Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Family-sized 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active review

Family-sized and mostly fuss-free, the Hyundai Santa Fe ticks a lot of boxes for Aussie buyers.


What we love
  • Clever and eye-catching dashboard design
  • Comfortable ride around town
  • Frugal on the freeway and responsive around town


What we don’t
  • Empty spaces for equipment on higher-grade models
  • Undersized infotainment screen
  • Missing third-row airbags

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D

The very full Hyundai SUV range now covers families of almost every size and stage of life. While sharp-shooters like the newer Tucson and upsized Palisade have been conquering headlines, does the in-between Santa Fe still conquer hearts and heads?

As a seven-seat large SUV, the Santa Fe fits into Australia’s large SUV segment alongside rivals like the Mazda CX-8, Skoda Kodiaq, and related Kia Sorento. Big, yes, but perhaps not as commodious in the third row as bigger-still cars like the Toyota Kluger, Nissan Pathfinder and Mazda CX-9.

The Hyundai Santa Fe also belongs in the unofficial ‘soft-roader’ class. While it is available with all-wheel drive, it’s not likely to be the first choice for off-road adventurers, but might be just the thing for slick boat ramps and muddy soccer practice car parks.

How much does the Hyundai Santa Fe cost in Australia?

The Hyundai Santa Fe range in Australia covers four variants, starting with the base model, simply called the Santa Fe, from $46,050 plus on-road costs, and topping out with the newly added petrol hybrid models, with the flagship Highlander hybrid asking for $69,550 plus on-road costs.

The car tested here is one step up from base, the Santa Fe Active, and is available with either a petrol V6 from $50,250 or the diesel engine and all-wheel-drive combo tested here from $53,750 – both before on-road costs.

The Santa Fe Active steps up equipment with additions like dual-zone climate control, leather seat trim, additional chrome exterior trim, 18-inch alloy wheels (up from 17-inch alloys on the base model), smart key and push-button start, a push-button gear selector, and a handful of other touches to raise the tone slightly.

Key details 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D
Price $53,750 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Magnetic Force
Options Metallic paint – $695
Price as tested $54,445 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $59,415 (Melbourne)
Rivals Mazda CX-8 | Kia Sorento | Skoda Kodiaq

How much space does the Hyundai Santa Fe have inside?

The interior of the Santa Fe Active, apart from the base model, sees the driver greeted with an overhauled centre console. Here you’ll find the normal gear selector removed and replaced by a cluster of buttons used to select gears.

The entire control panel is raised up with the drive mode dial and climate control panel all shifted high up and within easy reach. Unfortunately, because the Active grade does without features like heated or cooled seats, the switch banks that would otherwise be occupied on higher models also stare the driver in the face.

Hyundai uses this high driver interaction panel to then open up the space beneath the console with extra storage space in a pass-through underneath. It’s a neat trick for creating more useful in-cabin storage.

The first-row seating is nice and comfortable, with the cockpit-style dash and console making the Santa Fe feel more like a sedan than some SUVs. Seat space is generous, and both front seats feature manual adjustment with adjustable lumbar support for the driver.

Into the second row, and there’s plenty of head room and leg room. If needed the second row can be slid forward and backward, allowing a mix-and-match combination of rearmost passenger or cargo space, and second-row passenger comfort.

With a flat floor in the second row, there’s less of a penalty for anyone who gets stuck in the middle. However, the raised centre seat and inbuilt armrest make the centre seat less comfy than the nice, wide outboard seats, which are much nicer to sink into.

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The second-row seatback has a 60:40 split and can be reclined. For quick and easy access to the third row, there’s a one-touch release to flip and slide the seat forward, with the smaller section on the left of the vehicle (kerb side).

The third row is sized more so for kids than adults, as is so often the case in seven-seaters of this size. Getting in and out didn’t pose much of a problem, and the long rear doors help here.

With all three rows of seats in use, there’s enough room behind the third row for a complement of school bags. Drop the third row (or even just half) and the space becomes large enough to transport a hefty fortnight’s worth of family groceries, or a weekend’s worth of luggage and gear.

By official figures, the Santa Fe lays claim to between 571L and 782L with the third row folded (depending on second-row position), but Hyundai doesn’t officially list a figure for the space behind the third row, though suggests 130L is what you can expect to find back there.

Helpfully, there’s also a cargo blind included, with a two-position mount to keep the boot covered regardless of seat position. It can also be stored in a dedicated space under the floor, where there’s a bit of extra small-item storage.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D
Seats Seven
Boot volume 130L to third row
571–782L to second row
Length 4785mm
Width 1900mm
Height 1710mm
Wheelbase 2765mm

Does the Hyundai Santa Fe have Apple CarPlay?

An 8.0-inch touchscreen anchors the Santa Fe’s infotainment system and pairs with features like AM/FM radio, Bluetooth audio and phone calls, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.

There’s a wireless charge slot up front (but you unusually need to slide your phone into it), a pair of USB ports in the front row, two in the second row, and one in the third seating row. Compared to more expensive models in the range, the Active misses out on a bigger 10.25-inch screen, digital radio and inbuilt navigation.

