The Hyundai Santa Fe in seven-seat form should make it the ideal SUV for a large family. Erin Baker is testing a diesel version to find out
Our car: 2.2 CRDi Premium SE List price when new: £39,040 Price as tested: £39,730 Official fuel economy: 42.8mpg (EU Combined)
July 25th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 34.3mpg
The Santa Fe is back, a couple of weeks after it went into surgery for some mysterious dents on the offside doors. It' come back, not only mended, but oh so clean.
I hd no idea just how unsanitary we had made the inside of the poor old seven-seater, but it's scrubbed up well.
I was reminded this week, on a motorway journey, just how off-putting the Hyundai stnav can be. I've written in the past about how simple and easy the functionality of the system is but the colours are all the wrong way round. In this country, we're used to red meaning danger, or at the very least bad news, and yellow less so. But in South Korea it is presumably the other way round: in their normal states, the Hyundai satnav motorways are bordered red. Should a traffic jam arise, they change from red to yellow, signalling congestion. It's confusing.
Another niggle: should you wish to use the Bluetooth to call someone in-car, you can look under last numbers dialled on the touchscreen or use the alphabet search function. But if you were trying to call, for example, Sally, and put in an S to search, it brings up all the names with an S in them, instead of those names beginning with an S. And that, it transpires, is quite a lot in my phone book.
Still, it's not a bad report on a car when these are the burning issues of the day. I just folded down both rows of rear seats and loaded three bikes into the back, which wasn't bad going.
And that fuel consumption keeps going down, which is as it should be. The heady heights of 34mpg - I never thought I'd see it.
June 20th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 36.4mpg
With 5,000 miles under its belt, the 2.2-litre diesel in the Santa Fe appears finally to have woken up. It's gone from averaging 32mpg on motorway runs to 36mpg. In town, it's still averaging 34mpg versus 31mpg not so long ago.
This is all based on the car's own computer, resetting the screen every time I fill the tank. It may not be the most scientific measure but, whichever way you look at it, the car is using considerably less fuel than a fortnight ago. The read-out is far closer to what Hyundai told me to expect - at least 35mpg - and far closer to the 38-40mpg I thought I'd get. I haven't changed my driving style or lightened the car - we took five boys to a party at the weekend - so can only assume it's taken 5,000 miles for the engine to bed in.
Meanwhile, Hyundai is collecting the car next week to repair the two mysterious dings on the offside doors, where the panels are dented but the paintwork isn't scratched or broken. Now I've had it cleaned (see last week), it's once again a handsome SUV.
The same can't be said for the interior, which looks like someone has pebble-dashed it with mud and crisps. Might need to do something about that before Hyundai comes for it.
June 12th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 32.1mpg
First prang on the Santa Fe. There are two dents alongside the driver's side of the car, at the bottom of each door, on the pavement side. No scratch or broken paintwork, just two dents caused overnight while it was parked on my road. It looks like something like a bike was dropped against it.
I've contacted Hyundai but as the paintwork's not broken, I figure it poses no immediate problem.
I only spotted the second dent when I treated the Santa Fe to a car wash this week. That doesn't sound momentous, but it is: I haven't been through a car wash in 20 years because I'm scared stiff of them. Try not to laugh; I can't really explain it other than it's an experience combining my two worst fears – claustrophobia and fear of drowning. I know... drowning in a car wash: ha ha ha. But there it is. Those brushes look so menacing...
Still, the car has been getting positively fetid of late and my four year old son nearly wet his pants with excitement when I stupidly pointed out the supermarket carwash, so I took a deep breath and we put the Hyundai through it. It was OK (faking bravery actually works sometimes) and only cost 3.
Now it's clean, I've remembered what a good-looking SUV it is, especially compared to its awkward predecessor.
June 5th, 2017
The Santa Fe 2.2 diesel is not a car that immediately endears itself to the owner - slow, sluggish power delivery and a miserly 32mpg doesn't feel like the purchase one always desired. But it's weird - we've had it as the family car for a few months now and, after testing and driving various more powerful, more luxurious cars, it's the one I always come back to and breathe a sigh of relief.
