The stalwart Hyundai Santa Fe 4x4 has been with us in various incarnations since the year 2000.
It has built up a strong following of dedicated owners who appreciate its proper 4x4 design, strength, durability, space, no nonsense attractive pricing, plus of course the usual Hyundai 5-year unlimited mileage warranty and 5-year triple care package.
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The 2012 version has just received its final updates as an all-new model is due at the end of this year and the new model has just made its world debut at the New York motor show.
Coming from South Korea's largest vehicle manufacturer the Santa Fe has achieved 2.56 million worldwide sales in 12 years, 350,000 of which have been in Europe.
Whereas the new Santa Fe looks more of a modern day sporting SUV, the current version, like previous models, looks like a mid to heavyweight 4x4 well capable of taking the rough with the smooth demands of country folk or anybody that needs masses of interior space and there are models with five or seven seat configurations.
The on-demand 4WD system in normal driving uses only the front wheels for traction but the system automatically adds rear drive when wheel slippage is detected.
The system can also be locked in 4WD with a 50/50 torque split front to rear when the conditions are tough. There is also a selectable descent control for even better control off-road.
Hyundai Santa Fe prices and specification
The eight-strong line-up of 2012 Santa Fe models has four five-seater and four seven-seater versions, with a choice of 'Style' or 'Premium' specification - all with the 2.2-litre, four cylinder 194bhp turbodiesel engine with manual and automatic transmission options and on-demand four wheel drive. On-the-Road prices range from £23,745 up to £28,445.
Minor enhancements have been made in order to refresh the exterior of the vehicle with the addition of front and rear skid plates (which add 25 mm to overall length), a change from silver to black hi-gloss roof rails (Premium models), front fog lamp surrounds which have changed from matt black to high-gloss, a chrome tailgate trim, a new design of 18-inch alloy wheels for Premium models and this top specification version also leather seat facings.
The Santa Fe's interior has also been slightly tweaked for 2012, benefiting from a wider angle rear view mirror and a new design automatic transmission gear shift lever.
With connectivity and navigation now an important requirement for customers' busy work or leisure requirements, the 2012 Santa Fe now offers Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition as standard, while touchscreen satellite navigation and rear view parking camera with parking guidance system are available as an optional extra with the 'Media Pack' for £1,100.
Technical changes include the fitting of Downhill Brake Control on automatic models and speed sensitive automatic door locks on all models.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style
My test model was the 2.2 CRDi Style automatic with the seven seat layout priced at £25,795. I would say this was the most sensible version to go for because auto transmissions are by far the most popular option if not fitted as standard in this 4x4 sector.
The Style level of trim and equipment is the most financially sensible choice rather than paying an extra £2k to upgrade to the Premium versions.
The latest Santa Fe does look a bit bland on the outside without the roof rails of the top spec version. During the latest re-style it seems to have lost some of its distinctive character, it now looks rounded like many other SUVs.
Hyundai Santa Fe Style specification
Style specification includes 17-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door handles and mirrors, mud flaps, rear roof spoiler, twin exhaust pipes, underbody protection plates, carbon-fibre effect fascia and door trim, 60/40 split folding middle row seats, 50/50 split folding rear row seats, air conditioning, electrically operated windows and door mirrors, good sound system with six speakers, self levelling rear suspension and ISOfix child seat anchorage points.
For me seven seats in not necessarily a must-have but when it comes to re-selling customers tend to be looking for these versions.
What I like most about the past and present Santa Fe is the huge load space it offers even with the middle row of seats in use. In its five seat configuration the high and wide load area gives 969-litres of space, but with them folded there is a huge 2,247-litres of space and the load bed it flat so loading is very easy and the seats can be folded down or raised with simplicity.
2012 Hyundai Santa Fe practicality
Whether it is a work-horse, family bus or used for leisure the Santa Fe is cavernous.
The added option of a six-speed automatic transmission will also appeal to many users. It takes the stress out of driving long journeys for all users and it allows the less able to maintain their motoring mobility.
The Santa Fe is also a useful tow vehicle, not the best for the maximum weight in this sector, but the 2,500kg braked towing weight for manual transmission versions or 2,000kg for the automatic gearbox models will meet most demands placed upon it.
2012 Hyundai Santa Fe first drive
The ride is relatively comfortable, on the soft side with the suspension being capable rather than taught. The handling control and steering response is a bit old-school so the current version is showing its age but I prefer that, and most people will, because it is better than some more modern SUVs where the ride is too firm.
Definitely two functions that need changing when the new model comes along is the horrible foot operated handbrake and the indicators which are operated by a right hand steering column stalk and not the universally used more modern left stalk.
With a new generation Santa Fe with an updated 2.2-litre diesel engine on its way with a new body later this year, the just introduced 2012 version should be available with some keen run-out prices. So customers wanting a sensible, roomy and well equipped multi-seat 4x4 could do worse than snap up what is a very useable and durable 2012 version.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Style 7-Seat Auto.
2.2-litre, four cylinder, turbodiesel, 194bhp, 322lb ft of torque from 1,800rpm, 6-speed auto with on demand 4x4 traction.
118mph, 0-62mph 10.2 seconds, 38.2mpg (35.9mpg on test), CO2 197g/km, VED road tax £460 First Year rate then £250 per annum, BIK company car tax 33%.
L 4,660mm, W 1,890mm, H 1,760mm, boot/load space 969 to 2,247-litres, braked towing weight 2,000kg.
Good value for money, lots of seating and load space, practical and versatile to use, good on fuel, easy and comfortable to drive.
An all-new model is on its way, high road tax cost, foot operated handbrake, indicator stalk on the right not the now common left side of the steering wheel.