Okay, all cards on the table. I know last month I said we would take the Santa Fe on a road trip to see how it fares loaded up with a family’s worth of weekend gear. But what is it they say about the best laid plans?
Originally, I was meant to bundle everyone and everything into our Santa Fe Active for a weekend down the Great Ocean Road, along Victoria's coast, west of Melbourne, but with our toddler in childcare he managed to catch a nasty bug… which spread to the rest of the household.
So, I wasn’t able to put the Santa Fe Active through its paces as much as I would have liked in February, but I still have some conclusions to share with you before we swap it over for a hybrid model.
Let’s start with the physical dimensions, because the Santa Fe might not be as big as you think it is despite its large SUV categorisation.
Measuring 4785mm long, 1900mm wide, 1710mm tall and with a 2765mm wheelbase, the Santa Fe is smaller than rivals like the Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Kluger, in all regards.
We’ve talked about the interior space before, and how, even for a seven-seater, it can feel quite cramped for a family of four.
But the larger footprint also makes the Santa Fe a little hard to manoeuvre in the tighter roads of suburbia and the narrow car park spaces of inner-city Melbourne.
The Santa Fe Active is 1900mm wide. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
The Santa Fe Active is 1710mm tall. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
The Santa Fe Active measures in at 4785mm long. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
And if the interior space was more useful or practical, well then, the trade-off might be worth it. But as it stands now, stepping up from a Tucson into a Santa Fe means you get a car that is more annoying to park, while affording similar levels of space inside – at least from our experience.
Another major gripe we noticed after four months with the car is the poor Android Auto implementation.
While, yes, it is very cool that there is wireless Android Auto on the second-to-bottom variant with an 8.0-inch screen, what isn’t cool is how inconsistent it is with its connection.
Jumping in, the Santa Fe’s system will pair with my phone fine, and using Android Auto is an absolute breeze and the preferred method of navigation. But it seems like the car cannot maintain a solid connection with our Pixel phone for any longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Upfront of the Santa Fe Active is an 8.0-inch multimedia screen. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
And let me tell you, when you have the navigation on while travelling across town, and the system just decides to disconnect itself while you are going over the Bolte Bridge leaving you with no idea which exit to take next, it can be infuriating.
We’re not quite sure what the problem is, either. Does our phone get too hot so the connection drops? Is there interference from somewhere that disrupts the signal? We don’t know exactly, but we know that around the 20-minute mark, Android Auto drops out.
The solution to all this is having a wired connection, of course, which kept Android Auto up no matter how long we were driving.
Luckily, then, the Santa Fe has lots of clever little storage solutions in the cabin, including an area under the centre console where you can place your phones, wallets and keys, which naturally frees up the cupholders for things like coffees and McDonald’s thickshakes.
The Santa Fe has lots of clever little storage solutions in the cabin. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
The underarm storage cubby is also deep and expansive (we used it to stash the snacks for the toddler) and is also equipped with a shallow tray that sits near the surface for things like loose change.
There’s even a nice spot to slide your phone in vertically to make use of the wireless charger – which should be the way to implement chargers in cars, as it stops the phone sliding around while driving.
The door bins are also expansive, and the bottle holders will take a girthy water container without a sweat.
And on the topic of the interior, after four months with the car and countless trips out with the family, it was in dire need of a comprehensive clean.
The larger footprint also makes the Santa Fe a little hard to manoeuvre in the tighter roads of suburbia. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
Families looking to purchase a Santa Fe will be relieved to hear how kid-resistant the cabin is despite the food crumbs, spilled milk, rubbish, dirt and anything else that fell from my kids' mouths and hands.
And it’s not like the rear seats are covered in vinyl and hard plastics everywhere, either. The seats are swathed in soft and supple leather and the floors feature nicely piled carpets.
The Santa Fe’s interior gets a big tick from us for longevity, then.
But let’s sum up our four months with the Santa Fe Active.
Families looking to purchase a Santa Fe will be relieved to hear how kid-resistant the cabin is. (Image: Tung Nguyen)
We reckon the Santa Fe should only be on your shopping list if you’ve got three kids or more.
The third-row seating is a nice to have feature, but with a family of four, we found a medium SUV like the Tucson to be more than up to the task.
And for the same spend, you get more modern luxuries in a smaller car like a surround-view monitor, larger multimedia screen, heated/cooled front seats, and more.
Should you buy a lower-grade large SUV or a fully kitted medium SUV? After four months with the former, we’re inclined to go with the latter.
The flexibility of seven seats and a more capacious rear cargo area are nice-to-have features, but they don’t trump the long-list of equipment and ease-of-use of something smaller that is similarly priced.
Granted, if your family is larger than four, you might gravitate towards something like this capable and comfortable Hyundai Santa Fe Active, but most others should shop in a class below.
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