It's remarkably comfy for a start - I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT last week which is ridiculously quick, but it also has a ridiculously thick, uncomfortable steering wheel and a huge boot where a third row of seats would have been preferable for our family. The Santa Fe, on the other hand, has a delightfully thin steering wheel, and soaks up people and rubbish in spadefuls. It also has wheels that you don't feel scared stiff of scuffing, unlike the bling stuff on the SRT.
In this hot weather, we've discovered the separate button for air-conditioning for the rear, and the third row of seats gets its own side vents and controls (there are also heated rear seats but seeing as all four are in child seats, it's lost on us). The four boys were happy as Larry venturing to Bodiam Castle at the weekend with vents open, sunroof back and windows down.
I can also confirm that the boot space available when the third row of seats is up holds precisely three full bags of supermarket shopping, two footballs and two sleeping bags tucked down the sides where the third row doesn't quite meet the sides of the car. That's a more useful measure than the industry "litres" measurement.
May 30th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 33.2mpg
The Santa Fe has an automatic parking function, denoted by a button near the gear lever. Lots of cars provide similar systems these days: my friend has a Kia Sportage and swears by his self-parking system to save him from embarrassing himself because he's such a poor parker.
But I've always prided myself on my parallel parking, and so have made it a point of principle so far not to employ the system in the Santa Fe. Plus, I live on a road with parking only down one side, normally the right, and the Santa Fe likes to look for spaces on the left.
But, in the name of investigative journalism, I tried it out last week, grumbling all the way.
It found a space on the left of a wide, quiet residential street, or, rather, I saw a space as I drove past, stopped the car, reversed it, then pressed the button like I hadn't seen the space. The car spotted it and flashed a sign in the driver display alerting me. I put the car into reverse, took my hands off the wheel and eased off the brake pedal. There was a lot of frantic steering-wheel spin one way, then the other (it was quite a big space; I wouldn't have been twiddling the wheel quite so desperately, I thought disparagingly).
Rear in, I shifted to Drive and the car tucked its front end in, then told me it was done.
I stepped out to admire its handy work. Not bad, but I would genuinely have done better and with less fuss - the front nearside wheel was nicely aligned with the kerb but the rear wheel was a good few inches out.
May 23rd, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 32.3mpg
We've been caught up in the spirit of the Chelsea Flower Show this week, with visits to the garden centre for plants to sit prettily on top of our plastic grass... With four boys in the car utilising all three rows of seats, there's still room for four boxes of bedding plants in the remaining space - or two boxes and one four-year-old, as the picture will attest.
Despite having used plastic sheeting, the poor Santa Fe is in need of another spring clean. Luckily, that's what boys are for.
Having unloaded boys and plants on Saturday, I dropped the seats flat (the third row have easily accessible levers in the seat backs, and the second row have levers by the seat squabs that slightly lift and slide the seats before they fold over. You don't need muscle power, thankfully. The result is a flat and huge floor space) and bunged the bike in the boot: I dream about a house with a driveway but in the meantime, with one residents' parking permit and lots of tests cars coming and going, the Santa Fe has nominated itself as the car that we leave a mile away on occasion, where there's glorious acres of free parking, and I can cycle back home.
Poor old car; it's rapidly becoming the dependable, dirty workhorse that the family increasingly can't do without.
May 8th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 32.2mpg
I've been looking at the options list on the Santa Fe this week. The model starts at £32,545, and ours is £39,730. The only "option" listed on the sheet of our car is metallic/pearl paint at £690, but that's because much of what is standard on our car comes with the higher Premium SE trim level, which we chose.
Premium SE offers the following over the Premium spec as standard: 19in alloys, blind spot warning, electric driver's and passenger's seat and mirrors which have puddle lighting and power folding, headlight washers, heated steering wheel, xenon headlights with adaptive beam, keyless entry and start-stop button, lane departure warning system, parking assist, rear cross traffic alert, rear door blinds, electric tailgate, panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats.
