Hyundai Santa Fe 2021 active crdi (awd)
launch-review

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe review: Australian first drive

The Hyundai Santa Fe has had its biggest overhaul in two-and-a-half years, but it comes with a price rise.
- shares

The Hyundai Santa Fe has had its biggest update since the current-generation model went on sale in 2018 – and it has coincided with price rises of up to $3500.

The update is distinguished by a bold facelift and new wheel designs, but the big news is inside the cabin and under the bonnet.

Key changes include advanced safety tech across the model line-up, a new more-efficient alloy version of the 2.2-litre turbo diesel – now matched to an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic and all-wheel drive.

Plus, most variants gain a 'bridge-style' centre console that elevates key controls and provides a storage space underneath.

There are still four model grades in the range, but the base model has been renamed. The new model line-up is Santa Fe, Santa Fe Active, Santa Fe Elite, and Santa Fe Highlander.

Each model grade is available with a 3.5-litre V6 petrol with front-wheel drive and a conventional eight-speed automatic, or a 2.2-litre turbo diesel with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic.

Prices for diesel versions start from $48,200 plus on-road costs for the base-model Santa Fe, $51,800 plus on-road costs for the Santa Fe Active, $57,800 plus on-road costs for the Santa Fe Elite, and $65,200 plus on-road costs for the flagship Santa Fe Highlander.

These represent price rises of $1180 (or 2.4 per cent) on the base model, $1750 (or 3.4 per cent) on the Active, $2700 (or 4.6 per cent) on the Elite, and $3540 (or 5.7 per cent) on the Highlander.

The diesels are due to arrive in local showrooms first, from the beginning of 2021. However, there is a delay on petrol-powered versions. This is also the case for the Hyundai Santa Fe’s twin under the skin, the Kia Sorento.

Prices for petrol versions start from $44,700 plus on-road costs for the base-model Santa Fe, $48,300 plus on-road costs for the Santa Fe Active, $54,300 plus on-road costs for the Santa Fe Elite, and $61,700 plus on-road costs for the flagship Santa Fe Highlander. Price rises range from $710 to $3070 more than the previous model.

Metallic paint adds $695 and brown leather is a $295 option on Elite.

All models come with advanced safety tech such as autonomous emergency braking (now with intersection intervention), individual tyre pressure monitors, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear AEB, and radar cruise control with stop-and-go.

Also across the line-up: LED headlights, a digital speed display, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Conspicuous by its absence is speed sign recognition technology, which is standard on the latest Toyota, Ford and Mazda cars, for example.

Instead, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s speed-zone warnings rely on navigation data, which can quickly become out of date and doesn’t detect roadworks zones.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain standard on all models; however, the Santa Fe is yet to adopt wireless connection. All models do come with, however, a wireless phone-charging mat.

One-touch auto up and down windows are now standard on all four doors (as per Volkswagen and certain Toyotas), instead of only the driver’s door.

Cloth trim, a conventional gear selector, and 17-inch alloy wheels are other defining features of the most affordable model, but it doesn’t feel like a bare-bones proposition. Even in its most basic guise, the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe is a well-equipped package and will likely suit fleets as well as buyers on a budget.

A full-size spare is slung under the rear of each model in the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe range. That's a rarity in the class, but a welcome inclusion given Australia’s vast distances and limited availability of replacement tyres.

Although the body and underpinnings are largely carried over from the pre-facelifted model, Hyundai has eked out some extra space given the exterior is 15mm longer, 10mm wider and 5mm taller. The second row of seats is claimed to have 39mm more leg room.

All model grades are seven-seaters, but the third row is still best suited to kids rather than adults.

It’s also worth noting that, as with its twin under the skin, the Kia Sorento, curtain airbag coverage only extends as far as the rear glass, not the rear roof pillar, which is best practice.

Nevertheless, the Hyundai Santa Fe will continue with the five-star safety rating it earned in 2018. If measured to the latest and more stringent crash-test criteria, it might not get a five-star score. That said, it is still a largely safe vehicle, and one that has enough tech to hopefully avoid a crash in the first place.

The next model up, the Santa Fe Active, gains 18-inch alloys, door exit warning (it detects cyclists and other cars as you open the door), leather seats, dual-zone air-conditioning, a sensor key with push-button start, front parking sensors, power-folding mirrors with 'puddle' lights, and the 'bridge-style' centre console with buttons for PRNDL rather than a gear lever.

The Elite gains 20-inch alloys, a 10.25-inch navigation screen, 10-speaker premium audio, a built-in voice amplifier between the front and rear seats (to save your voice), a power-operated tailgate, and power-adjustable front seats.

The Highlander gains a unique 20-inch wheel design, nappa leather, power adjustment, heating and ventilation on both front seats, heated outboard second row seats, ambient interior lighting, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster with blind-zone cameras, a head-up display reflected into the windscreen in the driver’s line of sight, a panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree camera, and a remote parking function, which is able to move the vehicle forward or back slowly if you’re in a tight spot.

Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. Each capped-price service for routine maintenance costs $399 per visit for the petrol and $459 per visit for the diesel.

Over five years, scheduled servicing adds up to $1995 for the petrol and $2295 for the diesel. The warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres.

