Hyundai Santa Fe Long Term Update

$36,990 Mrlp
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Parting is such sweet sorrow, or so the saying goes. In this case, it's not that sweet because I've grown fond of the big Hyundai. Sure, the Santa Fe had its ups and downs, but on the whole, the car has been like a faithful pet; always eager to please, never giving up on you, and an integral part of the family.

It was our faithful family runabout for just on six months and in that time it never blew a fuse, threw an electrical fault, broke down or failed to start. In a word, reliable.

It was safe, too. On a recent jaunt to Bunbury, a round trip of 400km exactly showed up an excellent trait of the Santa Fe - it's ESC. Yes, the Electronic Stability Control proved its worth, and kept us out of harm's way.

We had just visited people in Dalyellup, around 10km south of Bunbury. It was 10pm, and pitch-black on the bypass road which snakes around the town, on the way back to Perth. A car was heading towards us, headlights ablaze. Once it passed, the blackness enveloped us again, and without a chance to switch back to high beam, a shape appeared in the foreground.

Two of Skippy's relatives were bounding straight for the car. I instantly swung the wheel, trying to avoid the two Western Reds. The first missed us by literally centimetres. The car wallowed, tyres screeching, stability control light flickering on the dashboard, and then settled again, the rear of the car probably brushing the second 'roo's tail. With the wife catching her breath, and the kid giggling because he thought it was "fun" - calls for me to "do it again, Daddy" were duly ignored - we knew that the clicking of the brakes and the ultimate grip of the tyres were what probably saved us.

Sure, I could put it down to being able to catch the car from tipping up, or sliding, but let's be honest, having that safety net there can not be discounted. If we did run into trouble, there were no less that six airbags, also extending to the third row, available to cushion any impacts. The brakes are also very good, without the overassistance that some German cars suffer from. Add to that excellent road-holding, and the Santa Fe cannot be faulted for its ability to protect the family.

The Trek'N'Tow kit was a mixed bag. We optioned it, hoping for better off-road performance and less sag when towing. It did both those jobs admirably. But it thumped in some situations, and stiffened up the ride. The standard car we had part way through this long term test showed that it wasn't really necessary. Now that the 2010 Santa Fe is coming, Trek'N'Tow isn't available - to be honest, it won't really be missed.

On our long trip, we took careful note of the fuel consumption. Based on the trip computer, our journey used 7.3 litres of diesel per 100km travelled. Up to this point, we had experienced an optimistic trip meter, always showing 0.2 less than what was used. So imagine our surprise when we worked out the 28 litres used equated to exactly 7.0L/100km. Not a bad result, considering stop/start traffic through the city, and encountering some road works along the way.

Interestingly, the most economical speed was between 85-90km/h. The trip computer sat in the middle sixes, but when we sat at the legal limits of 100km/h and 110km/h, fuel use increased substantially. Of course, this all pales into insignificance with the Global Green Challenge result of 5.1L/100km, but this was with the new model's R-engine.

This 2.2-litre has proved excellent, with plenty of response, especially off road. It never, ever bogged down under load and just kept powering on. It has started every single morning with a consistent four cranks of the starter-motor. A quick warm up also meant heaters were available immediately, but it never got too hot either (see our last update). The five speed automatic never once flared, jolted or lost its way. The entire drivetrain has been faultless. I must admit, I can’t wait to try the R version, though.

The interior does have some cheaper plastics, but apart from the few scratches on the door handles and window switch surrounds, it's been quite durable. The leather where the baby seat strap came over the back was a little squashed, but a wipe over and half a day without the seat saw it spring back to its original shape. The perforated hide has been soft and very easy to clean, with all seats keeping occupants comfortable, especially on long trips. The in-laws often accompanied us, and with one of them suffering a hip complaint, it was reassuring to hear that they had no qualms with either cushioning or seating positions.

Space is another big plus with the Santa Fe. The front seats have plenty of foot room, the middle row's backrest angle can be altered infinitely and with the rear seats folded into the floor, the boot is positively huge. Best of all, the rear seats are split, so unlike a Pajero, you can have a pram, or shopping next to a sixth passenger without them feeling claustrophobic.

Ownership experiences vary, but we can report that Hyundai’s dealerships have been excellent, with good service, and quick responses. Having this car has been a painless experience, as it should be.

As a family car, the Santa Fe CRDi (especially the new model) should be highly considered. It’s spacious, flexible, economical, comfortable and has a depth of ability both on road and off. Add to that a five year warranty and it makes a lot of sense.

I’d be happy to own one long term, and, from the reader comments we’ve received, it seems that others do too.

Real recommendations from real owners are about as good as you can get.