Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Series II nip-tuck helps it retain its place as a top SUV pick
Motoringuru has assessed numerous incarnations of the Hyundai Santa Fe throughout the SUV’s lifespan and we’ve always come away thinking the same thing – an SUV that is capable of carrying five adults and two children with ease, which is powered by a punchy 2.2 litre turbo diesel and is built well and is nice to behold.
Then Hyundai revised the handling so the Santa Fe became nice to drive and then they introduced the Santa Fe SR, so it become sporty(ish). However, when reviewing the Santa Fe SR, we were still impressed with all of the above qualities, the big Hyundai began to feel a little dated.
Enter the Hyundai Santa Fe Series II. Hyundai has given all versions of the Santa Fe a cosmetic makeover inside and out, but most importantly higher spec models gain a host of new safety tech including radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.
We were on a mission to see if the changes were able to keep the Hyundai Santa Fe relevant in a fiercly competitive SUV sector, where it is competing against everything from its sister the Kia Sorento to the venerable Toyota Kluger.
What we like:
- Smooth and intuitive radar cruise control
- Smart blind spot monitoring
- Improved refinement
- Refreshed styling
Not so much:
- That diesel is still a tad on the noisy side
- No DVD screens for rear passengers
- Infotainment system temperamental at times
- Not a lot else really
Price and Equipment
The Hyundai Santa Fe Series II range consists of the Active, Elite, Highlander and Santa Fe SR. We sampled the luxury-oriented Santa Fe Highlander, which has now been furnished with adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, a clever blind spot monitoring system and a premium Infinity sound system.
The Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Series II is priced from $55,990, plus government charges.
It’s largely business as usual inside the Santa Fe’s cabin: five comfortable seats with heating and cooling for the front and heating for the two outer seats and then there are two small seats at the rear that are suitable for children.
There’s also luxuries such as satellite navigation and a panoramic glass roof that seems to be a signature feature on high-end Hyundai models.
So what have they changed? Well, the Infinity sound system is a huge step up, both in sound quality and power and caters for a more premium audio experience. The infotainment system also has the capacity to play video through a USB connection and the rear passengers miss out on rear screens, a feature that is fitted to rivals such as the Toyota Kluger Grande.
Voice control is still missing in action but controls for the new radar cruise control have been intuitively incorporated onto the steering wheel.
We also noted that the entertainment system could be a little temperamental at times, struggling to retrieve music from our trusty iPhone 6. Other key changes to the interior are a complete overhaul of all graphics and menus and a cleaner and more elegant instrument cluster. A digital speedometer has also been included for added convenience.
The menu changes may be relatively minor, but they are easier on the eye, as well as giving the Santa Fe Series II interior a more sophisticated look. Perhaps more indirectly – and I could be philosophising here – the changes reflect Hyundai’s coming of age as a manufacturer.
In short, there wasn’t a whole lot that needed doing to the Santa Fe Highlander’s interior, but the Hyundai Santa Fe Series II update raises the perception of quality a little further.
Engine and Transmission
Under the bonnet of the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Series II lies Hyundai Group’s 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine. The motor is an affable unit, and power and torque have increased by 2kW and 4Nm respectively, totalling 147kW @ 3800rpm and 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm.
Engine performance is strong, and the broad powerband delivers ample performance for overtaking, towing and perhaps negotiating a craggy bush track with the 4×4 system in lock mode. The smooth six-speed automatic has been carried over from previous versions.
Official combined fuel consumption is rated at 7.7 litres per 100 kilometres, although the best we achieved was 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres.
On The Road
On the road the Santa Fe’s manners continue to impress with light but communicative steering coupled with a plush ride and relatively restrained body roll. The Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Series II brings an excellent radar cruise control system, which maintains both preset road speed and the distance between the Santa Fe and the vehicle ahead effortlessly.
The system doesn’t become too close to the vehicle in front then abruptly apply the brakes when it realises that the selected gap has been breached. Rather, it’s just a matter of selecting desired settings and monitoring the car’s progress.
An automated parking system helps parallel and reverse park the Santa Fe.
Noise and vibration harshness have also seemed to have improved, with less road and engine noise making their way into the cabin.
Lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring and the prominent safety changes in the Series II update. The blind spot monitoring system is interesting as it sounds a number of increasingly frantic chimes should one be too close to a fellow motorist in a neighbouring lane. The system is very effective and should one be foolish enough not to take note of its audible and visual warnings, they probably shouldn’t be driving.
The usual electronic stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes are also fitted along with six airbags as standard.
All Hyundai models are covered by a five year/100,000 kilometre warranty.
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Series II Specs
Make and model: Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander Series II
Engine type: 2199cc four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power: 147kW @ 3800rpm
Torque: 440Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Fuel consumption: 7.7 litres (combined)
Steering: Electrically assisted Rack and pinion Country of Origin: South Korea
Options: Ocean View metallic paint, $695