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Hyundai Santa Fe - Introduction

History, past, precedent, call it what you will, the fact remains that India and Indians continue to view Hyundai as a maker of small cars. All has been hunky-dory in the B and C segments, but the marketplace hasn’t caught on fire with the car-maker’s other offerings. With the Santa Fe, all that could change. Indeed, in the words of Mr. Koo, Sr. Director, Sales & Mktg at HMIL: “More than market share, we want to be present in this segment. We are going to improve our image.”

 Do not then, dismiss this SUV out of hand. There is a weight of expectation no doubt, but then the Santa Fe does have some impeccable credentials. It has consistently ranked among the best-sellers in this segment in Europe and North America, both more discerning markets with wider choice than India. It has even ranked well on various quality indices. Hyundai has had the happy problem of demand out-stripping supply with the Santa Fe. Given these antecedents, launching this SUV in India is a bold move in more ways than one; routing some supply here, and two, all the marketing, dealer development, sales and service costs.


What is it then, about this vehicle which has won it so many plaudits? That’s exactly what Hyundai invited us over to find out. The route was approximately a 400-kilometre loop, from Bengaluru to Coorg and back. We’d have a chance to experience the Santa Fe in conditions well representative of what we’d call daily driving. There was the squash of Bengaluru’s city traffic, pot-holed roads around the city’s perimeter, a fast stretch of four-laned tarmac, some single-lane state highway, and lastly a rutted hilly path leading to Orange County resort in the Coorgi hills 

Hyundai Santa Fe - Design & Engineering

hyundai santa fe design review


Hyundai will bring two versions of the Santa Fe to India: one with front-wheel drive and the other with on-demand four-wheel drive, and both were there for us to sample.

 Obviously, the first thing which comes up with any new car, is the styling, and with the Santa Fe, there isn’t much to say. It isn’t offensive, it doesn’t make a statement, but neither is it bland or ugly. It’s neat, which is about how I’d sum it up. I like the big 18” wheels though, but more on those later.

Hyundai Santa Fe - Interiors & Comfort

hyundai santa fe review interiors


Inside, the same story continues. It’s the typically Hyundai interior, from the vents to steering wheel, gear level and so on, which follows the same template. The materials are robust and the fit and finish is above average. The two-wheel drive version gets fabric upholstery and does not have climate control, but otherwise is as packed to the gills as they come, with 10-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat, steering-mounted audio controls, cruise control, an air-conditioned box between the front seats, heated ORVMs etc. No complaints about the spec, then 

Hyundai Santa Fe - Performance & Handling

hyundai santa fe review performance


The engine is a 2199cc common-rail diesel, which produces 199PS of power and 420 Nm of torque, figures not to be laughed at. If we were back to school trading trump cards, then the Santa Fe would be tops. There is some lag, which masks the motor’s intent, but what is impressive is that the lag is relatively less than some other diesels of similar capacity. That probably is thanks to the variable geometry turbo, whose turbine blades are electrically adjustable. Listening to such stuff in theory is one thing, but feel it work is almost like a revelation. You do feel it spool up, but the turbo builds boost smoothly and benignly with none of the dramatic delivery one might have experienced otherwise. This makes it quite easy to drive in traffic. It’s out on the highway however that the Santa Fe really gets into its stride. The motor pulls and pulls and seems to run out of puff only once it’s well past 4000rpm, which means you have a useable powerband of over 2000rpm. Sweet. The gearbox of the car I drove suffered from a recalcitrant shift, but I was quickly advised by Hyundai’s team that the car in question was a ‘homologation special’. Upon sampling the others, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did the gears shift more sweetly but the entire car felt more ‘together’. There’s no getting away from the heavy clutch though, which means you’ll have a Rooney-rivalling left leg after a few weeks of driving one of these. There is some torque steer, but you can feel the traction control system working if you do tend to get enthusiastic with the throttle. The four-wheel drive version I drove on the way back felt nicer to drive overall though. It’s a torque vectoring ’box, which for the most part sends the power to the front wheels, apportioning some to the rear as and when required. There is a switch to lock the centre differential if you do tend to go off-road for a bit, but it decouples automatically after 40 km/h.