If you have Premium SE, you have the seven-seat configuration: Premium offers you five or seven.
Worth it? I'd have to say yes, if only for the heated steering wheel - it's May and I've still got it on; it's bliss. But seriously, some extras have proved their worth beyond doubt: it's a big car and I live in a busy town full of children, traffic, bikes, the elderly, and the rear cross traffic alert has been brilliant, pinging furiously when I can't see anything behind the C-pillar, to alert me to a car turning into the carpark.
The keyless entry is also invaluable with armfuls of children: some weeks I've gone days never actually setting eyes on the key fob; the car mirrors unfold themselves as you approach and you simply press a button on the handle to unlock all four doors.
The lane-departure warning system annoys me, as most similar systems do, with its loud beeping every time I change lanes (I tidily prefer the ones that buzz the steering wheel, but all systems are tiresome). The rear door blinds are a big no - the children spend the whole time trying to lift them, only for them to clatter loudly back down. The parking assist - press the button and the car will scan the left hand side of the road for a suitable space - is a waste of time if you ask me, but that's only because I'm an excellent parker and all the spaces on my road are on the right hand side. The electric tailgate is again a lifesaver when you have your hands full, and it's a big piece of metal to lift for a weedy mum like me. And the ventilated seats? I'll let you know when it warms up....
May 2nd, 2017
Fuel economy this week:32.3mpg
Been pottering around town this week... in a McLaren 570GT, for the most part. Lovely car, obviously, and yet, I must be getting old. Last week I had a Caterham Seven Sprint (I know, it's been a good month), but both times, a little part of me yearned to make my trips in the Santa Fe. It has been sitting on my road, waiting loyally for the return of its hectic, loud, mostly muddy passengers, and I obliged at the weekend, and what a relief it was.
For a start no one hates you in a Santa Fe; others drivers let you out of junctions with barely a murmur. It's a good-looking, large SUV, but it's not ostentatious; not in south-west London, anyway, where we are constantly the poor relation to Volvo XC90s, Range Rover Sports, BMW X5s and so on.
And yet - ha, ha, ha - our test car cost just over £30,000, so probably half the price of yours, and I've got two more seats than most of you.
Also, it was nice to regain the higher ground, if not morally, then physically, with the raised ride height of an SUV. I really did love that McLaren, and the Sprint, but my goodness, how nice to be on a motorway and seeing over the roofs of other cars, rather than staring at their dirty underbellies. It was also quieter, more comfortable, warmer and with a better sound system (did I mention before how good Hyundai's standard sound systems are?).
Told you, I'm getting old.
April 25th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 32.2mpg
Here I am, rattling on each week about how our Santa Fe 2.2 diesel copes with the M25, speed humps or hills, and here's Sir Ernest Shackleton's great grandson, who returned from driving the same car across the Antarctic for 30 days at the end of last year.
I say the same car... obviously there were a few minor alterations: larger, low-pressure tyres, a 250-litre fuel tank (no comment), modified suspension and a pre-heater for the cold. But, impressively, that was pretty much it in the way of modifications. Patrick Bergel, Shackleton's great grandson, drove his seven-seater Santa Fe from Union Camp to McMurdo and back again.
I, on the other hand, have recently completed a journey in the Santa Fe much more arduous: driving all four boys to Drusillias adventure park near Eastbourne during the Easter school holidays. I'd like to have seen Bergel attempt that, or Shackleton, for that matter. They'd both have given up an hour in. It takes real endurance to sit inside an SUV that has one boy kicking the back of your seat, another in the third row yelling "Mummy? Mummy?" non-stop for an hour and a half. And all four want a different song playing through the iPhone SUB connection.
Speaking of which, for the last two weeks the Santa Fe has refused to let me select any music from my iPhone via the touchscreen when the phone's been plugged in. I was about to write about it, but it's started behaving again, and I've got a feeling it, er, might be my iPhone that's to blame. Or it's owner's lack of technical prowess....
