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Hyundai Santa Fe Premium 7-seat 2011 review


  • Neilzo likes this

Overall towcar rating

*****


Key information

  • Transmission: Manual
  • Year of manufacture: 2011
  • Fuel type: Diesel
  • Engine size: 2.2litres
  • Solo fuel economy: 32 miles per gallon
  • Towing fuel economy: 26 miles per gallon
  • Kerb weight: 1991 kg
  • Nose weight: 100 kg
  • Body type: Other

Towcar summary

What's good?

I’ve pulled caravans with a range of cars over the years but with the purchase of my Lunar Ultima EBW I decided that the benefits of a 4*4 could not be ignored! I asked my son to suggest a car – he knows about these things! He immediately pointed me towards the Hyundai – primarily because of the excellent reviews the car had earned and the value for money.

It was the high ratings in reviews plus the attributes of a largish 4*4 that were the deciding factors in my decision. I have not been disappointed. Clearly many of the opinions expressed would be equally valid when considered in the context of any heavy 4*4 and will not be confined to the Hyundai Santa Fe!

I’ve not commented upon issues such as safety nor made subjective comments on style and the like. They may easily be found in any official review. Technical details are again freely available from many sources and need no mention here!

These are simply my thoughts having owned a Santa Fe for three years now and as both a caravanner and solo motorist. This is not a reworded review taken from the web!

Drive Train 5*

The engine is powerful and easily deals with my 1500kg van in all situations. Hill starts, braking, manoeuvring and general driving on motorways or other roads are a joy! I look forward to towing! The clutch is well weighted and very easy to engage. If I had a criticism it would be that 5th and 6th gears are a tad high but, of course, that’s a price to pay for economy.

In reality is has been very rare indeed that I have needed to change down from 6th gear when towing. The car with van maintains a steady 60mph up hill and down dale with or without cruise control.

The 4 wheel drive system has been a blessing on more than one occasion. To leave or return home means a drive up a steep hill. The Santa Fe has felt completely in control ascending or descending in the ice and snow of recent winters. My wife is a very nervous driver in bad conditions but with this car her confidence is high – I think she might even enjoy ploughing through snow!

Solo acceleration is excellent. 0 to 62mph in 9.8 seconds the book tells me and I’ve no reason to dispute that figure!

Economy 4*

Economy for us works out at about 32mpg solo for mostly town driving. Towing ranges from as low as 19mpg on up to 31mpg. I have managed 45mpg solo on a round trip of 300 miles to London but that included sections of 50mph through road-works.

Conditions play such a massive roll in consumption figures.

As an average for towing I estimate 25mpg to 26mpg. I’m sure this figure would improve with a slightly slower driving speed of say 55mph but I prefer to find my bit of road and not be hemmed in my lorries! With a few more miles under the bonnet I’m quietly hoping I can squeeze an extra mpg out during the summer, circa 3000 miles, exodus to the Continent.

Handling and Stability 5*

The stability of the outfit is, in my view, a massive plus for the Santa Fe. But, of course, much depends upon the whole outfit and not just the tug! My comments will hold true for any 4*4 I imagine.

I have a spread-sheet for calculating weights. I use it for the outward journey when touring and the return home when weights will have changed, particularly if I’m bringing most of France’s wine production home with me! My “out” weight shows a ratio of 61% and the “home” weight 57%. (These are figures based on gross weights – what the car and ‘van actually weigh) Of course I realise that these figures are not attainable for many people but they are for me! And with self-levelling suspension the whole outfit rides absolutely level – another bonus when I remember standing to one side to see just how far the rear of the car had sunk with the van attached! Those days are well and truly over.

My tow bar is a Witter removable. I negotiated this and a cycle rack when buying the car and although a fixed ball was expected the position of the central reversing sensor might make this an unwise addition! I made this point and the detachable was flitted – quite pleased about that! Incidentally this is unobtrusive and easy to use.

Tow ball weight is 100kg which is fine since any more is not usable with an AL-KO chassis.

I cringe when I read of ratios around the 100% talked about in the forum! I’m sure those who drive in these circumstances are capable but I like to keep up with traffic easily and feel secure at all times. I am more than confident that I can make the same progress as other traffic at all times, subject to differences in speed limits of course.

I suppose, and this goes for any 4*4, the security of the tow is a massive bonus. Like many people we could not afford to invest in a car primarily for leisure use when young but the confidence and peace of mind towing are massive benefits now we are able to afford such a car.

Warranty and Servicing 5*

The warranty of five years with the Santa Fe is a bonus and we bought into a service plan which will take us through to the end of the five year period. Not cheap because it operates through a Main Dealer but paid monthly with no interest and at a fixed rate throughout. I get a free car when mine is serviced and without any extra payment for insurance etc. Obviously any increases in consumables or service charges over the six year period are irrelevant to us. They do seem to look after customers with phone calls after to ask if everything was ok!

