Review: Hyundai Santa Fe (2012 – 2018)

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Sleek looks and good quality interior. Refined and quiet on the move. Available with seven seats. Well equipped as standard. Excellent 2.2 CRDi diesel. 5-year unlimited mileage warranty.

Top models became quite expensive.

Hyundai Santa Fe (2012 – 2018): At A Glance

Hyundai is clearly a company that listens when it comes to building a new car. And not just to its existing customers either. When it came to developing the third generation Santa Fe, the firm got feedback from current owners, but more crucially from people who didn't buy one. The views of customers who had shown interest in the Santa Fe but chosen something else highlighted areas where Hyundai was falling short.

It has paid dividends too because this Santa Fe is a mightily impressive SUV. And it addresses the shortcomings of the outgoing model. The good things remain though. The Santa Fe built up a reputation as a good value, reliable and well built 4x4, making it an ideal family car. This version hasn't lost touch with these 'core' values but gets a much needed boost in the style and quality departments.

In terms of looks the new Santa Fe is a huge step forward over the old model. Gone is the boxy and ungainly profile, replaced by a lower and sleeker design. It's the next phase in Hyundai's family look, evolving the style seen on the new i30. You can expect to see the same look on the updated ix35, which is due next year. The front is certainly imposing with that large chrome grille and angular lights.

As before it's available with seven-seats and comes with an improved version of the 2.2-litre CRDi diesel engine in the current model, producing 197PS and with economy of around 48mpg on the two-wheel version.

The all-wheel-drive set-up is an on-demand system runs in front-wheel drive the majority of the time but can send up to 50 per cent drive to the rear wheels if it detects a loss of grip. For particularly slippery conditions, such as snow or ice, permanent four-wheel-drive can be selected, delivering a 50/50 power split at up to 25mph. Maximum towing capability with a braked trailer is 2500 kg.

Road Test of Hyundai Santa Fe 2012

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What does a Hyundai Santa Fe (2012 – 2018) cost?

List Price from £38,985
Buy new from £31,835
Contract hire from £349.82 per month

Hyundai Santa Fe (2012 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4690–4700 mm
Width 1880 mm
Height 1675–1685 mm
Wheelbase 2700 mm

Full specifications

It's inside where the new Santa Fe is light years ahead of its predecessor. Those customers who didn't buy the outgoing Santa Fe had one main reason - interior quality. Well there are certainly no complaints with the new model. It feels as well screwed together as before and now the perceived quality is far superior. From the leather used for the seats to the plastics on the doors it all has a much premium feel. Even the buttons and switches are better. This is a cabin up to Honda standards.

Everything is well laid out too. All the main controls such as the air conditioning and stereo are grouped together high on the central stack, while buttons are clearly marked so it's easy to work out what everything does. As user-friendliness goes the Santa Fe is perfect. It's advanced too. There's an electric parking brake rather than the foot-operated nuisance on the old model, a hill start assist system and Bluetooth as standard. The new sat nav system, standard on Premium and Premium SE models, is improved too and now takes full seven digit postcodes.

Of course this is all well and good but as a family car the Santa Fe has to be practical. Fortunately the new model has lost none of its versatility. There's the standard five-seat version but the majority of buyers go for the seven-seater which has two extra seats that neatly flip up from the boot floor. These seats are really only for kids and teenagers, plus you have to be fairly athletic to get to and from them, but once there, it's surprisingly comfortable with more than adequate space.

Compared to the outgoing Santa Fe, there's more legroom both in the front and for those sat behind. The middle row of seats slides, while the backs can be reclined, although the combination of rising window line and sloping roof means you do feel hemmed in when sat here, especially with three across. On the plus side you can fold this row down using levers in the boot, which saves having to go in through the side doors if you're halfway through loading something bulky into the boot. Elsewhere there's plenty of storage including a cooled glovebox and a large 537-litre boot.