2021 Santa Fe diesel2021 Santa Fe petrolFor reference: 2021 Palisade dieselFor reference: 2021 Palisade petrol
Price$48,200 to $65,200 plus on-road costs$44,700 to $61,700 plus on-road costs$64,000 to $75,000 plus on-road costs$60,000 to $71,000 plus on-road costs
Engine2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (Euro 5)3.5-litre V6 petrol (Euro 5)2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (Euro 5)3.8-litre V6 petrol (Euro 5)
Power and torque148kW @ 3800rpm, 440Nm @ 1750–2750rpm200kW @ 6400rpm, 331Nm @ 5000rpm147kW @ 3800rpm, 440Nm @ 1750–2750rpm217kW @ 6000rpm, 355Nm @ 5200rpm
Transmission8-speed twin-clutch automatic8-speed automatic8-speed automatic8-speed automatic
DriveAll-wheel driveFront-wheel driveAll-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
Weight1820kg to 1943kg1735kg to 1858kg1983kg to 2096kg1897kg to 1950kg
Fuel rating label6.1L/100km10.5L/100km7.3L/100km10.7L/100km
Fuel typeDiesel (67L tank)91RON petrol (67L tank)Diesel (71L tank)91RON petrol (71L tank)
Seating capacity7-seater7-seater7 or 8 (no-cost option, Highlander)7 or 8 (no-cost option, Highlander)
Boot volume seat up/down571L (two rows in position), 782L (one row in position) VDA571L (two rows in position), 782L (one row in position) VDA311L (three rows in position), 704L (two rows in position) VDA311L (three rows in position), 704L (two rows in position) VDA
Spare tyreFull-size spare, matching alloyFull-size spare, matching alloyFull-size spare, matching alloyFull-size spare, matching alloy
Turning circle11.4m11.4m11.8m11.8m
Length / width / height (mm)4785 / 1900 / 17104785 / 1900 / 1710 4980 / 1975 / 1750 4980 / 1975 / 1750
Wheelbase2765mm2765mm2900mm2900mm
Ground clearance176mm176mm203mm203mm
Towing capacity2500kg2500kg2200kg2200kg
Front brakes325mm x 30mm ventilated discs325mm x 30mm ventilated discs340mm x 30mm ventilated discs340mm x 30mm ventilated discs
Rear brakes305mm x 11mm solid discs305mm x 11mm solid discs314mm x 18mm solid discs314mm x 18mm solid discs
Tyres235/65 R17 or 235/60 R18 or 255/45 R20235/65 R17 or 235/60 R18 or 255/45 R20Bridgestone Dueler HP 245/60 R18 or 245/50 R20Bridgestone Dueler HP 245/60 R18 or 245/50 R20
ANCAP safety rating5 stars (2018 rating year)5 stars (2018 rating year)Not yet ratedNot yet rated
Warranty5 years/unlimited km5 years/unlimited km5 years/unlimited km5 years/unlimited km
Main competitorsToyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia SorentoToyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia SorentoToyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia SorentoToyota Kluger, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Sorento

On the road

On the 300km media preview drive between Canberra and Sydney (the back way), we spent time in a base-model Hyundai Santa Fe on 17-inch wheels with Hankook tyres and a top-end model on 20-inch wheels with Continental tyres.

Both examples were diesel as the petrol versions of the updated Santa Fe have been delayed. However, the diesel is expected to account for seven out of 10 sales of the Santa Fe.

First impressions are that the new, alloy version of the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is a touch perkier than the previous iteration of this engine, despite almost identical output figures. That said, the twin-clutch eight-speed auto could have been a contributing factor, given it responds more quickly once on the move.

The CarAdvice office is divided on the suitability of twin-clutch automatics, in particular on larger vehicles such as this.

This is a good execution (and identical to the same drivetrain in the Kia Sorento, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s twin under the skin), though we didn’t get to sample much stop-start traffic, so we’ll reserve final judgment after some time in the daily grind and having had to park on a hill or make a three-point turn.

On the move, the engine and transmission combination are smooth operators. Efficient, too. Hyundai claims there has been a 19 per cent reduction in consumption from its predecessor. On our mostly open road and freeway driving we saw between 6.9 and 8.0 litres per 100km, which is good for a car of this size and weight.

Road noise was average for the class – based on the roads we sampled – and the suspension recovered well from bumps and thumps. As with the Hyundai Palisade we tested the day before, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a good, comfortable cruiser.

The steering feels well weighted, the brakes feel reassuring, and there’s good visibility all around thanks largely to the decent glass area and wide-view side mirrors.

Colleagues on the preview drive were divided on the two interiors. The base model largely carries over the interior layout of the pre-facelift Santa Fe, and comes with a conventional centre console and automatic gear lever.

The three higher grades come with a 'bridge-style' centre console, which elevates most key controls and replaces the gear lever with buttons.

I liked both, though preferred the conventional automatic gear lever. Perhaps it was familiarity.

The subtle changes to seat materials and better-quality instrument displays and infotainment screens have helped lift the interior presentation.

The usual attributes from the earlier version of the Santa Fe continue, such as plenty of oddment storage in the doors and consoles, a large load area when the third-row seats are not in use – and the overall refinement of the driving experience.

My wish list for any further changes would include the following: add front parking sensors, push-button start, and a power tailgate to the base model (I reckon these items are fast becoming the norm these days), and Hyundai needs to expedite its speed sign recognition tech given how quickly its rivals are rolling it out.

Overall, though, there’s not much to not like about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe update.

Verdict

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe brings worthwhile upgrades to a popular family SUV.

MORE: Santa Fe news and reviews
MORE: Everything Hyundai