Good enough to convince you to have kids
At a glance
  • Handling
  • Comfort
  • Performance
  • Design
  • Interior
  • Practicality
  • Costs
Increased space
Luxurious cabin
Refined road manners
Styling too divisive?
No diesel option
No electric option
  • Variant: 1.6 T-GDI HEV
  • Price: Est. from £47,000
  • Engine: turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol-electric hybrid system
  • Power: 231bhp
  • Torque: 271lb ft
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
  • Acceleration: 0-62mph: 9.5sec
  • Top Speed: 118mph
  • Fuel: 43.8mpg
  • co2: TBC
  • Road tax band: TBC
  • Dimensions: 4,830mm x 1,900mm x 1,770mm
  • Release Date: Early 2024

Hyundai Santa Fe 2024 review: Opinion-dividing design hides a more road-biased, family-friendly SUV

It's all the kids' fault

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You can blame the passengers in the rearmost seats of the new Hyundai Santa Fe for its rear-end styling that instantly calls to mind the whale-like Ford Scorpio MkII of 1994. While there was no logical excuse for that abomination, Hyundai’s designers make a rational case for the “distinctive” low-set lights in their latest creation.

The clusters are positioned low down to allow mounting of the struts that hold the boot lid up as far apart as possible, the ultimate aim being a wide opening. That, it would appear, became an obsession of the car’s product planners; a fixation that the marketeers adopted with zeal as they talk about how the 145mm-wider-than-before opening makes the new model better than ever for fitting your chosen lifestyle into.

The boot itself is usefully larger than that of the old model’s, though no doubt some would happily trade that extra versatility for a more conventional set of rear lights.

Hyundai Santa Fe

A new frontier on space

There’s more focus on the needs of a large family elsewhere in the Santa Fe, starting with a longer wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels), translating into more rear legroom.

Meanwhile, a higher roofline along with Tonka-toy-like blocky styling frees up headroom all the way back to the third row. Average-sized adults can quite comfortably sit in those rearmost seats if they have to, though it’s more likely to be used for children, as evidenced by the fact that there are Isofix mounting points back there, too.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe third row seats

More of those can be found in the outer seats in the second row, with bags of space for the latest generation of bulky rear-facing car seats. And your kids will be delighted to discover plenty of USB charging ports dotted throughout.

Indeed, as with the pure-electric EV9 from Hyundai’s sister brand Kia, if you don’t expect to be ferrying lots of kids about the Santa Fe can be specified with a six-seat layout instead, meaning two captain’s chairs in the second row that come with a bordering-on-excessive amount of adjustment.

  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Hyundai Santa Fe

They’re at least as comfortable as the front seats and the availability of this setup hints at another step up the premium ladder for Hyundai’s big SUV.

It’s a luxury car masquerading as a family motor

Up front, that theme continues. While it’s clearly a cabin from the Korean company, it’s more luxurious than any other model in the line-up, though some of that image is undone somewhat by the prospect of a baby bottle steriliser built into the dashboard.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Don’t worry, it’s behind a tactile, almost-hidden panel above the glovebox on the passenger side, and it can sterilise other things, too. We suspect that idea came about mid-Covid.

Working from home seemed to agree with Hyundai’s designers, as they’ve managed to mix huge practicality with a premium feel and lots of technology, too. There’s a BMW-like curved digital dashboard, for example, featuring Hyundai’s usual no-nonsense graphics and an intuitive-to-use touchscreen in the middle. Thankfully, the climate control is operated using a mix of traditional rotary dials and a dinky little touch-sensitive panel at the front of a wide centre console.

2024 Hyundai Santa Fe charging pads

Taking pride of place there is a pair of rubberised wireless charging pads, cupholders that can accommodate coffee cups of the size that busy parents need to get through the morning, and more USB ports for when you need to plug in an older device because one of the children ruined the new one with a crayon/ mushy banana/ milky cereal.

Best not let the kids see that the storage cubby under the central armrest can be opened from the back and the front, or lord knows what you’ll find growing in there a few months hence.

No diesel option this time around

Better still, drop off the kids with a relative and take the Santa Fe for a drive on your own for a bit of peace and quiet. And that’s exactly what it provides thanks in no small part to the double-glazed side glass fitted to our test car. That keeps wind roar at bay, along with the swishing noise other cars make as you go by them, and it also isolates the engine’s machinations from passenger ears.

Hyundai Santa Fe

That job is made a little easier in this generation of Santa Fe as there will never be an uncouth diesel engine under the bonnet. Buyers will have a choice of a plug-in hybrid, as is offered in the outgoing model, or a non-plug-in hybrid using the same core 1.6-litre petrol engine.

That’s the one we tried and, though some might doubt the ability of a small 1.6-litre engine to push such a big car along in any meaningful manner, it proves to be up to the job — thanks to assistance from an electric motor.

It’s no performance car, naturally, but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for a particularly interesting mountain road along the test route, either. Impressively, when using every one of its horsepower, the engine isn’t audibly screaming for mercy.

We can’t say the same for your passengers but the Santa Fe’s chassis soaks up abuse you’d never expect it to be capable of, keeping the car on line and everyone in it safe, even if you’ve misjudged your speed into a tight corner or you’re lead-footed on the way out.

This is mixed with laughably comfortable and smooth progress on the motorway or when you’re just ambling along playing I-Spy. And clever little Jimmy won’t be able to puzzle the family with “something beginning with A”, as remarkably, Hyundai’s chassis engineers have managed all this without resorting to expensive adaptive damping or air suspension. Indeed, they’re not available in this car for any price.

Hyundai Santa Fe

On the subject of which, we don’t yet have the full story of the new Santa Fe’s launch into the UK. It’s unlikely to be quite as affordable as the outgoing car, though should start somewhere usefully south of £50,000.

If you can avoid looking at the rear before you sit in and take it for a test drive, you’ll probably agree with us that it’s worth that. You can’t see the back from the driver’s seat anyway.

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