The big and bold Hyundai Santa Fe

by Petrol Mum

The Hyundai Santa Fe has been upgraded and restyled for 2021 with four variants now available in the model line-up. The new mature look is thanks to the dark chrome grille inserts and front LED lighting with split T-shaped driving lights that connect down from the upper stack combined with a distinctive alloy wheels.

Each variant of this big seven-seat SUV is available with either a 3.5-litre petrol V6 or a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, with the petrol being front-wheel drive and the diesel all-wheel drive. I recently spent the week in the top-of-the-line Highlander with the petrol engine. This SUV boasts loads of interior space and if you tow a caravan, you will be interested to know that the Santa Fe range now has a 2,500kg braked towing capacity and an upgraded 200kg tow-ball down weight that eliminates the previous need to upgrade the rear suspension coil springs for heavy-duty applications.

The 2021 Santa Fe features an extensive standard suite of advanced Hyundai SmartSense technologies. All models get Forward Collision-avoidance Assist – Junction Turning, Blind-Spot Collision-avoidance Assist – Rear, Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist (Line/Road edge), Rear Cross-traffic Collision- avoidance Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. Highlander also gets Parking Collision-avoidance Assist-Reverse and the Blind-Spot View Monitor. ANCAP tests of the autonomous emergency braking system showed GOOD performance in highway speed scenarios with collisions avoided or mitigated in most scenarios. Tests of lane support system functionality showed GOOD performance with an overall score of 78%. My feelings were that the steering assist on the Santa Fe works well for highway driving, but is not as refined as those systems on more expensive vehicles.

All models in the Santa Fe range have a 5-star ANCAP (2018) safety rating with an Adult Occupant Protection score of 35.9 out of 38 (94%) and a Child Occupant Protection score of 42.2 out of 49 (86%). Passive protection includes dual frontal airbags, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting airbags (curtains). Other notable safety features include the 360o view reversing camera with front and rear sensors (the graphic for sensors appears on the driver’s instrument display not the main screen), auto wipers, auto headlights and high beam assist.

The 3.5-litre petrol engine develops 200kW and 331Nm, and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The naturally aspirated V6 offers adequate acceleration with an official combined fuel consumption of 10.5L/100km and for my week I used just 9.8L/100km.The Highlander utilises Shift-by-Wire technology to replace a conventional gear lever, meaning you select gears via the gear-selection pushbuttons at the front of the centre console. There are four drive modes to choose from being Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart with the latter employing a learning algorithm that automatically adjusts gearshift intervals based on your recent driving patterns.

Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander V6 Petrol front seats

The Highlander’s cabin is quiet, spacious and feels somewhat luxurious thanks to the Nappa leather upholstery and quilted stitching on the upper portion of the seats. Both front seats are heated and cooled and like most vehicles the heating works well, but the cooling is just okay. They also both have power adjustment for recline, forward/back and front and rear seat cushion height adjustment. Plus, the driver’s seat has additional 4-way lumbar adjustment, powered front seat extension and two memory positions. A handy aspect of the front seats is the driver can move the passenger seat forward/back and adjust the recline using buttons on the right-hand side of the passenger seat.

A feature exclusive to the Highlander Santa Fe is the 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster used for the driver’s dash. This incorporates the Blind-Spot View Monitor, which projects a live video from the side of your Santa Fe when you indicate either left or right. The cluster design varies depending on the drive mode you select and the centre part of the dash can be configured to display various information. In addition to this you also get a head-up display that projects information such as you speed directly on the windscreen in front of the driver.

The layout of the steering wheel buttons is logical, but like most other car manufacturers the image used to designate the voice control is a masculine-looking silhouette. The other problem with voice control on Hyundai vehicles is it only operates when Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is connected. As the driver you will also appreciate having a heated steering wheel on those early starts in winter.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard across the Santa Fe range along with wireless smartphone charging for compatible devices. Hyundai have incorporated the charging nicely as a slot that you place your phone in vertically next to the cup holder in the centre console. There is a flip up lid in front of the cup holder with another cup holder and a USB port next to it. Underneath the front of the centre console is large ledge area with another USB port and 12V outlet. And in the store cubbies there is space for a large drink bottle and also a slot big enough for a small laptop or tablet to be stowed.

