Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid review
The Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid is a practical seven-seater SUV with good fuel economy, lots of standard equipment and up-to-date technology
- Very practical
- Good interior quality
- Lots of standard equipment
- PHEV better for fuel economy
- Gravelly petrol engine noise
- Quite expensive
|Car type||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions||0-62mph|
Introduced in 2021, the latest Hyundai Santa Fe has been brought more into line with the brand's smaller SUV models, the Kona and Tucson. Thanks to the addition of hybrid powertrains, this revised version of Hyundai’s largest car is a strong challenger to the likes of the Kia Sorento Hybrid, Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV and Toyota Highlander.
They’re welcome additions to a car that, for a long time, was diesel-only in the UK. These new petrol-hybrid models sit on a new platform so, while the Santa Fe doesn’t look all that different to before, it’s heavily updated underneath. It also explains why this current Santa Fe replaced a car that had only been on sale for two years.
Styling-wise, the most obvious way to mark out the latest Santa Fe is a reshaped and enlarged grille that dominates the front end, plus T-shaped daytime running lights that connect the two front lamp clusters. 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. Happily, they’re all within easy reach, so there’s little need to stretch to the touchscreen while you’re driving.
Interior quality overall is exceptional, as everything feels solid, with the optional Luxury Pack on our test car adding Nappa leather seats, suede headlining and a faux-leather-wrapped dashboard. 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 current Santa Fe also get 34mm more legroom than they did in the previous generation, 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 middle row 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 electric Mercedes EQB’s boot. The 1,650kg towing capacity is decent for a hybrid as well.
The changes continue under the bonnet: the old 2.2-litre diesel engine is gone, with two petrol hybrids left in the range – the 261bhp plug-in hybrid Santa Fe PHEV with a 1.6-litre engine and 13.8kWh battery, and a conventional hybrid, which we’re reviewing here, that uses the same engine paired with a smaller 1.49kWh battery for a total output of 227bhp.
The Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid uses regenerative braking and the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine to keep the battery topped up. 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 – it's certainly as strong as the last generation’s diesels were – but rather the fact that it sounds coarse even when you’re not pushing it hard. Other than that, there’s a slight fidgetiness to the ride and some wind noise courtesy of the sheer size of the Santa Fe but, overall, the refinement of this hulking, 1.9-tonne seven-seater is impressive.
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, there’s a slight fidgetiness to the ride and some wind noise courtesy of the sheer size of the Santa Fe but, overall, 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, 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 SUV; the Toyota Highlander returns similar figures. Crucially, it posts similar economy figures to the diesel engine.
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 £41,000 for Premium trim with front-wheel drive, running to just under £47,000 for the four-wheel-drive Ultimate version. The plug-in hybrid costs just over £46,500 in Premium trim and stops just short of £50,000 (before options) 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 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 sound system 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 latest Santa Fe is a very worthy contender in the seven-seater SUV market and 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 large family car, the Santa Fe deserves to be high up on your shortlist.