OK so here begins my first review/summary of a car which could become parked on my drive for the next few years…and I suspect that for many people this will be one of the less exciting choices, in fact it is not particularly high up my list but I had a few snappy titles for this post so here it goes:
The Santa Fe is the Hyundai which has constantly received positive reviews relative to the rest of its line up, in fact it is apparently its best-selling vehicle, and in the UK at least its popularity is pretty evident. The original model was launched in 2001 and quickly gained a reputation as a decent all rounder with a price tag comparable only to vehicles in the class below; basically you got a lot for the money. In fact the 01-06 Santa Fe was only hindered in my eyes by its cheap-looking interior and questionable outside aesthetics.
Hyundai’s quick development cycle meant that just 5 years later a successor to the popular original, which built on its strengths and solved at least one of its major problems. Modern and actually quite attractive to look at, the second generation SF looked significantly better than the original and signaled a more European direction for Hyundai/Kia as they became more competitive both in terms of looks and mechanical bits. Out back the larger size meant that there was room for 2 optional seats and under the bonnet a 2.2 diesel engine made it easy for the car to get at least 39 mpg (well in the manual model).
Arguably the interior is less comparable to European (or indeed Japanese) rivals, but is still a good step up from the original’s. All the controls seem to be well situated, but the bright blue back lighting and flat design seem a little dated. More of a problem is the horrible fake wood used in 2006-9 models, which has been likened to melted Mars Bar and really turns me off the car. Additionally the car has its indicator stalk on the opposite side to the majority of other cars on the road…maybe something you’d get used to but still a pain, as is the foot parking brake.
The face-lift that occurred in late 2009 gave the SF a more aggressive face, slightly redesigned interior (losing the fake wood for a grey plastic) and under the bonnet the diesel engine received a good bump in power whilst becoming cleaner and more economical in the process. Hyundai’s 5 year warranty also enticed many into Santa Fe ownership and it remained a popular choice against more modern rivals until the car’s replacement last year.
So why is the Hyundai not higher up my list of cars to consider? Well the fact I am reviewing it first does not at all mean that it is the car I’d least consider, in fact if the facelift model were available within my budget of £8,000 then I would be looking very seriously at buying what is an attractive, economical and by all means reliable SUV. The problem with the car’s popularity means that used values have remained strong, and my money would only be able to buy a 2007 model; admittedly with a decent spec but also with that horrific fake wood and normally the auto gearbox. Of course I would not dream of buying a luxury SUV without an automatic, but in this class a self-shifter just makes the car significantly less economical and slower.
Practical, attractive and well equipped, anyone looking for a SUV that seats 7 at a push would do very well to take a good look at the Santa Fe, but the fussy snob in me means that its pretty unlikely that the big Korean contender will be taking up the spot on my driveway.