Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi 2012 Review

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite CRDi 2012 Review

This is the big guy of the Hyundai range: a powerful SUV that aims to give seven occupants a swift and comfortable journey. Leather heated seats, heated steering wheel, rear air conditioning, dual climate control air con in the front, and centre console cooler box help keep the vehicle’s interior at the perfect temperature. There’s even a ‘cluster ioniser’, whatever that is.

The inside is appointed tastefully. Faux carbon fibre dashboard inserts would usually be dismissed as a little tacky because this isn’t Formula 1, but in the Santa Fe they seem perfectly natural. Four LCDs display air conditioning, stereo, clock and trip computer. The driving position is

excellent – very adjustable with the electric seats, and passenger comfort is superb in the second row.

As is the norm with seven-seat SUVs, once those rear seats are up there’s very little actual boot space. The rear seats are very simple to pull up into place (unlike, for example, with a Mitsubishi Outlander), and they provide enough legroom for kids up to about 13 and vertically challenged adults.

The sizable mass (1900kg kerb weight) is propelled forth by Hyundai’s clever 2.2-litre R Diesel with electronic variable geometry turbo). 145kW and 436Nm of torque are enough to give wheelspin to the front wheels in the dry (despite it being all-wheel drive). This engine is smart enough to help you achieve a quoted combined fuel consumption of 7.5l/100km. That’s low for an SUV, but also impractical because you will annoy other drivers as you gingerly pull away from the lights trying to keep the average down. 8-9l/100km is more realistic in everyday driving.

The engine is a four-cylinder all-aluminium block and cylinder heat with chain driven dual overhead camshafts operating four valves per cylinder. Fuel is supplied using a Bosch-derived third-generation common rail direct injection (hence CRDi). To achieve the Euro 5 emissions standard the R is fitted with a close-coupled diesel particulate filter plus exhaust gas recirculation with bypass valve. It helps keep CO2 emissions under 200g/km.

The Santa Fe is a smart-looking vehicle. Our test car was fitted with the optional roof rack and towbar. The side features strong, simple lines that emanate from curves that start at the lower air intake at the front. Sculptured lines along the bonnet begin at the corners of the redesigned radiator grille and flow towards the A-pillar. At the back there’s a new spoiler and dual exhausts. Both front and rear get fog lights.

With its AWD capability this sports utility vehicle actually does have some serious utility. It comes with a hill descent mode, underbody skid plate and lockable differential to help you in more challenging situations. If you push it beyond its limits there is a rollover sensor which will fire the dual front-to-rear curtain airbags. There are four other airbags, too, in the event of other types of collisions, plus ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and electronic stability programme to help you avoid those scenarios.

Despite being large the Santa Fe is simple to manoeuvre with nicely balanced steering, reversing sensors and a reversing camera located within the rear view mirror. Large side mirrors give good visibility of other traffic, and on the inside there’s a ‘conversation mirror’ so that you can make eye contact with all seating rows.

The Santa Fe is very pleasant to drive long distances, but there are some problems I’d like to see addressed. There is no Bluetooth phone compatibility or satellite navigation. If you want either of these you will need a separate device and that will probably need to be plugged into the auxiliary power socket. But there’s only one socket in the front, so you won’t be able to use both at the same time (unless the included cigarette lighter socket also functions as a power socket).

Another minor niggle is that there’s enough torque to overwhelm the front wheels before the back wheels have figured out what’s going on. This makes taking off at a junction in the wet an exercise in dainty throttle control as the turbo comes on boost. The Santa Fe predominantly drives through the front wheels with torque only be transferred as is required.

But a major niggle (for me, anyway) is that there is no boot blind/cargo screen. We all know that you can’t leave anything in view in your car these days without some thieving cretin helping himself. The tinted glass is good enough that if you have a small, fairly flat item, like a laptop bag, you can conceal it under the rear carpet, but that’s just annoying.

In conclusion, if it wasn’t for the lack of a boot blind I could live with the Hyundai Santa Fe seven seater. However, I don’t need seven seats because I could quite easily manage with a Lotus Elise, therefore I would get the five-seater instead which does come with a way of hiding what’s in the boot. Problem solved. Hyundai isn’t alone in this issue as some of the other seven-seat SUVs on the market don’t have a cargo blind either. As a five-seat SUV the Santa Fe should be a comfortable and convenient way of transporting your progeny to soccer practice; you’ll just have to leave their mates at home. As a seven-seater, it’s got one critical flaw for me.

There’s one accolade I’d like to bestow on this Santa Fe and that is one of value for money. My first passenger asked me how much the Santa Fe costs. I hadn’t looked at the price list and my guess to her was probably around sixty-five to seventy grand. To find out it was only $60,990 was a nice surprise. I shouldn’t have been surprised, though, as currently Hyundai is offering some of the best value for money in most of the vehicle segments it operates in.

Price: $60,990


  • Comfortable and spacious
  • Plenty of torque
  • Heated steering wheel was awesome for winter
  • Good value


  • No Bluetooth
  • Easy wheelspin
  • No boot blind

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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