April 18th, 2017
Economy this week: 32.7mpg
I sat in the back of the Santa Fe for the first time this week. That's something that test drivers usually do, to see how much room there is in the rear, but how many owners have never been back seat passengers in their own cars? You should try it - you'll discover all sorts of hidden delights.
For example, I hadn't realised that the second row of seats in our seven-seater are heated. The kids hadn't said anything because all four boys are still on booster or child seats, so it's a bit redundant.
And there are ventilation controls in both the second and third rows, which is handy for the boys when they get car sick - my six-year-old is developing a worrying tendency to get nauseous.
The panoramic sunroof is great in the rear, too - it makes such a difference being able to see a huge stretch of sky, both from an entertainment point of view and, my son confirms, from a travel sickness point of view. It would now be an option I wouldn't be without, whereas I used to scorn the apparent uselessness of it.
There's also an impressive amount of legroom for the second row of passengers, even with a couple of 6ft adults in the front seats, and three adults can sit comfortably across the middle row - I sat between my two sons in their child seats, and was comfortable. The third row is obviously more cramped but I could still sit in there, and I'm 5ft 6in.
Just the fuel consumption that's continuing to disappoint, then.
April 14th, 2017
Economy this week: 32.3mpg
Call me a journalist with no sense of investigation whatever, but I'm continuing to discover useful buttons on the Santa Fe. Last week it was the heated steering wheel function - just in time for unseasonably warm weather. This week, I stumbled across the "Mode" button to the right of the steering wheel to switch between Standard, Eco and Sport driving modes.
The Eco mode, while it may be useful to get more than the very disappointing 32mpg I'm getting in Combined conditions, turns this seven-seater SUV, when laden, into a workhorse than appears to shun work of any description. I'd avoid it like the plague.
The Sport function, however, doesn't seem to put more of a dent in the mpg figure, but sharpens the car's responses pleasingly, and I might just leave it there for a while. The engine maintains higher revs for longer, and the auto transmission gets shifting a fraction quicker.
The panoramic sunroof has been much appreciated this week, with clear blue skies and bored children on long journeys in two rows of rear seats. We got some alarming views of the underbelly of planes landing at Heathrow, and there's something satisfyingly old-school about operating a sunroof to let the rear of the car bathe in fresh air and warm spring rays.
Mind you, it being only April, I'm sure the heated steering wheel will come in handy again soon.
April 10th, 2017
Economy this week: 32.8mpg
I'm still discovering functions on the Santa Fe. It's a test driver's nightmare - drive this merely for a day, and you'll be hunting for various buttons without luck. The fuel-cap release button is normally the one to catch out roadtesters - you stop to refuel an unfamiliar car, without having first ascertained the location of the release button.
I once ran out of fuel in a Honda S2000 because I couldn't find the release toggle (it was in the driver's door sill, obviously). Anyway, the Hyundai's is situated on the driver's door panel, slightly out of sight.
I'd also been bemoaning the lack of a heated steering wheel for the last month or so. Now it's 17 degrees and sunny, I have accidentally located it, by sitting in the passenger seat and staring absent-mindedly at the steering column, behind the steering wheel. Bingo. A tiny little black button with the requisite graphic on it.
Now I'm waiting for the cold weather to return.
March 29th, 2017
Economy this week: 33mpg
The Santa Fe provides the perfect example of where a road tester's opinion might differ from an owner's. Take the Hyundai SUV's suspension. A road tester is never going to give this set-up five stars: it's soft, there's quite a lot of lateral roll (more so than that of its competitors, and that's allowing for the greater wheel travel of an SUV), and it leads to fairly indirect handling versus that of, say, a BMW X5.
But then, no road tester is the presumed end user: a family of adults, the young and the old. And my family loves the ride of this car. It's Tigger-ish, riding joyfully down the road on its springs, gathering itself, collecting the rebound through forgiving dampers, and while that might not make for a decent ride and handling by petrolhead standards, it's a decent ride for your normal passenger.