The high-mounted 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen incorporates satellite navigation, vehicle controls such as ambient lighting and access to media sources. These include DAB+/FM, which has patchy reception when you move away from built up urban areas, but thankfully you other options include Bluetooth, USB music, USB video, AM, Sounds of Nature and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. All of which can be enjoyed on the 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

The second row of seats have a 40:60 split fold that is designed to make it easier for third row passengers to alight from the footpath side of the vehicle by sliding the seat forward using a button on the shoulder of the second row seat to release it. The gap that opens up is large enough for adult-sized people to step into the third row.

This is a moot point however because adults don’t actually fit in the third row seats with both head and leg room limited. The third row seats also do not have any child seat restraint points, so these seats would only be useful for tween-sized children. There are slim drink bottle holders and a storage cubby located in the top of the wheel arches and one USB port located on the right-hand side of the vehicle. There is no removable mat across the third row foot well either, so it may be harder to keep clean.

Third row passengers do get air vents next to the seats but there is no temperature control for the third row climate system and it only blows cold air from what I could tell. Also, the speed control for second row passengers is controlled from the third row climate system, so if there is no one using those seats the air speed can’t be adjusted. For me this whole second/third row climate system in the Santa Fe needs a complete re-think. 

Third row passengers can exit by pressing the button on top of the shoulder of the second row seat and it slides forward. The issue to consider with the second row is if there is a car seat on the passenger side then it may be difficult to fold the seat forward enough to access the third row? There are two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points fitted to the second row, but the width of the Santa Fe may limit how many car seats can be used.

With the third row seats in use there is just leg room for adults to fit in the second row, but with the second row seats fully back there is ample leg room for adults, but not a great deal of headroom. For older children or adults using the second row there are heated outboard seats and the centre seat can be folded down as an arm rest with three rigid drink bottle holders in the front of it. There are also large drink bottle storage cubbies in the doors and manual blinds on the windows to protect small children from the glare of the sun. There are carpet mats in the second row foot well, but no mat over the transmission tunnel so this carpet may get worn over time from children clambering over it.  

The Highlander’s power operated boot has gesture open, but no gesture close or you open/close using the button under the boot lid, on the key fob or in the cabin at the front of the SUV. There is a carpet mat that covers the boot floor and when the third row seats are in use this folds up neatly into the space available, which is just large enough for five school bags to fit in the space.

The third row seats have a 50:50 split fold mechanism that can be raised and lowered manually- using the straps on the back of the seats. With these laid flat the boot is quite large and would most likely fit a pram and the weekly shop. There are four tie down points, two hooks and one 12V outlet in the boot area and to keep the seat belts from getting in your way there are hooks on the side of the cabin to secure them. There is a cargo cover that is neatly stowed under the boot floor and the full-size spare tyre is located under the rear of the SUV. If you need the entire cabin as cargo space the second row seats can be folded down using the buttons in the boot, but it is worth noting that they do not lie completely flat when lowered down.

The Hyundai iCare program offers owner benefits including; Lifetime Service Plan, 5 Year Unlimited Km Warranty, complimentary Roadside Assist for 12 months on new vehicles, 1,500km complimentary first service, a dedicated Customer Care Centre, and myHyundai – an exclusive owner website. When servicing with Hyundai, customers will also receive a Roadside Support Plan for up to 10 years, a 10 Year Sat Nav Update Plan, and more. The Santa Fe requires a service every 15,000km or once a year, whichever comes first and the first five services cost $399 each, so a total of $1,995 for the first five years of ownership.

The bold statements made by the Santa Fe’s exterior are matched by the interior as well and you will feel like you are living the high life when you drive the Santa Fe. The Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander with the V6 petrol engine starts at $61,700 plus dealer delivery dealer delivery and premium paint is an extra $695 (this colour is Rain Forest). Visit your preferred Hyundai dealer for more information about the new Santa Fe range or configure your Santa Fe online now.

Pros and Cons of the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander V6 petrol

Nappa leather upholsteryThe second/third row climate control system is not user friendly
Quiet cabinOnly ‘tween-size’ people can use the third row seats
The vertical wireless phone charging slotPatchy DAB reception away from urban areas

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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