2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Trail Review Photo:
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What's Hot
One of the better diesel engines, and well-equipped.
What's Not
A bit long in the tooth. New model due by year?s end.
Seven-seat capability and, with a new model around the corner, some sharp deals around.
Malcolm Flynn | Jun, 25 2012 | 3 Comments


Vehicle Style: Large SUV
Price: $41,590 (including $2k optional auto) (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 7.5l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.7l/100km



Hyundai’s Santa Fe large SUV has built a good following among family buyers in the ten-plus years it has been on the Australian market.

Due for replacement by the end of the year, the Santa Fe currently sits a little apart - as far as styling is concerned - from the latest crop of new models from Hyundai.

But, with seven seats on offer, and with Hyundai loading in a lot of extra equipment to extend the life of the current model, there is still a bit of appeal left in the Santa Fe.

The Trail model tested here includes $4000 of extras for just $1600 more than the SLX model on which it is based.

All Trails come equipped with the 2.2 litre turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, with the only significant option being an automatic transmission (as tested) for $2000.



Quality: Compared with Hyundai’s newer offerings, the Santa Fe interior is looking a bit ho-hum these days.

Interior quality impresses in terms of fit and finish, but the surfaces and plastics are looking a bit dated and are now bettered by newer fresher rivals.

Comfort: The Trail comes standard with partial leather trim on all three rows of seats – great for cleaning spilt milkshakes and other (mostly unmentionable) child and pet ‘residues’.

The front seats are rather flat and narrow, but their high seating position (along with large glass areas) gives a good view of surroundings.

Rearward rows will appreciate the Trail’s roof-mounted entertainment unit, which also features auxiliary inputs for gaming consoles or other devices.

Second-row occupants have good shoulder room and legroom, with each position featuring child-seat anchorage points.

All occupants have access to cupholders and oddment storage and the third row folds into position easily, with relatively straightforward access through the side doors.

Third row occupants are treated to impressive legroom (for a seven-seater), but will only satisfy adults on short journeys.

Equipment: The limited-edition Trail is based on the entry SLX model, which comes equipped with most modern conveniences but misses out on Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, and touchscreen multimedia interface.

For an extra $1600, the Trail adds 18-inch alloys, reversing camera, rear seat DVD entertainment system with wireless headphones and remote control, partial leather seats, leatherette steering wheel and gear selector, and privacy glass.

Storage: Cargo space is plentiful at 969 litres with the third row folded away. Its 632kg payload isn’t far behind a 200 Series LandCruiser, so there’s plenty of scope for loading up on family holidays.



Driveability: The Trail’s 145kW 2.2 litre turbodiesel engine continues to do an excellent job in the 1988kg Santa Fe.

Its bountiful 436Nm of torque combines well with the 6-speed torque-converter automatic ($2,000) fitted to our tester.

Automatic shifts are a touch slow, but this is largely disguised by the engine’s abundance of torque.

Even with six passengers aboard on test, we found it an easy cruiser on the highway, with plenty of puff in reserve for overtaking and maintaining speed on hills.

Refinement: As with any turbodiesel, the Santa Fe’s 2.2 litre ‘oiler’ makes more noise than a petrol equivalent, but at constant highway speeds this is hardly noticeable. Wind and road noise are well isolated, considering the Santa Fe's bluff SUV shape.

Suspension: The Santa Fe’s MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension layout looks good on paper, but it shows its age with looser body control than we’re now used to.

The ride is good, it’s quite comfortable, but there’s a fair bit of body roll through corners - it’s more ‘tall-boy Prado’ than ‘dynamic-hero Territory’.

The steering lacks feel and is a reminder of the numb Hyundai’s of old, despite using hydraulic assistance (rather than electric).

Braking: The Santa Fe Trail’s four-wheel discs are well suited to its weight and performance, it pulls up strongly though the pedal lacks feel.



ANCAP rating: 5-Stars

Safety features: Six airbags (including curtain airbags extending to third row seats), anti-lock brakes, EBD, stability, traction, and hill decent control systems, roll-over and reversing sensors.



Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres

Service costs: Service intervals are set at 15,000km. Costs currently vary, so consult your local Hyundai dealer before purchase. Hyundai is expected to offer a capped price servicing scheme before the end of 2012.



Kia Sorento Si 2.2DT ($41,990 auto) – The Santa Fe’s close cousin and much the same in construction, mechanicals and quality. The Sorento though is the looker both inside and out.

The Sorrento Si mechanical spec is close to Santa Fe Trail on price, but lacks equipment levels. Thick C-pillars hinder rearward visibility. (see Sorento reviews)

Holden Captiva 7 LX 2.2DT ($43,490) - Santa Fe Trail sits between Captiva 7 CX and LX on price, but the LX’s leather trim puts it more in line with Santa Fe for features.

Lacks’s Santa Fe’s 5-Star ANCAP rating and third row seating and cargo room is less spacious than Santa Fe. Interior quality in the Holden isn't anything special, either. (see Captiva reviews)

Ford Territory TS RWD 2.7DT ($50,240) – Ford’s venerable Territory sits more than $8,000 up the price scale in its cheapest 7-seat diesel configuration, and lacks the Santa Fe’s AWD, leather trim, and rear-seat entertainment system.

Fuel consumption is a marginal 0.7 l/100 behind, but handling and on-road performance is vastly superior. (see Territory reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.



Hyundai’s current Santa Fe is a victim of the brand’s progress: it looks old against the newer and more-adventurous designs of recent Hyundais.

However, the automatic Santa Fe Trail - loaded up with features like leather, DVD entertainment, 18-inch alloys and reversing camera - is a comfortable, capable, and good-value option compared to most key rivals.

It may look a bit old-hat, but it can comfortably carry seven and boasts 5-Star ANCAP safety.

With production of the Trail model limited to just 1200 units, it won’t be hanging around long.



  • 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Trail - Manual - $39,590
  • 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe Trail - Auto - $41,590
  • Metallic Paint - $450

Note: prices exclude on-road costs.

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