It's compliant enough for a normal motorist not to notice anything amiss and, actually, I'd choose this chassis over that of the new 48v architecture that the Bentley Bentayga and Audi SQ7 sit on, with its almost complete absence of lateral roll, which made me feel car sick.
So there you have it. Words I thought I'd never utter: I'd choose a Santa Fe over a Bentayga.
March 22nd, 2017
Economy this week: 32mpg
I've done two tanks from empty to brimmed and we're holding fast at 32mpg on a mixture of urban and motorway driving, so we'll leave the fuel consumption there and move on to more interesting things.
Like the santnav. Hyundai's satnav proves that not all progress is a good thing. For it's a pretty old-looking affair - the graphics aren't that snazzy, the screen isn't a touchscreen and it's not that large.
But simplicity is key to its success. You use a knob to zoom in and out which is actually more effective than trying to swipe the screen while the car is moving; the mute function for the voice guidance isn't hidden; the ability to type in a postcode is obvious, instead of hunting through three different settings, and it doesn't insist on splitting the screen with pointless information on upcoming junctions when you haven't even entered a route (I know on other systems, you can turn that function off, but boy does it take some searching and scratching around in the deep recesses of the system sometimes).
So we're warming to the Santa Fe. I'm not sure it's warming to us - we're now several layers of mud and squashed crisps deep - after merely a month of ownership, we're going to have to get it valeted by an industrial facility shortly.
March 13th, 2017
Economy this week: 32.1mpg
Regarding my observation about the unimpressive fuel consumption of the Santa Fe, someone from Hyundai has been in touch to suggest that I may have had the car's computer on a rolling mpg calculation, which means since the day it rolled off the production line - hence why it's steadily getting better now it has 2,000 miles on the clock.
So I have brimmed the tank, and started again, properly this time, and we'll see.
Meanwhile, this is a very lyrical car, so if tunes aren't your thing when the car does stuff, you might want to think again. For example, when you get in and push the engine start button, it plays a little tune, and does the same when you switch off at the end of your journey. Personally, I like it. It also bongs three times before the electrically powered tailgate opens and shuts.
Already we have completely wrecked the interior: four boys in the two rows of rear seats plus rugby kit plus rain and mud equals an awful lot of mess. Luckily the black leather and plastics are pretty wipe-clean and hard-wearing.
I can confirm that the boot also takes three kids' bikes (one with stabilisers) with the third row collapsed.
March 1st, 2017
We took delivery of our new Hyundai Santa Fe long-term test SUV two weeks ago. It's the 2.2-litre diesel version with a six-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive, and the optional seven-seat layout (we are four boys and two adults).
The quoted performance figures are acceptable for a seven-seat family car: 198bhp at 3,800rpm and, the more relevant figure for an SUV, 325lb ft of torque at only 1,750rpm. It does 0-62mph in 9.6 seconds and has a top speed of 126mph.
What's not acceptable at the moment is the fuel consumption figure. Hyundai quotes 42.8mpg on the EU Combined cycle, yet just after taking delivery I couldn't get it above 29mpg on a long motorway journey with a light and steady right foot. While I wouldn't be expecting to touch the quoted figure, neither would I expect much under 35mpg from a 2.2-litre diesel.
But the engine only has about 1,000 miles on the clock, so I've been biding my time, and it is slowly, ever so slowly, but steadily starting to improve. At the end of the first week, we achieved 30mpg, and this week we've reached the dizzying heights of an average 31.1mpg. I'm sure you can't wait for next week's instalment; the suspense is killing me.
It's a good-looking beast, the Santa Fe; a better bet than the next SUV down in Hyundai the range, the Tucson, in my mind. It is, of course, the sister car of the Kia Sorento. In Britain, Kia outperforms Hyundai, but that's an anomaly globally, where Hyundai is the bigger seller. Either way, while the design differs between the two brands across their models, the substance is largely the same.
We'll see what little anomalies the Santa Fe throws up over the next few months but, given Hyundai/Kia's formidable reputation for reliability, I'd be very surprised if much went wrong. I've done it now, of course - I'll probably be filing from a garage next week.
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