REVIEW | Seven-seat Hyundai Santa Fe AWD Elite a premium surprise hiding in plain sight

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2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

We review the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe AWD Elite.

• The SUV is the most expensive among Hyundai's passenger vehicles.

• The Santa Fe Elite retails from R869 500 and is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine.

For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24


When one thinks of premium SUVs, you'd be forgiven for jumping to an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz first. It's not strange for these automakers to be the default names that pop into one's mind first because they truly have made the premium segment their own. And we really can't fault them for having such a stronghold on the market.

But what would you say if we were to tell you that Hyundai is making just as strong a case with its Santa Fe? Perhaps "tell me more" or "how can a Korean compete with Germany's finest?". Either way, the updated Santa Fe, launched in South Africa earlier this year, warrants one's attention in a way that does not impose itself on you. This is an SUV worth the time of day.

Our test model, the 2.2D 4WD Elite, comes in at R869 500. However, before we call Hyundai out for selling a car worth almost R900 000, reserve the thought that this vehicle might be a surprise hiding in plain sight…

Hyundai Santa Fe
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

Extensive features list

When considering a new premium SUV as your next purchasing decision, it's not uncommon to approach a German brand. These vehicles carry the necessary status, flair, and aura to announce your presence. But - and it's a big 'but' - to truly appreciate the vehicle, you must delve into the options list. And when you start ticking, you can easily add R200 000 to a vehicle's base price.

Hyundai, and many other automakers, opted against a vast options list and will instead kit a vehicle comprehensively. Case in point, this Santa Fe Elite model.

READ: Hyundai's upgraded Santa Fe SUV encompasses four generations of refinement

It rides on 20-inch wheels with a design that looks spacious but not cumbersome. Standard bits include daytime running lights, xenon headlights, automatic rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and start, front and rear USB ports, and a panoramic sunroof. The multimedia system is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, and users can charge their smartphones in the upright charging port between the front seats. Front passengers are also treated to heated/ventilated leather seats, while the entire cabin is fitted with six airbags. The SUV can transport up to seven passengers.

Given that the Santa Fe is the pinnacle vehicle in Hyundai's local line-up (at least until the Palisade arrives later this year), the information display in front of the driver blends digital and analogue technology seamlessly. Yet, the controls on the dashboard are a bit much. Buttons adorn this space, and while it makes navigating through the features easier, it seems like a step back for a vehicle doing everything else right. Though not unpractical, it almost takes away from the overall appeal. Almost.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

Impressive engine = impressive drive

We believe that Hyundai made the right decision by fitting its 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine in the Santa Fe. To the vehicle's loyalists, it's nothing new, but the engine's ease of use and effortlessness will impress those confronted with it for the first time. In its latest iteration, the engine produces 148kW and 441Nm, and weighs 19.5kg less than the previous mill thanks to the engine block being made of aluminium.

READ: DRIVEN | Watch out BMW, Toyota, new Santa Fe SUV sees Hyundai turning up the premium notch

A new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the seven-speed auto', allowing for improved and smoother gearshifts. According to Hyundai, the new 'box aids fuel economy - which we can believe given our average consumption of around 8.5-litres/100km (Hyundai claims 7.9-litres/100km).

The Santa Fe line-up has several driving modes - Comfort, Sport, Eco and Smart - to choose from, with each mode altering the SUV's driving dynamics. Acceleration is brisk for such a big vehicle, and on-road comfort is at the forefront of every driving experience. But the Santa Fe feels more at home on the open road at 120km/h where the engine prods along at a leisurely 2 000rpm without missing a beat.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe

In summary

Since its original debut, the Santa Fe has been flying Hyundai's flag high in South Africa and has not put many a foot wrong. It's an all-round impressive vehicle with the looks to boot. While we would have liked the interior to take on a more digital approach and lessen the buttons, Hyundai's iteration of a premium SUV does not miss the mark and puts the money where its mouth is.

The Hyundai Santa Fe range is sold with a six-year or 90 000km service plan and a seven-year or 200 000km manufacturer's warranty.

Hyundai Santa Fe
2021 Hyundai Santa Fe
Quick stats: 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe AWD Elite

Price: R869 500

Engine: 2.2-litre turbodiesel, four-cylinder

Power: 148kW @ 3 800rpm

Torque: 441Nm @ 1 750 - 2 750rpm

Gears: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel drive

Economy: 7.9-litres/100km

0-100km/h: 9.0 seconds

Top speed: 205km/h

Kerb weight: 1 810kg

Tyres: 255/45 R20

Service Plan: Six-years or 90 000km

Vehicle Warranty: Five-years or 150 000km

Drivetrain Warranty: Seven-years or 200 000km

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