Owner Review

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander CRDi (4x4) Review

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After owning our 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Series 2 for a few months now, I feel that I'm in a good position to write an owners review on the pros and cons of this car. With approximately 6,500 km's on the clock, and almost due for it's first scheduled service, I've been extremely happy with the car and there's only been one or 2 minor issues of note.

Being our second Hyundai purchase, I've noticed a Hyundai 'gremlin' that also occasionally appears in our 2012 i30 - whereby the infotainment unit is unresponsive and refuses to power on. It's happened a handful of times over the years in our i30, but it has already happened twice in the 2 months that we've had the Santa Fe. It's not the end of the world, but considering that you don't have access to heater or A/C controls, Sat Nav or music, it can be a pain. It can be remedied fairly easily (by basically getting out of the car, locking it and then unlocking and getting back in) but it's an issue that really shouldn't exist in a series 2 vehicle in my opinion.

Since adding roughly 6,500 kays on the clock, the fuel economy has increased marginally, usually hanging around the 7.5 litres per 100km mark and I expect that it will improve after the first 10,000 kms. I've seen the usage drop into the 6's per 100km on trips (while driving conservatively) exceeding 300 km, which is great considering the weight and size of the car, however it does feel as though the car could benefit from an extra cog or 2 in the transmission. The transmission itself is quite nice - not ZF nice, but it's relatively smooth on upshift and the only gripe I've found is when you manually downshift (the wrong way - ie; back for down) the automatic clutch pack on the second gear is rather tight and causes the car to become unbalanced as you shift to second making it lurch forward. The 2.2 CRDI Engine is a gem, featuring impressive tech like a Variable Geometry Turbo, something that was only seen on the likes of Porsche a few years ago. Towing our boat is a breeze with it.

The ride is generous and mostly supple over correlations and undulations and only feels slightly awkward as you initially start to turn into a sweeping bend. The car briefly feels 'tippy' and you feel as though you're sitting on milk crates until the car settles on the outside tyres. In the corner, once the car's suspension is loaded up, it communicates well and has the slightest hint of understeer built in presumably for safety and to remind you that you're not driving a Ford Fiesta ST! Driving over well travelled (read shocking) Victorian roads, the car absorbs a great amount of road imperfections and small to medium potholes without fuss or intrusion into the cabin. The stock Continental 19 inch tyres on our Highlander are great in the dry, although they don't inspire a massive amount of confidence in the wet, at least not for me anyway.

The interior is spacious and very comfortable on long trips, and the drivers seat offers an impressive amount of adjustment. The memory seating is fantastic, as is the front heated and cooled seats - something that gets used very often in Melbourne's ever changing weather. The infotainment screen is large and easy to read at 8 inches and the Sat Nav is fantastic, offering features not even seen on luxury cars, 3 times the price, such as constantly updated speed limit, and audible / visual notifications of speed cameras and live traffic updates. The second row rear seats are supportive and can easily fit my 6 foot + frame in without me having to open my legs on an angle, or sit awkwardly. The third row is purely for kids - which is a shame considering that in Australia, we only get the 'Sport' or short wheel base platform, which is some 200 + mm shorter that what Hyundai in the the U.S offers. 200 mm extra would be great for long trips and extra cargo space volume when the third row seats are folded, but that's not the only thing we miss out on being such a small market. We also don't get useful features like heated steering wheel, 'Homelink' - a useful option that lets you open your automatic garage door, Bi Xenon Headlights (the standard AU high beams are terrible) and a multi view camera that provides a 360 external top down image of the vehicle when reversing. The inclusion of the full length glass panoramic roof makes the car feel so much more spacious and lightens the otherwise dark interior even when cloudy.


Let's get the bad news out of the way first..

