Hello Hybrid Hyundai

by Petrol Mum
Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander front quarter

The Santa Fe Hybrid has joined the Australian line up of this popular Hyundai SUV delivering a third powertrain choice to the range. The hybrid engine is available in the Elite and Highlander trim only and I spent some time in the top spec Highlander to see how it suited my family.

The petrol/electric Santa Fe Hybrid provides families with a 7-seat SUV that uses less petrol, while still offering all-wheel-drive capability. Its powertrain combines a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine with a 44.2kW electric motor, which draws power from a 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery that recharges while you are driving. The turbo petrol + electric hybrid system delivers a combined output of 169kW of power and 350Nm of torque.

Santa Fe features a Drive Mode system with selection between Sport, Eco and Smart modes made by the dash mounted dial. Terrain mode is also available for Snow, Mud and Sand driving conditions. Shift-by-Wire technology replaces a conventional gear lever with gear-selection pushbuttons on the centre console, and plastic wheel-mounted paddle shifter for ‘manually’ changing gear in the six-speed automatic transmission.

The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster display varies depending on the drive mode selected and the head-up display provides info in the driver’s line of sight so you can keep your eyes on the road. For convenience the Santa Fe Highlander has auto dusk sensing headlights, high beam assist, and rain sensing wipers. I really like that when I changed the setting on the lights or wipers a message displayed on the driver’s dash to indicate what mode I had chosen.

I spent the majority of my time driving in Eco mode and I did not feel that the Santa Fe lacked any performance or ride comfort by doing so. At no point did the hybrid battery go completely flat and I almost matched the official combined fuel economy of 6.0L/100km, using just 6.1L/100km. This is less fuel than the 9.8L/100km that I used when I drove the Santa Fe Highlander powered by the petrol V6 engine.

All Santa Fe models come with a standard suite of Hyundai SmartSense driver assistance including Forward collision avoidance assist, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist – Rear, Lane Following Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross-traffic Collision-avoidance Assist, and adaptive cruise control. Passive safety includes dual frontal airbags, side chest-protecting and side head-protecting airbags (curtains). The Highlander also gets Parking Collision-avoidance Assist – Reverse, Blind-Spot View Monitor displayed on the dash when you indicate and Surround View Monitor with front and rear parking sensors. The current Hyundai Santa Fe range comes with a 5-star ANCAP (2018) safety rating; however, Hybrid variants have not been assessed and are unrated.

For the interior the range-topping Highlander model gains Nappa leather upholstery (this colour is called Camel), heated and ventilated front seats with Integrated Memory System for the driver (two positions can be saved), a heated steering wheel, and a panoramic glass sunroof that opens about half way across the roof.

Both front seats have power adjustment for recline, forward/back and seat height front and rear, with the driver’s seat getting additional power adjustment for front leg extension and 4-way lumbar support. The driver can also adjust the recline and move the passenger seat forward and back using the buttons driver’s side of the passenger seat. The front seat heating was good and although the cooled seats also worked well, the operation of this was a bit noisy.  

The Santa Fe dash is perfect for those people who love the tactile presence of buttons and dials. But one thing I discovered was that the dials for the volume and seek/track were mislabelled and so when you wanted to adjust the volume you actually changed the radio station. On the upside the Santa Fe Highlander does have a clever, vertical wireless charging pouch for compatible phones in the centre console, but a child might think it’s funny to put keys in this pouch and it would be difficult to retrieve them!

For your beverages there are awkwardly shaped drink bottle holders in the front door cubbies and two cup holders in the centre console. One cup holder higher than the other to make it easier to lift out your coffee cup and rubber mats in their bases would make it easier to clean-up spills.

A 10.25-inch touch-screen offers a choice of panoramic map view, or split-screen navigation/audio display. Media sources available include DAB/FM, AM radio, Bluetooth, USB music, USB video and Sounds of Nature. There is even a button you can press called ‘Driver Talk’ so you can speak to the passengers in the rear seats without the need to yell.

Voice control can be used for the infotainment system when Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is connected via a USB cord. For this there is one USB-A port adjacent to the cup holder and another under the front of the centre console there on a ledge along with a 12V outlet.

For younger second row passengers there are two ISOFIX/three child seat restraint points and manual blinds on the windows to protect little eyes. ANCAP tests for the installation of typical child restraints available in Australia and New Zealand showed GOOD results for those positions where a top tether anchorage is provided. The 40:60 split folding second row seats have manual recline and forward/back adjustment with the two outer seats also being heated in the Highlander spec Santa Fe.

The centre seat can be folded down as an arm rest with three rigid cup holder in it and the drink bottle storage in the door cubbies would fit smaller water bottles only. Rear passengers get two central air vents with individual direction and on/off controls and below the vents there are two USB-A ports. There are mats on each side of the floor, but not one over the transmission tunnel even though it is not very high.

In a Hyundai-first, a six-seater option is now offered exclusively with the flagship Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander and features second-row captain’s seats that provide superb comfort as well as additional interior space, while making it easy to walk through to the third row.

To access the third row seats in this seven-seat Santa Fe there is a one-touch ‘Walk-in’ switch on the kerb side that eliminates the need to manually flip and slide the second-row seatback. The head and leg room available in the third row seats was tight for me and adults would only want to sit here for a short amount of time. There are also no child seat restraint points fitted in the third row, so they would be best used by tween-sized children. Passengers can exit the third row by pressing the button on the shoulder of the second row seats.

Third row passengers get an air vent on each side of the vehicle with a slim rigid drink holder and phone cubby in each of the wheel arches. On the driver’s side of the Santa Fe there is one USB-A port and separate air speed control for the third row passengers. Something I have never been to work out though is how the temperature is set for these vents as they only ever seem to blow cold air.

One thing you may want to consider if the third row was to be used all of the time is what car seat, if any, can be fitted to the kerb side second row seat as it may not fully slide forward if there is a car seat on it. Also, there is no mat on the third row floor so the carpet may get worn and be harder to vacuum clean.

The Highlander gets a gesture open only boot or you can open/close the boot lid by pressing the button under the tailgate, on the key fob or in the cabin. With the third row seats in use there is just enough boot space for school bags or if you manually lower the 50:50 split folding third row seats the boot is large enough for the weekly shop or a pram and a small shop. There are four plastic tie down points in the boot with two hooks, one light and one 12V outlet. The full-size spare tyre is located under the rear of the vehicle.

I liked the carpet mat that covers the boot floor and how it can be folded up and kept in place when the third row seats are in use. You can also lower the second row seats using a button in the boot to create an almost completely flat cargo area. If you are planning to tow with the Santa Fe it is also worth noting that the Hybrid has a reduced braked towing capacity of 1650kg down from 2,500kg.

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 Hybrid requires a service every 10,000km or once a year, whichever comes first. An upfront service plan can be purchased for three, four or five years costing up to $2,295 for 5 years of scheduled maintenance services up to 50,000km.

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander side view

The Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Highlander starts at $69,550 excluding on-road costs and as tested with premium paint ($695), this colour is Magnetic Force, and Camel interior ($295) this Santa Fe Hybrid is $70,540 excluding on-road costs. Visit your preferred Hyundai dealer for more information or build and price your Santa Fe Hybrid online.

Efficient hybrid engineNo ANCAP assessment and unrated
Gesture open bootMislabelled volume/seek dials
Surround view reversing cameraOnly cold air blows from third row air vents

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.

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