THIS year marks 20 years of the Hyundai Santa Fe, with the 2020 edition marking the addition of a 3.5-litre petrol V6 power plant, pushing out 206kW of power and 336Nm or torque. It’s part of a mild overhaul of the entire vehicle.
Hyundai’s flagship SUV model, the Santa Fe has gone from strength to strength over the years, and the current generation could well be the best yet. The quality has vastly improved and it feels way more expensive than it actually is, for starters.
Along the way, the Korean car maker has gone to town on premium feel, improved dynamics and handling, a better ride and a general improvement on comfort, technology and capability. This year it adds new alloys, and rear passenger focused safety.
Our range-topping 2020 Santa Fe Highlander V6 was draped in Stormy Sea Blue, with power delivered through an 8-speed automatic transmission. There’s plenty of get up and go on tap from the seamless combination.
It’s a quiet engine too, and gives an effortless driving experience, whether you’re out on the open road, or weaving through traffic in the city. A number of drive modes offer the best fit for your driving style as well.
You can choose from Eco and Comfort, or dial things up to Sport, where the revs hold a little longer, and the steering gains some weight. The downside to the V6 though is its ability to drink fuel. It’s thirsty at 12.2-litres/100km average fuel economy during testing.
Hyundai claims 10.6-litres/100km from the petrol V6, but we couldn’t find it, with some trips seeing upwards of 17.0-litres/100km. That’s V8 SUV territory. It’s the one area of the Santa Fe we think could be drastically improved on.
That aside, the drive is smooth and comfortable, and we were actually surprised just how well the Santa Fe Highlander rides over lumps and bumps. It is noisy under acceleration though, which some may find bothersome. In general conditions, it’s relatively quiet.
On the inside, the electrically adjustable leather seats boast heating and venting, while the rear seats are also heated, and are more supportive and comfortable than the previous generation.
The rear seats have also had a good rework to allow better access into the third row, given the Santa Fe is indeed a 7-seater. The second row seat backs tilt, while the bases slide forward to free up some space for those consigned to the third row.
It’s kid friendly at best back there in the third row though, as is typical of many seven seat SUVs. That said, the third row does get its own climate controls and air vents, as well as cup holders, so it’s not all that bad.
The panoramic roof makes the cabin light and airy too, and the oyster-coloured (light grey) headlining only enhances that feeling, making for a feeling that’s a little modern-retro. We like it.
Leather and soft plastics are featured everywhere. Even the speaker covers in the door cards have been given the once over. Funnily enough they look similar to the design now gracing Hyundai dealerships. Intentional or not, it’s a good look.
The leather wrapped steering wheel feels solid. A central digital speedo changes colour according to drive modes (green for Eco, blue for Comfort and Smart, or red for Sport), and is flanked by a tacho, and temp and fuel gauges. There’s also a head-up display.
Storage options are in abundance too, from deep spaces such as in the centre console, a shallow sliding tray for odds and ends, and some slim hidey holes. There’s a pair of cup holders in the centre console as well, and a wireless charging pad.
You’ll also find a 12V plug, single USB point and an auxiliary plug here. The 8-inch touchscreen infotainment houses satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB+ radio, and a split screen rear view camera, including overhead projection.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also on board, along with an absolute bucket load of safety tech. The Santa Fe Highlander comes standard with forward collision avoidance for cars and pedestrians, smart cruise control and lane keep assist.
It also scores blind spot collision warning, rear cross traffic collision warning, high beam assist, an advanced smart parking assist system, rear occupant alert, safe exit assist, driver attention warning, and surround view monitors.
From the powerful V6, well pointed interior, drive and standard technology, the 2020 Santa Fe has stepped up a notch, even over previous versions of the current generation. We think other manufactures in this segment could learn alot from Hyundai.
The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander starts from $63,145 plus on-roads. It’s available in Earthly Bronze, White Cream, Typhoon Silver, Magnetic Force (Dark Grey), Stormy Sea (Blue), Phantom Black, Wild Explorer (Light Grey) and Rain Forest (Dark Green).
Our test vehicle was provided by Hyundai Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Santa Fe Highlander, contact your local Hyundai dealer.