The Santa Fe’s ride/handling balance leans more to the handling side of things, which is a little bit surprising because one normally associates a squishy ride and not much handling prowess with most SUVs. With the Santa Fe, it is quite contrary. The ride is on the firm side, and the big wheels and not-so-high profile tyres mean you feel enough of the surface filtering through to the cabin, even to the steering wheel. Its saloon-derived genes are given away in the suspension set-up, which uses MacPherson struts up front with a multi-link rear. Over rumble strips for example, the rear tends to skip a bit and neither does it like roads with consecutive potholes. It does not seem to have the wheel articulation or suspension travel of some of its rivals, which loses it some points. The flipside however is on-tarmac handling which is truly a surprise. On some of the faster bends, it responded positively to steering inputs, holding its line competently. It also resists the tendency to float over crests, which is a good thing in case you’re the type who gets car sick. The brakes are strong and progressive, with good modulation through the pedal 

Hyundai Santa Fe - Fuel Efficiency

hyundai santa fe fuel efficiency


Our drive was a mix of smooth roads, bumpy village tracks, and hilly terrain. Plus, we stopped often to squeeze off a few quick photographs, sometimes with the engine idling. As such, this would be no real measure for the car’s fuel efficiency, but we still managed close to 10 kpl. The fact that its diesel powered ensures there isn’t too big a dent in your wallet. However, on a steady highway cruise, given the relaxed nature of this engine, it would be easily possible to extract a few kilometres more.  The 70 litre tank ensures you should be able to extract a real-world range of at least 800 km on a tankful, which is useful on a road trip.

Hyundai Santa Fe - Safety

Since the Santa Fe was designed to appeal to American customers, there was always a very strong focus on safety. In the Hyundai Santa Fe, you get 6 airbags, ESP and Active head restraints as standard, which together help to make the car rather safe. Also, there’ s the peace of mind of four-wheel drive, which prevents things from getting hairy in the first place

Hyundai Santa Fe - Verdict

hyundai santa fe review verdict


All in all the Santa Fe is an accomplished vehicle. Yes, it is road biased, but only in a way which makes it more usable everyday. It has a flexible and versatile interior, feels strongly built with good quality overall and a stonking engine. The lack of an automatic option though is a little surprising however, because given that mountain of torque and that pile driver of a clutch, it will restrict its appeal. We have to see how Hyundai price it, but a reasonable guesstimate would be in the Rs 20-22 lakh range. For that money, it’s a good option in this class.  

Hyundai Santa Fe - Competition Check

Chevrolet Captiva

Renault Koleos

Nissan X-Trail


Length x Width x Height (mm) 4690x1880x1690
Wheelbase (mm) 2700
Ground clearance (mm) 185
Fuel tank capacity (lt) 64
Engine & Transmission
Valvetrain R2.2 CRDi
Capacity (cc) 2199
Power (PS @ rpm) 197 @ 3,800
Torque (Nm @ rpm) 420 @ 1800-2500 (MT), 436 @ 1800-2500 (AT)
Gearbox 6 Speed MT, 6 Speed AT
Suspension & Brakes
Front suspension MacPherson Strut Type
Rear suspension Multi Link Type
Front brakes Ventilated Type
Rear brakes Solid Disc
Wheels & Tyres
Tyre size and type 235/60 R 18 Tubeless
Wheel size and type R18 Alloy

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Hyundai Santa Fe Alternatives

Looking for other cars in the same segment and price range? Your choices are many. Click on any model of your choice to go directly to that page, so you can have a quick and easy reference of the specifications and features of competing vehicles in the same segment.

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Tata Safari DiCOR
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Audi Q3
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Tata Safari Storme
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Mahindra Scorpio
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Chevrolet Trailblazer
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Chevrolet Captiva 2.2
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Mahindra New Age XUV 500
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Tata Safari Strome Varicor
Rs. 10 Lacs. - Rs. 14.6 Lacs.

Mahindra TUV 300
Rs. 7.3 Lacs. - Rs. 9.6 Lacs.

Ford Endeavour 2016
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Mahindra Thar 2015
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Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
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Tata Hexa
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Toyota Innova Crysta
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