Other Thoughts

Other positives are the ride height, the visibility both solo and towing. The door mirrors retract and when on the ferry they ensure my Milenco Grand Aero mirrors are out of the way folded along the side of the car!

The spare wheel is full size and on an alloy wheel. This is, for me, a very important point.

We debated over the exact model to go for when ordering and on balance felt the Premium seven seat models worth the extra. Leather heated seats with electric control for the driver, cruise control and duel zone climate control were the main reasons for our choice. We feel we made the right decision having lived with the car

As for auto versus manual that’s a personal preference but with our car the tow ball limit was 85kg for an automatic and 100kg for the manual. I needed the larger capacity if I was going to carry a cycle on the tow ball and, even without, felt stability would be improved with the higher rating.

There is a price to pay with a seven seat version regarding luggage capacity. The rear seats fold down into “holes” in the boot leaving a flat surface for loading. But, of course, without seats this extra volume is available for other items. We have used the seven seats a few times – well to be strictly accurate six of them – and felt relieved they were available. On balance, although I would have initially preferred a five seat car with self-levelling suspension that combination was not possible, going for the seven seat car and the reduced luggage capacity has not been an issue. The boot is big and a few days ago there was no change in the attitude of the car with four three feet by two feet by two inch concrete paving slabs on board!



What's bad?

The less than perfect aspects of the Santa Fe are not many I feel. It is a very cheap car for what you get (new models now less so but with improved specs of course!) and consequently there are shortcomings.

Most of the car interior panels are grey coated plastic or perhaps cardboard and the slightest scratch leaves a mark. The sides of the boot are particularly vulnerable when loading stuff for holidays. I suspect this is a “fault” that is not limited to the Santa Fe!

There is no Sat. Nav. fitted but the radio and CD player are fine. Although a built in Sat. Nav. might have been nice I personally much prefer mine to be where I can see it without looking down. Good old TomTom! An added bonus is that we keep a great deal of music on a USB stick which simply plugs into the system and can be played direct. No need for bulky CDs.

There is a six speed gearbox on the manual car. Gear changing is fluid but the change from 1st into 2nd is a tad slow. I find I need to pause momentarily before slipping into 2nd gear. I must emphasise that this is not a problem, just an observation, and I’m happy with the gearbox generally.

I suppose the car must be seen for what it is – or more fairly what it is not - which is a sports car! I find driving along winding country roads is not a problem and certainly motorway cruising at any speed a relaxed, smooth and quiet experience. Town driving is also without hassle.

I would dearly love to be able to carry cycles on the rear of my caravan but can’t. The second best place would be the rear door of the Santa Fe. Although one rack is claimed to fit I have doubts about its security. All the major manufacturers point out that the rear spoiler makes cycle rack fitting impossible.

The car has been recalled twice for minor modifications (brake switch a couple of weeks ago). I have also had four new wheels fitted. This was after reading that other forum members had problems and after checking I found very small areas of rust. Hyundai replaced without question although I had to wait a few weeks. The garage said there were three others as well as mine – seems like a faulty batch.

We have suffered one major breakdown – a clutch master cylinder failing – which was a gearbox out job and, of course, repaired under warranty. Of course a failure such should not happen but I suppose it can with any car. The positive was the way it was handled and the peace of mind that it could have gone within a period of another two years and still be replaced free!

Would you recommend it?

Yes

Towing performance *****

How well does it tow?

Excellent in all areas. But please see my weight ratios mentioned earlier.

Solo performance *****

What's it like without the caravan?

This is not a sports car and cannot be expected to perform like one. It is quick off the mark though - think I read when I first bought it that it was the fastest to 62kph of all comparable vehicles.

Motorway driving is first class.

I rate it 1 in terms of my expectations of any vehicle of this type.

Reliability ****

Anything to look out for?

The failed master cylinder was not expected after only 2.5 years of ownership but I'm prepared to accept that as an unfortunate one off event. In all other respects the car has been perfectly reliable.

Practicality *****

Is it easy to live with?

Conclusion

We feel we have made a sensible purchase that fits all our needs.

Caravanning has changed from a struggle to cope with weight limitations to a situation where, if sensible, weight is simply not an issue. Control and stability with enhanced confidence in safety make this car worth every penny to us.

The acid test is would I replace with another and the answer is yes.

John_b_45

Buying experience ****

Did you buy it new or used?

New

Where did you buy it?

Franchised dealer

What was the seller like?

Reasonably competent but a long delay before delivery. Negotiations for extras such as a tow ball and cycle rack were smooth!

 

All opinions, facts and figures are those of the reviewer. Caravan Talk accepts no responsibility for accuracy of the content.