As more and more rivals upsize their infotainment, Hyundai’s entry-level is left looking a little underdone.

As it is, the infotainment system is relatively simple and easy to use. Hyundai’s software has a logical layout, and the screen is responsive to touch inputs and user-friendly on the go.

Unlike the larger Hyundai Palisade, the Santa Fe range goes without Bluelink connected infotainment – and features like remote vehicle checks or pre-heating or cooling the interior.

Is the Hyundai Santa Fe a safe car?

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe range carries over a five-star ANCAP score first issued in 2018. As ANCAP criteria are progressively updated, this may not match a current five-star safety score.

The Santa Fe scored a 94 per cent rating for adult occupant protection and 86 per cent for child occupants. Lower scores were returned for safety assist systems (78 per cent) and vulnerable road user protection (67 per cent).

In 2022, the Santa Fe range underwent a minor safety spec upgrade (more below) but no changes were made to the safety rating.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D
ANCAP rating Five stars (tested 2018)
Safety report Link to ANCAP report

What safety technology does the Hyundai Santa Fe have?

Standard equipment in the Santa Fe Active includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection and junction turning functionality, lane follow and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic collision assist, blind-spot monitoring with collision avoidance assist, and driver attention monitoring.

As part of the 2022 update there is multi-collision brake, which applies the brakes after detecting an accident to prevent further additional impacts, and a new centre airbag between front seat occupants. Seven airbags protect the cabin in total; however, curtain airbags do not extend to the third row.

The interior features three top tether and two ISOFIX child seat mounts, all in the second row.

How much does the Hyundai Santa Fe cost to maintain?

Hyundai covers the Santa Fe range with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Pre-paid and capped-price pay-as-you-go servicing is available.

Regardless of opting for pre- or post-paid servicing, each dealer visit will cost $459 – or $1377 for a three-year package, up to $2295 for five years.

An insurance estimate for the Santa Fe came out to $1676 per year based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

At a glance 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1377 (3 years)
$2295 (5 years)

Is the Hyundai Santa Fe fuel-efficient?

Hyundai rates the Santa Fe turbo diesel at an official 6.1 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

After a week with the Santa Fe in a variety of conditions, with a slightly more urban skew, we returned 7.4L/100km. While the Santa Fe proved frugal on long-distance drives, around-town consumption easily pushed past 10L/100km in heavy stop-start traffic.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 6.1L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 7.4L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 67L

What is the Hyundai Santa Fe like to drive?

‘Effortless’ succinctly describes the driving experience of the Hyundai Santa Fe.

From the 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine, to the comfortable ride, low levels of noise, and ease of use, everything about the Santa Fe seems to be centred around making the driver’s job easy.

With 148kW and 440Nm from the engine, low-down torque is plentiful, making it easy to slur around town without needing to wring the engine out.

In need of a quick burst of rolling acceleration, the Santa Fe’s diesel engine has your back. It may be a little hesitant from a standing start, but more than claws back the difference on the go.

Paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, progress is easy around town. The only real transmission hiccup we could find was in multi-deck car parks, where the combination of low speeds and changing inclines could cause some shunting and gruffness. Nothing too alarming, though.

Steering falls on the lighter side, which is handy for low-speed manoeuvring and makes three-point turns and tight parking spaces easy to navigate. At higher speeds the steering is settled, and the assistance from lane-keeping assist is fluent and doesn’t fight the driver.

Overall, the external dimensions of the Santa Fe also feel like a nice fit for driving around town. Big enough inside to provide plenty of space, but not so big on the outside as to feel unwieldy around other traffic.

Noise suppression is good. The engine is a little chattery at times, but only a little. On the open road wind and tyre noise are low, making long-distance hauls easy and comfortable.

The combination of 18-inch wheels and fairly chubby tyres also helps with ride quality, soaking up most of the tarmac imperfections found on local roads. The suspension doesn’t resort to being wallowy or vague, but has a nice comfort bias.

Key details 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D
Engine 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 148kW @ 3800rpm
Torque 440Nm @ 1750–2750rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power to weight ratio 81.3kW/t
Weight (kerb) 1820kg
Spare tyre type Full-size
Tow rating 2500kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 11.4m

Should I buy a Hyundai Santa Fe?

While the entry-level Hyundai Santa Fe is a nice enough vehicle, it can feel a little basic for buyers seeking a bit more style and a few additional comfort features. The Santa Fe Active steps things up a notch, without putting too much undue strain on the budget.

The third-row seating may not be the most commodious in its class, but it’s a useful addition and should suit younger travellers and short-hop trips just fine.

A decent, if not decadent, list of standard features and a thoughtfully laid out interior are highlights. The icing on the cake is the frugal diesel engine that is ideal for long-range touring and trips well beyond the city limits.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D reviewView 59 imagesPhotoIcon2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Active 2.2D reviewView 59 imagesPhotoIcon


Ratings Breakdown

2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Active Wagon

7.4/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Budget Direct

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Kez Casey

Kez Casey migrated from behind spare parts counters to writing about cars over ten years ago. Raised by a family of automotive workers, Kez grew up in workshops and panel shops before making the switch to reviews and road tests for The Motor Report, Drive and CarAdvice.

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