Hyundai Santa Fe SR makeover brings more aggressive styling and better driveability to the Hyundai Santa Fe, but value is in question
The Hyundai Santa Fe is arguably one of the most mid-size seven seats SUVs on the Australian market and for good reason – it’s very comfortable, practical, economical, well made, has a long warranty and thanks to the Series II update, surprisingly nice to drive.
Hyundai has built upon improving the Santa Fe’s driving experience by releasing the new Hyundai Santa Fe SR, which overtakes the Highlander-upon which it is based- as the flagship of the Santa Fe range and brings more aggressive styling, O.Z Racing wheels, Brembo brakes and a unique suspension tune.
What we like:
- Styling upgrades
- Ride and handling combination
- Sharp Brembo brakes
- Comfort and practicality
Not so much:
- Interior largely untouched from Highlander version
- No mechanical upgrades
- Pricier than its Kia Sorento Platinum cousin
- Falls behind in driver assist technology
Price and Equipment
The Hyundai Santa Fe range opens with the Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.4 litre petrol with a six-speed manual from $38,490 through to the Hyundai Santa Fe SR from $59,990. The Hyundai Santa Fe SR is fitted with bespoke equipment that includes Brembo brakes, four-piston Brembo monobloc calipers on all four corners housed behind 19×8 OZ Racing Versilia performance alloy wheels shod with 235/55 R19 Michelin Latitude Tour rubber.
The Santa Fe SR is suspended by firmer H&R Performance springs, to ensure flatter cornering.
There is also a suite of airbags, lane departure warning, a reversing camera, parking sensors at the front and rear, seven leather seats with heating and cooling for the front and heating for the outermost seats, satellite navigation, a full length glass roof, climate control and High Intensity Discharge Headlamps.
Climb into the Hyundai Santa Fe SR interior and it is much the same story as that as the Santa Fe Highlander – big comfy leather seats, ample room for the first five passengers with the last two chairs reserved for children. There’s the same excellent fit and finish and the same very useful satellite navigation and infotainment system.
What does become apparent is a lack of SR branding- there aren’t any special motifs or fixtures to segregate the Santa Fe SR from other models in the range as Hyundai has done with other models such as the i30 SR.
The Hyundai Santa Fe SR is also fitted with an automatic tailgate and, unlike the Santa Fe Elite we tested earlier this year, the automatic tailgate fitted to our SR test car was not erratic in its operation.
Engine and Transmission
The Hyundai Santa Fe SR shares the same 2.2 litre turbo diesel with the rest of the Santa Fe range, and power and torque outputs remain unchanged at 145 kW @ 3800 RPM and 436 Nm @ 1800-2500RPM respectively.
The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic that is also found in other Santa Fe models and is very smooth and precise in its shifts. The engine is still very noisy though, and isn’t as hushed as when installed in the newer Kia Sorento, another Hyundai Group product.
While the drivetrain is not as sporty as the car’s styling and upgraded wheel, brake and suspension package would have you believe, it does offer more than enough punch for overtaking and should be able to haul seven people and cargo with little fuss.
Average fuel consumption was 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres, slightly higher than Hyundai’s claimed 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres, and the system does without any high tech start/stop systems.
On The Road
The driving experience is where the new Hyundai Santa Fe SR really needs to impress. After all, those alloys, springs, brakes and tyres add nearly $6,000 to the Highlander’s sticker price. On the tarmac, the transformation pays dividends.
The SR feels tighter and tauter than normal Santa Fes and when put through its paces on a spaghetti-like and twisty country backroad, the Santa Fe SR’s handling wasn’t more than capable for a high-riding 4×4 SUV, but it felt even more confident than a number of “normal” cars we have sampled and the driving experience is miles ahead of other SUV rivals such as the Toyota Kluger.
Ride is noticeably firmer than the configuration in other versions, but never jars or becomes brittle.
The Brembos bring the SR to a stop quickly but progressively, and the brake pedal isn’t too sharp or oversensitive.
There is also a four-wheel drive system with a lock function and hill descent control should it be required.
While we were won over by the Santa Fe SR’s newfound dynamics and road manners, we wonder if shoppers are willing to pay a large premium over the Highlander and Elite models, which are more than nice enough to drive and are more than acceptably styled and equipped.
Moreover, the top of the range Kia Sorento Platinum CRDi is priced from $55,990 and includes driving aides such as adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring that are nowhere to be seen in the Santa Fe range.
The entire Hyundai Santa Fe range has been awarded an ANCAP five-star safety rating and the following active safety systems are standard across the board: Anti-skid Braking System (ABS) 4 channel with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist System (BAS), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) with Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Traction Control System (TCS).
Standard passive safety features include: dual front and side airbags, as well as curtain airbags that extend to the second row of seating and a driver’s knee airbag.
Servicing and Warranty
The Santa Fe is covered by Hyundai’s five-year unlimited kilometre warranty and lifetime capped price service programme.
Hyundai Santa Fe SR Specs
Make and model: Hyundai Santa Fe SR
Engine type: 2199cc, inline four-cylinder, turbo diesel intercooled with DOHC with VVT and electronic fuel injection Power: 145kW @ 3800rpm
Torque: 436Nm @ 1800-2500rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic, 4×4 on demand
Fuel consumption: 7.3 litres (combined)
Dimensions: 4690mm long, 1880mm wide, 1690mm high and 2700mm wheelbase
Suspension: Front: MacPherson Strut System with Tuix Performance Springs Rear: Multi link with Tuix Performance Springs
Steering: Electrically assisted Rack and pinion
Country of Origin: Korea