In-depth reviews

Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid review

The Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid offers strong practicality, good fuel economy and lots of standard equipment and technology

Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Very practical
  • Good interior quality
  • Lots of standard equipment

Cons

  • PHEV better for fuel economy
  • Gravelly petrol engine noise
  • Quite expensive
Car typeFuel economyCO2 emissions0-62mph
Hybrid38-44mpg145-168g/km9.1s

For 2021, Hyundai has given its seven-seater SUV a refresh, bringing it more in line with its other models like the Kona and Tucson SUVs. Thanks to the addition of new hybrid powertrains as well, the revised version of Hyundai’s largest SUV looks to be a strong challenger to the likes of the Kia Sorento Hybrid, Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV and Toyota Highlander.

The most obvious change to Santa Fe is its new reshaped and enlarged grille that dominates the front end, and around the back a light bar now connects the tail-lights, above a cleaner bumper design. But inside is where you’ll notice the most difference; the cabin feels more plush than before and features a new, sloping design for the dashboard. This is also where you’ll find the flurry of buttons used to control everything in the car from the climate control to the infotainment screen and the gear selector. In an age of haptic feedback glass panels and voice commands, at first it looks very fussy, but you quickly learn where the key switches are.

Interior quality overall is exceptional, as everything feels solid, with the optional Luxury Pack on our test car adding Napa leather seats, suede headlining and a faux-leather-wrapped dashboard, bringing it close to the splendour of its Land Rover rival. The infotainment isn't quite as good as those of rivals, but it's still decent, as the 10.25-inch touchscreen on top of the dashboard loads quickly and is easy to navigate. The Santa Fe also features smartphone connectivity as standard, with clever vertical spaces in the centre console for you to store your device.

Second-row passengers in the new Santa Fe also get 34mm more legroom compared to previous generations, which has the added benefit of providing enough room for adults to sit in the third row as well. Accessing the sixth and seventh seats is easy thanks to a switch that moves the row in front forward. There are separate air-conditioning controls back there, and each seat gets a cupholder, too. But if you don’t need all seven seats, you can fold the rearmost down to have full use of a vast 571-litre boot – that’s on par with the Kia Sorento Hybrid, and over 100 litres larger than the Mercedes EQB’s boot.

The changes continue under the bonnet: the old 2.2-litre diesel engine is gone and in its place is a variety of hybrid powertrains. The range tops out with a 261bhp plug-in hybrid, which, thanks to a 13.8kWh battery, has an electric range of 36 miles. According to Hyundai, the Santa Fe PHEV can also return over 170mpg and emits 37g/km of CO2, which means it sits in the 11% Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax tax bracket for 2021/22.

However, here we're reviewing the regular hybrid model, which gets a smaller 1.49kWh battery that sends energy to a 59bhp electric motor, and uses regenerative braking and the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine to recharge itself. And it's that engine that is the biggest flaw of the otherwise superb Santa Fe. It’s not the amount of power on tap – with 227bhp it's certainly as strong as last generation’s diesels were – but rather the fact that it sounds coarse no matter what you’re doing. Other than that, a slight fidgetiness to the ride and some wind noise courtesy of the sheer size of the Santa Fe, the refinement of this hulking, 1.9-tonne seven-seater is impressive.

The fuel economy of this regular hybrid version won’t touch that of the plug-in hybrid, but it won’t break the bank, either. Hyundai claims the Santa Fe Hybrid should return 40mpg around town and closer to 30mpg at motorway speeds. This seems realistic for a large hybrid SUV, and the Toyota Highlander returns similar figures. Because of the size and weight of the Santa Fe, you don’t expect it to be fun to drive, but it does feel planted and grips the road well. A major contributor to that is the four-wheel-drive system, which is standard on the plug-in hybrid, but optional on the regular hybrid. If you do approach a corner too quickly, you’re likely to feel the torque distribution system working to keep the car in line.

Prices for the Santa Fe Hybrid range start at just over £40,000 for Premium trim with front-wheel drive, running to just under £46,000 for the four-wheel-drive Ultimate version. The plug-in hybrid costs just over £45,500 in Premium trim and just over £49,000 in Ultimate spec. No matter which of the trim levels you choose, standard equipment is excellent.

Our test car was an Ultimate, which has everything Hyundai can throw at it, including a panoramic glass roof, ventilated front seats, a head-up display and 'Highway Drive Assist' semi-autonomous driving capability. There's also a 360-degree camera, images from which are displayed on a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel when turning or changing lanes to eliminate blind spots. The Premium does without those features, but still gets full LED headlights, heated front seats with electric adjustment, adaptive cruise control, a 10-speaker Krell hi-fi and parking sensors with a reversing camera. Besides its Kia Sorento sister model, none of the Santa Fe’s rivals offer so much technology as standard.

The 2021 Santa Fe is a worthy contender against any other seven-seater SUV, hybrid or not. It represents excellent value for money, especially when compared to a similarly specced Kia Sorento. If you’re in the market for a comfortable, stylish and practical seven-seat SUV, the latest Santa Fe deserves to be high up on your shortlist.

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