At around $60,000 (Highlander), this car is priced to compete with the likes of the Ford Territory (soon to be extinct), the Toyota Kluger, the Mitsubishi Pajero, possibly the new Mazda CX-9 and of course it's cousin the Kia Sorento. There are of course other 7 seaters but like the Holden Captiva 7, and new Ford Everest, they fall well either side of the price point. The interior fit and finish is very nice, but the use of cheap plastics, especially around the lower interior door panels make it susceptible to scuffs on entry and exit. There is only an auto up/down window feature for the driver's window (my partners i30 has full auto for all windows).

There is no Apple Car Play or Android Auto options on the high end models, nor is there a 'voice activation' button to connect with Siri / Google Now, and I've been told many different stories as to why there is no Apple Car Play in the Highlander from various dealerships, from licensing issues to the fact that the Highlander already has a GPS and that Apple Car Play would conflict with the existing software. A small but valid complaint - especially after driving my partners i30 is that when streaming music over bluetooth in her car, I can manually fast forward a section of a song by holding down the "Up" button on the steering wheel control. That action lets me scan to a portion of the song (or rewind) the track. The same action only skips the track back or forward entirely in the Santa Fe. A small gripe but strange considering that it's a very similar infotainment unit in both cars.

After test driving a Mazda CX-5 prior to our purchase, I did love the 'stop /start' feature in that car and believe that it could have significant fuel efficiency gains. I'd love to see that in a future model. Driving at night, it's very difficult (read almost impossible) to see the controls for the panoramic roof / sun shade controls due to the fact that there is no inbuilt illumination in the controls. Again, a small gripe, but while virtually all of the other buttons are illuminated at night, why not those buttons? Speaking of buttons, can someone tell me why the hell the start button is on the left side in most new cars? If it used an old style key, the ignition barrel would be on the right. Hypothetically, anyone in the passenger seat could reach over and press the start / stop button and shut the car down which could have disastrous effects at 100 kph.

Finally, my last recommendation - after coming from a Holden VE Commodore, is that when it started raining, after the windscreen wipers came on for approximately 30 seconds or more, the headlights would automatically activate. A fantastic safety feature which I think should be mandatory in all modern cars, considering that usually, the lighting and visibility is considerably diminished in bad wet weather. In the case of my Commodore, once the wipers stopped for a certain period, the lights would go off again. It's a feature that I miss, having to manually turn on my 'auto headlights' in the Santa Fe when it's pouring down.

And finally, why doesn't Hyundai offer the same warranty as Kia?? Kia is owned by Hyundai, but Hyundai only offers a 5 year warranty compared to Kia's 7 year warranty for the equivalent car that has the same running gear. Not really good enough for Hyundai in my opinion.


It's definitely not all bad..

The things that I love about this car are its styling, tech, economy and value for money. It has a tonne of features that have really made the Santa Fe make (some of) its competitors look pale in comparison. Buying a car normally sees the owner having that vehicle for 5 plus years, and servicing and running costs all become part of the purchase decision. I love that this car has a lifetime scheduled service plan, a 5 year (cough should be 7) unlimited km warranty, and is very economical to run - especially now that diesel is hovering around $1.00 to $1.10 (Victoria).

I love the little things, like the memory seating that slides right back when you open the door to allow the maximum space for your legs on entry. I love the amount of customisation with the various driving aids and safety features. I love how there is an economy mode which actually noticeably improves your range, and a sport mode which gives you a little extra punch while towing.

The little things like the vanity mirrors and lights and the pull up shades on the second row windows are very much appreciated by my kids on sunny days. The powered and auto tail gate is not even a gimmick and is something that I've used many times. I love how the mirrors fold in when you lock the car, not only preventing an accidental clip in the car park, but provides a visual cue to confirm that your doors are locked. Mostly, I love the Smart Cruise Control especially in slow to stop start traffic.

There are many more features that make this a fantastic car - especially for the money, and I look forward to many more years of hassle free driving in our Santa Fe. If you're considering an awesome 7 seater 'soft roader' SUV then I'd highly recommend checking out the Hyundai Santa Fe!