12 Comments

Hi,would go along with everything you've said. We too had the brake switch replaced(more of a problem on our auto for gear selection) and we are currently waiting on a new steering wheel to be fitted as ours has begun to loose its leather coating. This is the 4th Santa Fe we've had and will probably go for another one at change time. Duncan
Love the review. Had an 11 plate sf from new, but got rid of it after a year as it as always going wrong (in garage 14 times in a year), and eventually lost faith in it. If I could have got a reliable one I would have still had it, as the engine is a peach. Also loved the handbrake for hill starts (reminds me of the Volvo handbrake)

Hi,would go along with everything you've said. We too had the brake switch replaced(more of a problem on our auto for gear selection) and we are currently waiting on a new steering wheel to be fitted as ours has begun to loose its leather coating. This is the 4th Santa Fe we've had and will probably go for another one at change time. Duncan

Have you seen the price and delivery times for the new model!  Order now and you might just get it for a Christmas present next year.  OK bit of an exaggeration but .....  RHD model is being prioritised for other markets. :(

Have you seen the price and delivery times for the new model!  Order now and you might just get it for a Christmas present next year.  OK bit of an exaggeration but .....  RHD model is being prioritised for other markets. :(


Hi,
we probably won't be changing for another 11/2 to 2 years so hopefully will all be ok by that time
Duncan

Same here Duncan.  Only done just a bit over 20000 miles and still 2 years' warranty remaining.  But at the moment will certainly replace with the same!

Car just over 3 years old now.  23450 miles and changing for another,  Same model/spec etc. 

Nothing whatsoever wrong with this car but wife retiring and we decided to treat ourselves - gives another 5 years warranty of course.

Just hope the 2014 model is as good as this one - I'm sure it will be.

Car just over 3 years old now.  23450 miles and changing for another,  Same model/spec etc. 

Nothing whatsoever wrong with this car but wife retiring and we decided to treat ourselves - gives another 5 years warranty of course.

Just hope the 2014 model is as good as this one - I'm sure it will be.

Save some money.

 

Tell the wife she's waaaaaaay tooooooo young to retire!  You'll get major brownie points too! :) :)

 

Enjoy the new toy. :D

Save some money.

 

Tell the wife she's waaaaaaay tooooooo young to retire!  You'll get major brownie points too! :) :)

 

Enjoy the new toy. :D

 

I know that and obviously so do you! ;)  Thanks for the good wishes :D

I love the towing abilities of our SF. Always puts a smile on my face. So much so the wife is getting sick of me commenting how good it is everytime the caravan is on the back. The auto like i have is a peach.

Was seriously considering changing the car for a VW T5 Caravelle so we could put more stuff in the car and less in the caravan due to the caravans tight payload. But i cant justify getting rid of such a great car with nearly 3 years warranty left. So ive changes to a 1800kg twin axle with plenty of payload. Im sure the car will pull that with ease too

Not sure if you are aware but the Santa Fe (and its factory sibling Kia Sorento) have major problems when towing, and have to do hill starts under load, or reverse up a slight slope.

They even provide kits to swap to non-DMF clutch assemblies. (see attached file)

 

 

Worth taking a read at:

http://kiasorento.pr...&scrollTo=68999

Maybe we will see in future "... class leading 4x4, 7 yr warranty, but unsuitable for towing to stated capacity if it involves hill starts, or reversing"


Attached Files

Not sure if you are aware but the Santa Fe (and its factory sibling Kia Sorento) have major problems when towing, and have to do hill starts under load, or reverse up a slight slope.
They even provide kits to swap to non-DMF clutch assemblies. (see attached file)
 
 
Worth taking a read at:
http://kiasorento.pr...&scrollTo=68999
Maybe we will see in future "... class leading 4x4, 7 yr warranty, but unsuitable for towing to stated capacity if it involves hill starts, or reversing"


Hi Sargan

The OP is reviewing the Santa fe that was built between 2006 and 2012. Your Pdf is refering to the Santa fe built before 2003 and equipped with the 2.0 litre diesel engine that had clutch and flywheel problems. Also your link to the Kia forum can only be accessed to members.

For members with early Santa Fes the information is worth noting and if towing with a pre 03 model then potential buyers should check to see if the clutch adaption has been carried out.
    • paulthomas, John_b_45 and JCloughie like this
Great review, we have had our SF for 3 years (from new) it is the 7 seat premium and is definitely worth the extra cash for the higher spec. I suspect the extra will be recouped when we come to trade it in. I would like to make a suggestion regarding the rearmost seats. As well as towing our caravan we travel to France each January for a skiing holiday we being 4 adults 2 dogs in the boot, we fill a trailer and a roof box. We have found that removing the rearmost seats, each is held in place by 4 bolts easily removed gives us tons of extra space and takes around 15 mins. We have created a false floor ( to allow us to fill the space but leave a level floor for the dogs). It works really well, I guess you could source a false floor from Hyundai but to be honest we cut thin plywood to shape and it works for us. Just a suggestion.