Review: Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012)


Relaxed motorway cruising. Comfortable ride. Excellent on very rough tracks. Available with seven seats. Good value. Much improved from 2010 with new 2.2-litre diesel.

2006 - 2009 five-speed manual has big gap between 2nd and 3rd gears. Plastics on early cars felt a little scratchy.

Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012): At A Glance

At the risk of upsetting Ken Livingstone, between 1996 and 2005 the UK market for what he calls "4x4s" has grown by 1,310 per cent. Hyundai sells 9805 a year, which gives it a 6.9 per cent of this lucrative business. Between 2001 and 2005 Hyundai sold 17,462 of its Santa Fe model alone. This probably has less to do with the Santa Fe's off road ability than its on road ability to shrug off speed humps without damaging either itself or its occupants. The people who drive them are far from the "idiots" Ken brands them as. That description might be more appropriate to the people who ordered the installation of the road humps that inevitably led to this change in the type of vehicle so many people now drive.

Meanwhile Hyundai has not let the Santa Fe rest on its muscular haunches. Instead the company presents us with a bigger, better and altogether new Santa Fe; one that can comfortably seat the same seven people as the average 50 seater bus carries, or, alternatively, rids city streets of as many as six unnecessary single-occupant cars.

Instead of the original organic look, Hyundai has gone for clean lines and a soft, pedestrian-friendly front, retaining only the sensible, chunky rear door handle of the original and, less successfully, its 2.7 V6 engine with 4-speed automatic transmission.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 Road Test

Hyundai Santa Fe 2010 Road Test and Video


What does a Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012) cost?

List Price from £38,820
Buy new from £31,702
Contract hire from £349.82 per month

Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4650–4675 mm
Width 1890 mm
Height 1760–1795 mm
Wheelbase 2700 mm

Full specifications

For £600 extra you not only get two more seats with their own individual heating and ventilation, but also hydro-pneumatic self-levelling rear suspension. (So if you want to tow, buy the 7 seater.)

Those rearmost seats aren't just for kids, either. They unfold out of the load area floor in one easy movement and by offering toe space under the seat in front were not only comfortable for me at 5' 9" but could, at a pinch, also be used by my 6' 5" colleague.

Child seats that fit a Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012) like to drive?

Rather than waste your time describing the bland and boring way the 2.7 V6 drives, I'm going to concentrate on the vastly superior 2.2 diesel.

You can buy it with a 5-speed manual box, for £1000 less than the 5-speed auto, but, unless you specifically need an ultra low 1st and 2nd gear, or need to tow more than 2,000kg I advise you not to. The lever has a long throw, the box isn't pleasant to use and though the auto isn't perfect it is much better to drive.

The strong, flat torque curve and well-matched 5-speed autobox immediately make it feel much more responsive than the lead-footed V6 auto. As soon as you take it off smoothly metalled roads you forgive the car its acceptable, but slightly ponderous road handling. Off road, or on a bumpy, badly rutted track, or a Central London street with traffic harming measures, the car is superb. With 3rd gear of the Tiptronic type back-to-front autobox selected, it simply romps along, as at home in these conditions as a decent sportscar is on a racetrack. It's also very comfortable, absorbing bumps and ruts that live axle 4x4 pick-up would transmit straight to the cabin. And, because it keeps its wheels on the ground, you can actually go a lot faster. It has a full complement of ABS with EBD, ESP and TCR to keep it safe. If the going gets muddy you can select a centre diff lock that feeds power 50/50 to each axle up to 40kph, then ‘on demand' to the axle with the most traction above that speed.

On the motorway it cruises at a fairly relaxed 30mph per 1,000rpm in 5th (27.5 in the 5 speed manual). There isn't a lot of tyre roar or wind noise (unless the wind is blowing hard and catching in the roof rails). The dash is pleasant to behold. The mirrors are big. And the seats are comfortable. Even the centre rear row of seats happily takes three across, rather than two and a child. The new Santa Fe is 4,675mm long by 1,890mm wide by 1,795mm high (including the standard roof rails and cross-bars). That makes it pretty much the same size as a VW Touareg, Mercedes ML, Lexus RX300 and Volvo XC90. It doesn't carry the same status, of course. No more status than the KIA Sorento. But at prices from £20,995 it's more than 50% cheaper than some of these and offers a 7-seat option which most of the others don't.

And on top of all that it comes with a 5 year, unlimited mileage, fully transferable manufacturer warranty (not a ‘mechanical breakdown insurance), as long as you get it serviced to manufacturer standards. (You don't even have to use Hyundai dealers, though it would make better sense to do so,)

So whenever mums are non status-seeking, you can expect to see a lot more Hyundai Santa Fes on the London school run. Until Ken bans them and compels everyone to travel on one his buses or tube trains. Elsewhere in the country you will simply see a lot more Hyundai Santa Fes.


