Hyundai Sante Fe 2021

The new Hyundai Sante Fe. Images: Supplied

Road Test: Hyundai’s Sante Fe 2.2D is a Korean luxury SUV

Growing family and a yearning for rural destinations? This Hyundai seven-seater could be the perfect fit.

Hyundai Sante Fe 2021

The new Hyundai Sante Fe. Images: Supplied

Hyundai has made fantastic progress as a brand in South Africa.

It might have started with cheap sedans in the mid-1990s, but Hyundai has become the fourth-largest automotive brand in South Africa.

Many of the Korean company’s local sales are crossovers and SUVs. Not hardcore off-road exploration 4x4s, but the kind of five-door vehicle that can cruise with confidence on gravel roads.

The mid-size luxury SUV has effectively replaced four-door sedans as middle-class South African family motoring.

Hyundai Sante Fe created to lure SA buyers

Hyundai’s facelifted fourth-generation Sante Fe is a seven-seater SUV with a bold design, created to lure South African buyers away from traditional German and Japanese brands.

Its striking appearance has been of theme of Hyundais over the last few years, as the company’s design department was briefed to move beyond its conservative image.


Although it is the near-most expensive Hyundai on sale (behind the larger Palisade), at R869 500, the latest Sante Fe 2.2D offers a lot.

Hyundai isn’t shy with standard equipment or features. And the Sante Fe is a case in point.

The bold styling is underscored with sizeable 20-inch alloy wheels, daytime running lights and xenon headlights.

The embedded safety equipment is plentiful, too. Six airbags are strategically placed around the cabin and there are many intelligent safety warning and intervention systems to ensure they are never triggered.

Sante Fe 2.2D has front and rear parking sensors but also reversing collision avoidance. This system automatically applies the brakes if you are backing out of parking spot, and don’t notice an approaching vehicle.

Cabin space, architecture and equipment is where the Sante Fe 2.2D’s real value is realised. We expect a high degree of infotainment quality from Korean vehicles. The Asian country is a global superpower in the consumer electronics and personal device space.


The Sante Fe 2.2D’s infotainment system has some of the most intuitive Smartphone integration on the market. It pairs effortlessly with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay enabled devices.

Our interconnected daily lives place a premium on charging devices. With both front and rear USB ports, Sante Fe passengers will never have to suffer low-battery Smartphone anxiety.

It is comfortable works a treat with making your Smartphone part of any journey and has an abundance of storage and luggage space. But what is the Sante Fe 2.2D like to drive?

Under the hood

Similar to most of its rivals, the Sante Fe 2.2D is powered by a diesel engine. In this case, a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, rated at 148kW and 441Nm. If you are a keen follower of all things Hyundai, you’ll notice the peak power is 7kW more than the 2020 model year Sante Fe.

Although the recent Sante Fe 2.2D facelift is primarily cosmetic, there is a significant change in the SUV’s drivetrain. An eight-speed automatic transmission now transfers torque to all four wheels, replacing the previous seven-speed unit.

Shift pattern logic

The interplay between transmission and powertrain is good. The Sante Fe isn’t a light vehicle, but Hyundai’s engineers have developed a shift pattern logic for the eight-speed transmission that doesn’t cause too much throttle response lag.

An interesting detail of the new Sante Fe transmission is that it does not have a regular shifter or gear selector dial. You use a selection of four buttons to choose the various transmission modes, and it does take a bit of getting used to. The gain is more small item storage space, between the front seats.


And gravel travel? We drove the new Sante Fe extensively on rural gravel roads. With 205mm of ground clearance, it never felt out of its depth.

The all-wheel drive system remains front-wheel drive biased, though. You could get away with driving on some sandy tracks, but the Sante Fe is not an all-terrain exploration vehicle.

As a family touring vehicle, it does make a lot of sense. Both the second- and third-row seats fold perfectly flat, with ease, creating 2 041 litres of load capacity.

With the intuitive Smartphone synching and adequate safety specification, it is a more refined and luxurious alternative to the class-leading Toyota Fortuner, if not quite as capable across rugged terrain.