When you’re traveling with kids the choice of car is as important as the destination. EFTM has taken the Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander out and put it through its paces, kids in tow.At the Long family home we have two cars, not an unusual thing for the Aussie family. One is a small Mazda 2 for the run-about trips and daily office commute. The other is a big Holden Commodore Sportswagon. If we didn’t have the Sportswagon, what other choices are there in the market? The Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is one.
Jumping into an SUV seems to be the standard approach these days, with sales of the traditional Aussie sedan and wagon through the floor, the SUV is well and truly number one. This top of the line Santa Fe Highlander will set you back around $55,000 drive away – if you strip back all the options the same look and space is available in the base model for around $43,000.
SPACE FOR A FAMILY
So, the big question – is it big enough for a family. Originally I intended to take all three kids (six, two and one) and leave my wife at home to relax. In the end, little Mr One stayed home and it was Dad and the two oldest on this trip. First up that saved a huge amount of boot space – not needing the port-a-cot and extra bag and nappies, however in direct comparison to the driveway Sportswagon option the room was equal or better in the Santa Fe. The hight of the middle row of seats gave the capacity a lift when it came to packing, however the depth from the middle row of seats to tailgate was less in the Santa Fe. In the end it would come down to how you pack the boot space.
The Santa Fe is a seven-seater – the rear luggage compartment has two fold away seats in it. With the simple lift of a handle the seats pop up out of the floor and provide comfort for those extra little ones you’re giving a lift home from school to.
With any more than five seats occupied you’re going to want a roof mounted storage unit or a trailer because you don’t have much, if any, room for bags when the rear seats are up and occupied.
For the extra cash on the Highlander variant of the Santa Fe you’re getting leather upholstery, upgraded audio speaker system, 7-inch touch screen, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, push-button start and a huge panoramic glass roof – among a host of other features.
For many people Hyundai still means cheap after what was an extremely low quality entry into the Australian market initially. Not so today, the design and build quality both inside and out are top notch. The seats are comfortable and adjustable in almost every way – except up and down which I found a little annoying (only because I like to hide away as best as possible the passenger seat to create space for the kids!).
The layout of the dash has given consideration to almost all your needs and makes use of space very well – from the mid-console storage space with USB and 3.5mm AUX connectivity and dual power outlets to the nifty little coin tray behind the cup holders on the front of the centre arm rest storage space.
In the middle row of seats the center section folds down for an arm rest if you’re not in a child seat, but also has the advantage of two pop-out cup holders to keep drinks safe on the go.
Adding extra value to the middle row of seats is the pull up sun-blinds on the rear doors – no more stick on sun-shades from KMart – these are simple, pull up and clip in – even the kids can operate them.
Up front the infotainment system was among the best I’ve used. Simple menus, easy to understand and big buttons to make the touch-screen experience easy for both driver and passenger.
The satellite navigation system performs well – no fuss, good clear graphics and guided me over 1,300km without much fault. Except, that is, when I wanted to use it in the town of Dubbo to find a supermarket. My First search for ‘Woolworths’ sent me cruising down the road, until I realised my destination was 231km’s away! Nope, not the supermarket I was looking for. Then ‘Coles’ took me to a ‘Coles Supermarkets’ which looked suspiciously like a suburban park to me. So I went back to simple drive and search navigation for that. Pretty disappointing.
Overall the interior of the Santa Fe Highlander is tough to fault, good quality materials, good design and comfortable on both short and long drives.
The previous model Santa Fe from Hyundai wasn’t ugly, but it certainly lacked character. Rounded edges – a plump looking thing that didn’t inspire you to take a look. Throw out those designs and add some real balls to the Santa Fe and you’ve got an edgy design that doesn’t go too far. The deep yawning grill at the front, combined with pointed edges to the front features and angled design across the side and back profiles, this latest Santa Fe has really taken Hyundai up several notches in terms of the basic principal of curb appeal.
The build feels strong with solid door movements and closure, auto-retracting/folding side mirrors and a rear tail gate that pops open with a touch and slams shut with the aide of a simple handle on the right hand side of the base.
It’s hard to fault the bold design – alongside the Kluger, or Captiva it looks years ahead.
The direct-injection 4-cylinder diesel engine delivers all the power you’d hope from a quality diesel without really blowing your mind. Quick off the line but more importantly it delivers that power smoothly on the open road with enough extra head room to make overtaking a breeze.
Too many times I found myself checking my speed because we’d hit the limit not only with ease but in such comfort it was hard to detect.
This is a super competitive sector in the Australian car market as our love for SUVs grows fast. From the Holden Captiva, Ford Territory, Kia Sorento and many more – you’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to your hard earned at this point.
Whatever you do, give the Santa Fe a run.