Make: Hyundai
Model: Santa Fe
Variant: Highlander
Engine / Transmission: 2.2 turbo diesel – 8 speed DCT automatic transmission
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 6.1L/100km combined
Price: From about $70423 on road

In a nutshell: 

For a family car, I just can’t imagine how you would want anything more than this. 

First Impressions: 

With NSW in a hard lockdown again things were getting tricky for the EFTM Garage. Hyundai came to the rescue with the offer of a Santa Fe until things settled down. This brings with it an element of risk for manufacturers; will the gloss of a new model wear off during a longer review, or will extra time spent with the car reveal hidden gems? Well, I’m happy to say that the Santa Fe revealed gem upon gem during the few weeks we had it. 

Hyundai has built great quality cars for years, but with improvements to exterior and interior styling and, importantly, Australian tuned suspension, they are now proving to be a very credible threat to much, much more expensive machines.  

Look, $70k is solid coin for a family car, but the range starts below $50k for both the 3.5 litre V6 petrol and the excellent 2.2 litre turbo diesel ($48898 for the front wheel drive and $49990 for the all wheel drive diesel – you’d have rocks in your head to not go for the AWD diesel!). Both will tow a Jayco friendly 2500kg and every Santa Fe features Hyundai’s “SmartSense”: active braking system, blind spot assist, active cruise control, high beam assist, lane keep assist and more. There are a range of option packs available, but really these consist mainly of big wheels, nudge bars and trim kits – all unnecessary and not recommended. 

Tech Inside:

The extra spend for the Highlander trim really comes into its own with tech. Memory 14 (14!!!) way electric adjustable, heated and cooled front seats are nice. So too is remote starting and being able to park in tight spaces with just the key fob as a remote control via the Remote Smart Parking Assist system. The blind spot view monitor, showing live feed images of your blind spot on the dashboard, is also oddly addictive and, over time, becomes second nature. 

Small features of this top level trim are easily overlooked at first glance. For example, where the lesser grades make do with four parking sensors front and rear, the Highlander is fitted with six. Together with the 360 degree camera, active parking assist lines and autonomous braking at the rear as well as the front, you end up being able to park what is essentially a large, bulky car as easily as you have ever parked. In fact, jumping into my old Volvo – a much smaller car, but without any kind of parking assistance, reminded me of just how much brain space old skool parking needs! 

The 10.25” infotainment display is a nice touch, and the Harmon Kardon branded sound system is great. So too is the double glazed glass, keeping noise to a minimum, and the multi LED headlights, keeping …er… darkness to a minimum. 

Ultimately, only you can decide if the extra spend for the Highlander trim is worth it, but, if it was my money, I would cough for it. The extra tech as well as the colour coding styling treats, nappa leather, huge sunroof, heated steering wheel and seats front and back and gorgeous suede roof lining makes it good value and really brings the fight to much more expensive competition.  

Most Impressive:

Hyundai, like sister Kia, have always pushed value as their point of difference. Years ago, this meant cheap. To break into the market, both of these manufacturers offered products that were similar to the established players, but that were cheaper (and often, not quite as good). What most impresses me now with Hyundai, and Kia for that matter, is that they have well and truly abandoned that business model and now offer cars that are brilliant value – not necessarily cheaper than the competitors, but often much better. This is the case with the Santa Fe Highlander. 

While Toyota’s Kluger in Grande spec, for example, is only a little more expensive it does not have a diesel option or other neat touches, such as heated rear seats or alcantara roof lining. BMW’s X5 xDrive25d (a similarly sized family SUV) comes in at $114k, but the seven seat option will set you back an extra $2577. Oh, and you’ll need another $4385 for the sunroof and $1077 for the same Harmon Kardon sound system. Sure, it’s a bit of an oranges and apples comparison, but I think it goes some way to show the deep quality of the Santa Fe, and the confidence that I have in the Australia specific suspension tune, that an X5 comparison even came into my mind. 

Not So Impressive:

The Santa Fe is a very difficult car to criticise. In fact, I would be hard pressed to swap it for anything else to have in the Garage during lockdown. I needed something that I could get the family into for the daily trip to the beach and weekly outing to Woolies, without having to give it a second thought or be in anything but comfort and a degree of luxury. 

Ultimately though, I am not the target audience. I am never going to spend $70k on a family car. For $70k I can buy a low mileage BMW M3 and a ten year old Camry, but I understand that this solution isn’t for everyone. If you’re in the market for a $70k family car, I just can’t see how you can go wrong with a Santa Fe.


Take up my challenge if you don’t believe me. Take a Santa Fe Highlander for a good, long test drive and then take a X5 25d for a run and tell me I’m wrong!