The 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 diesel auto was always a good 4x4. Especially good to drive quickly on rough tracks. For 2010 it's gone through some mid-life changes. You can't get the petrol V6 any more. Power of the 2.2 diesel is up, from 154bhp to 194bhp. Yet economy is also up, and emissions are down, all well under 200g/km. The manual is in VED Band I, and the auto in Band J.

Instead of 5 gears you now get six, whether you go for the manual or the automatic, and that will bridge the gap of the old 5-speed manual between 2nd and 3rd. Yet prices are down, starting at just £21,495 for the 5-seater manual in Style trim, and rising no higher than £25,495 for the 7-seater Premium 6-speed automatic.

The 2.2 engine is now chain cam and up in capacity slightly to 2,199cc. Torque is a stonking 422Nm at 422Nm from 1,800 to 2,500rpm. And the automatic gets even more. A frankly astonishing 436Nm, and all this from just 2,199cc. Amazing. The latest Toyota Landcruiser LC develops nothing like this from an engine 800cc bigger.

I remember the original Santa Fe in this body as being less than great on the road, but absolutely stunning on rough dirt tracks where it would romp along at 70mpg as if they were race circuit smooth asphalt. This one, on its 245/60 R18 tyres was totally unruffled on the roads.

I'm a bit circumspect hustling something as tall as this round bends but discovered I had nothing to worry about at all. It just went round. I guess the boys at Autocar would push it further until they found the limits, then compare it to an X5 or something, but I was simply happy enough with what it would do. It isn't a sportscar and I wouldn't drive it like one.

But it is a very pleasant thing to drive. The 6-speed box slurs its changes and keeps the revs quite high until everything is warmed up. Then the dash shows a little green ‘ECO' light when you're behaving yourself and anyway there's little need to venture beyond 2,000rpm because that gets you 70 in 6th.

Cruise control is on the steering wheel and the buttons are shaped like Braille so you can switch between its various functions without having to look. It's actually very good cruise control, easy to operate first time out, easy to over-ride and ideal for those endless 50 limits on the M1 these days.

As before, you get 7 seats and the load deck is a doddle to rearrange. The rearmost seats simply pull out of the floor in one simple cantilever movement. The centre seats flop down 35/65 in one go, using a similar cantilever mechanism. And the nearside single seat double folds with a catch at back and side to let the nippers out of the rearmost seats. These don't have the legroom or toe-room of a Mercedes GL, LandRover Discovery or even a Chevrolet Captiva. But they are on a par with a Volvo XC70, an Audi Q7 or a Nissan Pathfinder.

The Premium version I was driving came with very sturdy feeling leather seats, heated in the front, electric folding mirrors and lots of convenient places to put things in the sensibly designed console between the front seats. There are USB/Ipod dockets, an Aux socket, power sockets front and rear (as well as a fag lighter).

For off roading you can switch off the ESP and switch on a centre diff lock. The 6-speed manual will haul a 2,500kg caravan, and even the auto is rated to tug 2,000kg. You can tell the new car from the old by its revised (unaggressive) grille, new clear headlight clusters, new front and rear bumpers, different alloy wheels, and new big fat dual exhaust tailpipes.

I suppose as someone who has virtually given up and merely drives a FIAT 500, the most telling discovery was how well I got on with this comparative monster of a car. It's light and easy to drive, very easy to get on with, and doesn't irritate in any way.

Even though the new Santa Fe is totally inappropriate for my needs, I could get on with it fine. And that's not something I could say about any other large SUV in near, mid or distant memory.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.2 CRDi 42 mpg 9.8 s 176 g/km
2.2 CRDi Automatic 38–39 mpg 10.2 s 194–197 g/km
2.2 CRTD 39 mpg 11.6 s 191 g/km

Real MPG average for a Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

20–44 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Hyundai Santa Fe (2006 – 2012)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What SUV would you recommend that can fit three young children in?

We need to get a new car to accommodate a new child next year, which will give us three children under five. I'd really like an SUV (we live in the hills) but don't really want a seven seater. We probably have about £8k to spend or a £1.5k deposit plus max £200 a month. What would you recommend?
I'd look for a Hyundai Santa Fe. Your budget will get you a late example of the 2006-2012 model. There's plenty of space but not as much as an MPV. As much as I understand your reluctance, you might find something like a Kia Carens suits family life better.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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