Old dog, new tricks. There’s no doubt the current generation Hyundai Santa Fe is getting a bit long in the tooth, having launched in this guise back in 2012. There have been updates along the way to help the Santa Fe age with grace and dignity while also maintaining its position as one of the top sellers in its class. But like dog years, car years aren’t the same as human years and with an all-new Santa Fe promised for 2018, it’s time to see if there’s plenty if life left in this old dog.
The good news, is there is, especially with the return of Hyundai’s naturally-aspirated V6 petrol variant to the range earlier this year.
On test we have the Hyundai Santa Fe Active X, the cheapest Santa Fe you can buy with a Manufacturer’s List Price of $40,990 plus the usual on-road costs. That places the Active X smack-bang in the middle of a very competitive set in the large SUV segment: petrol-engined, front-wheel drive, seven-seaters.
Hovering around the low $40K mark are offerings from Toyota (Kluger GX), the Kia Sorento Si, Mazda CX-9 2.5 Sport, and the Nissan Pathfinder ST.
Santa Fe buyers can also look within the range, if they so choose with Hyundai offering the family-hauler in five variants. Want an all-wheel drive petrol? The Active with a smaller 2.4-litre petrol engine is your friend at $41,850. If your fuel of choice is diesel, there are three variants to choose from, all of them AWD: Active ($44,850), Elite ($51,990), and Highlander ($57,090). Food for thought, then.
But let’s assume your budget stretches to around $40K and you’ve decided you don’t need AWD underpinning your large SUV. The Hyundai Santa Fe Active X fits the bill perfectly and, despite its entry-level price point, is impressively kitted out.
Our test car arrived in our garage with zero options other than $695 for the metallic Ocean Blue paint, bring the as-tested price to $41,685 (plus on-roads).
But don’t let that lack of options fool you. The Active X is positively brimming with standard inclusions, both inside and out, although there are some glaring omissions.
Sitting on twin five, spoke design alloy wheels, the Active X cuts a sporty figure, enhanced by the chrome grille and window surrounds. It looks classy, despite its status as the cheapest Santa Fe in the range. There are silver-finish front and rear skid plates which add a nice contrast to the Ocean Blue paint while the chrome dual trapezoid exhaust tips look the business.
Inside, there are brushed aluminium accents to complement the leather-appointed interior. Sure, the Santa Fe is starting to date, especially inside but it’s comfortable enough and wants for little. The 7.0-inch colour touchscreen is clear enough and easy to use but it’s here where the first noticeable omission becomes obvious – there’s no satellite navigation. Luckily for the Active X, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard so you can use your smartphone to navigate but that can have limitations, particularly in rural areas. There’s also no digital radio, a function increasingly standard (and expected) in this day and age.
That said, the six-speaker sound system is adequate, if not outstanding. Bluetooth phone and audio streaming comes standard while there’s a USB point, an auxiliary plug and two 12V outlets in the front.
Look, the interior might be starting to feel dated, but it is comfortable and feels well put together. The doors close with a reassuring and very Euro ‘thunk’ while the leather-appointed seats feature heating which can be a boon on those chilly mornings.
Space for second row occupants, while not exactly cavernous, is good enough for longer trips. Those pesky whiny teens will be perfectly comfortable on longer road trips with plenty of headroom and adequate legroom. There are air vents, too, while a single 12V outlet (but no USB point) could start a minor war in the second row if two devices need charging. There are cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest and bottle holders in the door pockets.
The second row folds in a 40/20/40 fashion and the base slides forward to allow for easier access to the third row.
That said, the opening remains small and ingress and egress require a fair amount of contortion. Space in the third row too, is best left for little ones or those of your friends and family on the shorter side. And then only for short trips. There are air vents, though, so at least they’ll be comfortable in that regard.
Boot space with all three rows in play isn’t great. Even with the third row folded flat, 516-litres isn’t class-leading. The boot area expands to 1615 litres with both rows folded. And under the boot floor lives a full-size spare, an increasingly scarce feature in modern vehicles.
Families looking to buy a Santa Fe are likely to have safety front and centre in mind when shopping around. And in that regard the Active X does not disappoint: seven airbags, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind-spot detection, lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear-cross traffic alert, rear parking assist and a rear-view camera are all standard. And it comes with a five-star ANCAP rating.
The Active X’s party trick is under the bonnet though.
Powered by Hyundai’s ‘Lambda II’ 3.3-litre V6 petrol engine matched to a six-speed auto, the Active X doesn’t lack for power with 199kW at a 6400rpm and 318Nm of torque at 5300rpm. Not earth-shattering, by any means but it’s enough for most situations the Santa Fe is likely to find itself in.
Our time with the Active X included plenty of time in what are likely to be the large SUV’s standard operating procedures – the school drop-off and pick-up, the weekly shopping run and the grind of the daily commute to work through Sydney’s legendary peak hour traffic on some of its crappiest roads. And it handled everything Sydney three at it with aplomb and even a little bit of dignity.
Look, it’s no performance SUV but then nor does it try to be (despite the presence of those impressive 19-inch alloys). But it does have enough gumption to not leave you wanting in most conditions. Power delivery is smooth and the six-speed auto does a good job of shuffling through the gears for you and keeping you in the right gear as the situation demands.
Where the Active X shines, particularly on Sydney’s suburban streets, is in its ride comfort. Hyundai’s local suspension tune is – okay legendary might be a stretch – but, it is renowned for a comfortable ride. The Santa Fe glides over bumps and ruts with barely a ripple while sharper hits – such as speed humps and large potholes – are dispatched with a subtlety that belies its $40K price point. We’ve driven $100K-plus SUVs with far less composure.
Not so great was fuel consumption, certainly over our mainly urban week with the Active X. Hyundai claims a combined figure of 10.5L/100km and an urban only number of 14L/100km. We recorded a 16.8L/100km during our time with the car but to be fair, the majority of that time was spent in the grind of suburban traffic. A good run on a freeway should see that figure come down substantially.
Hyundai hasn’t matched sister brand Kia in regards to warranty. But a five-year/unlimited km surety is still up there for peace of mind. So too, the 12 months of free roadside assistance. Services are due every 12 months or 15,000km with the first five years (or 75,000km) costing a total of $1625 under the brand’s iCare Lifetime Service Plan.
The Active X makes a compelling case, certainly as an entry point into the segment and at a price that won’t break most banks. With its 19-inch wheels and slightly sporty styling, it also cuts a figure less frumpy than some other variants in the range. Sure, it’s an old dog now, but in this spec it has few new tricks behind its collar and remains an attractive proposition for buyers in the market for a seven-seater.