite navigation and audio selection, while the lower portion takes care of dual-zone climate control.
The standard 10-speaker stereo is reasonable and comes with Bluetooth audio streaming and USB/auxiliary inputs.
First-row headroom and legroom are good, but taller drivers will find it hard to push the driver’s seat far enough back. The seat stops moving on its rails early and we found it hard to adjust to a comfortable position (both drivers over 185cm tall).
The second row offers children and young adults plenty of space. The first row of seats sits high enough to provide adequate toeroom, while the limit to seat sliding means there is plenty of kneeroom in addition to headroom. Second-row passengers also get retractable blinds, a sliding seat function and two ISOFIX points.
The third row of seating is limited to kids with a tight entry/exit technique and limited legroom. All three rows of seats get air vents, with the second row featuring separate fan controls.
Cargo capacity is great with 516 litres on offer with the third row folded flat, which can increase to 1615L with the second row also folded.
Behind the wheel is where the Santa Fe really shines. With Australian engineering input, the Santa Fe rides nicely on all kinds of surfaces and absorbs the types of potholes you will find in the city and on country roads, but can be a little jarring over sudden road imperfections.
Despite using an electrically assisted steering rack, there is still plenty of feel through the wheel. Additionally, the Santa Fe can be tailored to run in three steering modes — Comfort, Normal and Sport. All through modes offer varying levels of resistance to give the drive the impression of added feel through the wheel.
The diesel engine offers plenty of punch and works well with the six-speed automatic. The only downside is the amount of noise emitted from the engine at idle and under throttle. It can be quite clattery and intrudes into the cabin.
Visibility out the front and sides is great, but can be a bit limited out the back. Thankfully things like parking are aided by rear sensors and a good reverse-view camera.
On the combined cycle, the 2.2-litre diesel consumes just 7.3L/100km. This figure drops to 6.6L/100km for the manual diesel and climbs to 9.0L/100km for the Active petrol manual.
All Santa Fe variants come with an on-demand four-wheel-drive system that predominantly operates as a front-wheel drive and engages the rear axle when torque is required. Drivers can go further by manually locking the central viscous coupling into a 50/50 torque split mode between the front and rear axles.
With 185mm of ground clearance, the Santa Fe probably won’t be going too far off-road anyway.
As with all Hyundais, Santa Fe customers are treated to one of the best aftersales programs on the market. Included is a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while those who service their vehicle with a Hyundai dealer also get competitively priced capped-price servicing for life, as well as 10 years of roadside assistance and free sat-nav map updates.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is well worth a look if you’re in the market for a seven-seat SUV that offers great fuel economy, modern styling and plenty of features. Its sister car, the Kia Sorento, is newer and more polished, and the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger are also solid family SUVs, but if you're after a quick bargain, the 2015 Santa Fe represents good value for money ahead of the imminent release of the revised model.
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