Standard equipment from launch (September 2012):

Style models get 18-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles, body-coloured door mirrors with integrated indicators, reverse parking sensors, daytime running lights, self-levelling suspension (seven-seat 4WD only), a rear-spoiler with a high mounted brake light, air conditioning, Bluetooth with voice recognition, heated front seats, drivers seat electric lumbar support, multi-function steering wheel and the adjustable Flex Steer system.

Premium adds touchscreen satellite navigation, a reverse parking camera with a Parking Guidance system, electric folding mirrors, dual-zone climate control, roof rails, chrome effect door handles and black leather seats. Beige leather can be specified as a no cost option.

Premium SE is the top trim and adds 19-inch wheels, electric driver's seat adjustment, a panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, headlamp washers, keyless entry with engine start/stop button, front parking sensors, Smart Parking Assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

Child seats that fit a Hyundai Santa Fe (2012 – 2018)

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 (2012 – 2018) like to drive?

There's just one engine in the Santa Fe range, the same 2.2 CRDi diesel that was used in its predecessor, but it's been re-engineered to improve refinement and economy. The big change is that the Santa Fe is now available with just front-wheel drive, for those that don't need the 4x4 ability. This returns a claimed 47.9mpg with emissions of just 155g/km.

However, Hyundai reckons nine out of every 10 Santa Fe sales will be the 4x4 version. It makes sense as there's little difference in economy, with an official 46.3mpg and 159g/km of CO2. Whichever model you choose the engine produces the same 197PS and 422Nm of torque meaning brisk performance and strong in-gear acceleration when you need it. The six-speed manual gearbox has a nice positive change while the six-speed automatic delivers smooth, if not especially snappy shifts.

Refinement is impressive throughout the Santa Fe and thanks to extra sound proofing and thicker side windows there's little wind or road noise, making it a very comfortable car for long distances. It's ideal for towing too with manual versions capable of pulling 2500kg braked. One new feature is Trailer Stability Assist. If it detects a trailer or caravan beginning to snake it will automatically reduce engine power and if needed alternately apply the left and right front brakes to straighten-up the vehicle’s course. Seven-seat 4WD models get self-levelling suspension too.

While the Santa Fe is very much designed for on-road use, it is more than capable on rutted tracks and across muddly fields. The on demand all-wheel drive system usually sends 100% power to the front wheels but if it detects a loss of grip will switch to a 50/50 split. It's completely automatic so as the driver you don't have to do anything. If it does get very treacherous there's a lock button which permanently sets the system to 50/50 at up 25mph. There's also downhill brake control, which keeps the car below 6mph when going down steep slopes.

Handling is never a strong point for any SUV and the Sante Fe is no different. That said it feels safe and composed despite the lack of steering feel, while it corners tidily. The ride is very impressive and the Santa Fe glides along in a very relaxed manner. Hyundai has given the Santa Fe a bespoke suspension set-up for the UK with stiffer dampers which means less body roll in corners, but the downside is that it can be crashy over deep potholes.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.2 CRDi 46–47 mpg 9.0–9.8 s 159–161 g/km
2.2 CRDi 2WD 48 mpg 9.4 s 155 g/km
2.2 CRDi Automatic 42–43 mpg 9.6–10.1 s 174–178 g/km

Real MPG average for a Hyundai Santa Fe (2012 – 2018)

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

26–43 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 (2012 – 2018)?

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's the best car for a family of five?

Can you advise on a used family car for us? The car will barely be used Monday to Friday but will be used for short trips into town at weekends. It will also be used to drive to Ireland once or twice a year. There are five of us in the family - three adults and two kids. At the moment we have a Zafira which suits our needs but is a bit boring to be honest. Our budget is around £15k.
How about an SUV like a Hyundai Santa Fe? It's a bit more interesting than a Zafira but represents very good value for money and will still be cheap to run. You'll have to look at one to decide if it's big enough for your needs, though - the rear seats pop up in the boot and aren't the easiest to get in and out of. Otherwise, you'll have to look at another MPV. There are some excellent deals available on Vauxhall Zafira Tourers. Also look at a Ford S-MAX or Galaxy.
Answered by Andrew Brady
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