WHAT a difference a year makes.

In the case of Hyundai’s Santa Fe, the good-looking mid-sized SUV of last year has become a head-turning stunner. Ad that’s just on the outside. It’s a similar story inside.

Revised and restyled from one end to the other, the seven-seater sports a snoot much like that of the Kona with low-slung headlights and high-rise squinty LED daylight running lights framing the wide cascading grille with its broad chrome upper lip.

The wheels on the top-spec Highlander, as reviewed, are machine-faced 19-inch alloys, tucked in slightly sunken arches, and the sleek lines continue to the rear, where the smart tailgate has also had some major beauty treatment and a satin silver skid plate.

Santa Fes come in three virtually lookalike grades, Active, Elite and Highlander, with prices starting at $41,850 and peaking at $60,795.

Only one of the five Actives has a petrol engine. The rest of the range gets a 2.2litre turbo diesel with six or eight-speed automatic transmissions and mostly with all-wheel drive.

The spacious cabin has also been vastly improved with an 8.0 inch infotainment system perched on the restyled dash and it has  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and satellite navigation.

The Highlander also has a 7.0-inch TFT screen plus a retractable head-up display that shows navigation and speed, the latter pretty vital in these days of high-performing vehicles and cash-sniffing cameras all over the show. It’s so quick and easy to reach and exceed 60km/h, especially in a well insulated vehicle.

There are a couple of USB sockets, an aux input and a handy Qi wireless phone charger.

Sound effects? How about an Infinity premium 10-speaker with an external 550W amplifier?

The glovebox has a cooling function to keep the chocolate from melting, the front seats are air-cooled, there’s dual zone climate control, a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, leather trim finishes, comprehensive instrumentation et al, in a sophisticated surround.

The front seats are heated (so are those in the second row) and have power adjustment.

The seven-seater’s second row is on rails, so you can adjust it for kids, adults, pets or goods and access to the third row is pretty easy.

There’s a lot of storage inside, with bins, cupholders a cubby, bottle holders to suit a week’s travelling and the cargo area can expand from 547 to 1645litres.

There’s also a 12-volt socket in the boot.

Other features include parking assist, a reversing and surround view camera, cruise control and a suite of safety stuff, such as pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane keep assist.

Despite being named after a city in New Mexico, Hyundai spent a lot of time tuning the Santa Fe for Australian road conditions.

The AWD car handles very well, with a firm, but composed ride, light and accurate steering and good brakes. It’s a good thing to drive, and there’s a choice of four modes, so you can tailor the car to prevailing conditions, or your mood on the day.

The eight-speed auto is a delight and helps the vehicle achieve commendable fuel economy on the highways.

The 2.2-litre 147kW/440Nm four-cylinder turbo-diesel has an official average figure of  7.5litres/100km. We recorded 8.1.

Towing capacity is 2000kg.

All Hyundais come with a five-year/unlimited km warranty, plus free roadside assistance for the first year.

Verdict: Good looking, well built, with more features than we have room for here plus performance, comfort, economy – and a vast amount of space in a medium-sized SUV. We liked it.


  • Styling
  • Space
  • Economy
  • Luxury
  • Lots of great features
  • Long warranty


  • Slightly noisy diesel


  • Looks
  • Performance
  • Safety
  • Thirst
  • Practicality
  • Comfort
  • Tech
  • Value