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2013 Hyundai Santa FE New Car Launch & First Drive

by Brad Leach -

  • OUR VERDICT: 4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4/5 rating4
  • PRICE RANGE: $36,990 - $49,990*
  • PROS: Nice styling job inside and out; impressive diesel; spacious interior; value
  • CONS: Petrol engine gets noisy when working hard
  • Safety Rating: 
  • Green Rating: 
  • Fuel Consumption:  10.6L/100km
  • Write your own review

Hyundai is one of the hottest automotive brands in North America and to succeed in that market you need a damn fine SUV. ‘Tah-Dah!’ – the Korean giant has delivered with the polished, all-new Santa Fe.

That’s good news for local families as the Hyundai Santa Fe has arrived boasting brilliant new looks, a genuinely spacious seven-seat interior, petrol or diesel under the bonnet and top-notch driving dynamics. Technology and quality also get green ticks – this thing is good, no doubt about it.


Best of all, Hyundai being Hyundai, the all-new Santa Fe is keenly priced from $36,990 to $49,990. That “gulp” you just heard was from rival full-size SUV brands, many of whom are suddenly looking expensive.


Hyundai Santa Fe What You Get

Hyundai has launched the all-new Santa Fe with a three model-grade range. All are all-wheel-drive and seven seats are standard.

Entry-level Hyundai Santa Fe Active is available with both petrol and diesel engines and with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Mid-grade Elite and range-topping Highlander are exclusively diesel automatics. 

Amongst its extras, the Elite model adds 18-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation, leather seats, rear window blinds and the premium audio system. We reckon the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite represents outstanding value.

Range-topping Highlander goes further with 19-inch alloys, electric front seat adjustment, panoramic glass roof and HID headlights.

The lineup looks like this:
Active petrol manual $36,990
Active petrol automatic $38,990
Active diesel manual $39,990
Active diesel automatic $41,990
Elite diesel automatic $45,990
Highlander diesel automatic $49,990


Hyundai Santa Fe Engine

Hyundai Santa Fe employs both petrol and diesel engines but the previous model’s V6 petrol engine is no more. In its place, Hyundai Santa Fe petrol power comes from the ‘Theta-II’, 2.4-litre direct injection four-cylinder engine with 141kW of power at 6300rpm and peak torque of 242Nm at 4250rpm.

The diesel is Hyundai’s excellent R-Series 2.2-litre common-rail turbo-diesel with 145kW at 3800rpm and 421Nm (manual) or 436Nm (automatic) from 1800rpm.


Both drive through six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions (up-scale Elite and Highlander grades are auto-only).

Fuel consumption is rated at 9.0l/100kms for the petrol engine and 6.6/7.3l/100kms for the diesel.

Towing capacity is competitive at 2000kgs – 2500kgs (depending on the model).


Hyundai Santa Fe The Interior

First impressions count and there’s certainly a richness and up-market look/feel wherever you look inside the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s the combination of nice cloth seat material (Active model) or leather/leatherette (Highlander and Elite) plus soft-touch surfaces and satin-chrome details. 

Instrumentation is similarly up-scale with a nice curved binnacle housing the major gauges and there are nice graphics for the trip computer information. To the left in Elite and Highlander models is the seven-inch TFT LCD colour screen with satellite navigation, reversing camera, audio and climate control displays. Entry grade Active gets a 4.3-inch screen and impressively includes a reversing camera.

Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander models also gain power adjustment for the front seats and heated seats up-front as well as the outboard second-row seats.

Space in the second row ranks the Hyundai Santa Fe as one of the best in this league – that’s good news for families. And the second row seats slide – variable leg-room for the third row or parents seated in the second row can reach youngsters seated in the third row.


Luggage capacity is impressive at 537-litres with all seats in place or 1632-litres with the seats folded. Four golf bags are family vacation luggage will be no problem in the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe. And here’s a great idea – the under-floor cargo bin is shaped and sized so you can store the security blind when not in use (most require you to leave it in the garage).


Hyundai Santa Fe Exterior & Styling

All-new Hyundai Santa Fe deserves rich compliments for its exterior style – one the best-looking SUVs on the market. Design work was done at Hyundai’s North American studio in Irvine, California and the company says the look represents the next evolution of its ‘Fluidic Design’ theme – called ‘Storm Edge’.

There’s certainly an American feel to the looks with the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe highlighted by a substantial front-end with abundant chrome and excellent ‘eagle-eye’ projector beam headlights.


A rising beltline ends with compact third side windows and side character lines lend extra sophistication to the side view. Elite and Highlander models gain privacy tinted glass from the B-pillar rearwards which adds to their up-market appearance.

The roof has a nice slope, integrated rear spoiler and compact roof rails.
We thought the alloy wheel designs were great – 17-inch for the Active grade, 18-inch for Elite and 19-inch for Highlander.


Hyundai Santa Fe On The Road

In the usual Hyundai comprehensive way, we had a choice of all Santa Fe model grades and both petrol and diesel engines to sample over two days from northern Sydney to the Hunter Valley and return.

Hyundai Santa Fe runs a McPherson strut front-end with a H-shaped sub-frame (to reduce NVH and improve front-end stiffness) and a multi-link rear. Like all recent Hyundai models, final suspension calibration was tuned after considerable local testing using local engineers.


There’s lots of technology at work including three driver-select Flex Steer steering settings and Hyundai’s new Advanced Traction Cornering Control (ATCC) system which works with the Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system to distribute torque in the all-wheel-drive system.

A couple of varying speed dirt sections showed the total package works well in keeping the Hyundai Santa Fe pointed in the right direction when grip is lacking – very impressive actually.

Our pick was the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel which was astoundingly quiet even when pushed and it seemed the suspension calibration was just a bit better (especially the front-end) – might be the extra weight of the diesel powerplant over the front axle.


The Hyundai Santa Fe diesel was also a refined performer on the freeway and other sealed roads.


Hyundai Santa Fe Challenges

The dash up the Pacific Highway and run over the Hunter Valley hills had our petrol-powered Hyundai Santa Fe Active automatic working a bit hard which meant the 2.4-litre petrol engine got a tad noisy when pushed.


Hyundai Santa Fe Verdict

Erase the early Hyundai Santa Fe models from your memory as this one is a cracker. We were very impressed with the looks inside and out, quality and on-road refinement is similarly top-notch, there’s lots of kit and without doubt Hyundai has the pricing very sharp.


For families, Hyundai Santa Fe’s excellent second row space is a big plus and the clever inclusion of sliding second row seats allows parents to attend to youngsters seats in the third row.

After driving both petrol and diesel and all three grades, our pick of the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe range is the mid-grade Elite diesel – at $45,990 you get a lot of SUV for your coin. 


Hyundai Santa Fe The Competition

Toyota Kluger is the name on everyone’s lips in this segment and in direct comparisons the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe stacks-up impressively Sure Kluger delivers a powerful 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine but there’s no diesel and starting price is $39,990 for the five-seat 2WD KX-R. To get to an all-wheel-drive seven-seat Toyota Kluger you’re looking at $47,190 (also in KX-R model grade).

Ford Territory is also a contender, offers V6 petrol or turbo-diesel engines but starting price is also $39,990. Of course the latest model Territory drives terrifically well. 

Kia’s all-new Sorrento arrives soon and shares the same platform as the Hyundai Santa Fe so it must be considered as well.


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