Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander AWD CRDi
Long-Term Test introduction
The options available to those looking for a recreational vehicle have increased exponentially since the turn of the decade.
Vehicles that were once considered hardcore bush-bashers have softened and those that were once only suited to the city life have gained a slightly harder edge.
So, before buying a recreational vehicle it is really important to know exactly what it is going to be used for.
Do you need a vehicle to carry extra passengers (therefore one with seven seats) or are you looking for something that is going to take you on an off-road adventure?
If it is the off-road adventure you are looking for are you thinking a beach drive and some dirt tracks or do you plan to test you and the vehicle on some of the most rugged terrain Australia has to offer?
What about towing? Are you a boat, caravan or camper trailer owner and how big (heavy) is the vehicle you need to tow?
When you have answered all these questions, and that is not always a simple task, you can then start to narrow down the vehicle that best suits your needs.
There are, of course, many that will do all of the above, with varying degrees of success.
One of these is the new-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, which was named one of motoring.com.au’s best family cars over $30,000 last year.
And over the next several months we are going to put the top-of-the-range Highlander CRDi (which costs significantly more than $30,000) to the test.
The Highlander CRDi comes with a host of luxury appointments, has a towing capacity of 2000kg (you can increase that to 2500kg if you opt for the six-speed manual transmission instead of the auto in the test car) and seven seats.
Standard fare in the $51,490 (plus on-road costs) top variant includes 19-inch alloy wheels, seven-inch touch-screen with satellite-navigation, premium audio, leather seat trim, climate-control, rain-sensing wipers, tinted rear glass, cooled glovebox, auto-dimming rear view mirror, keyless start, heated and folding electric side mirrors, glass panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights, electrically adjustable front passenger seat and memory driver’s seat, and heated front and rear seats.
This is on top of the full-size spare, rear-view camera, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth with streaming, seven airbags and five-year warranty that is standard across the range.
And with features like a lockable centre diff, downhill assist and the availability of a heavy-duty towing kit, Hyundai is aiming this vehicle squarely at the recreational market.
You just need to be aware that a towing capacity of 2000kg means it will not be suitable for some of the bigger trailer boats and caravans on the market.
The heavy-duty tow kit, which includes replacing the standard rear springs with stiffer, heavy-duty springs, is the only option that has been fitted to the test car.
While we have not yet had the opportunity to jump from the test car to a similar vehicle with the standard springs the changes do not appear to have affected the comfort of the ride adversely.
Going over speed humps in some shopping centres you do notice there is not much give in the suspension but in most driving conditions it feels comfortable, absorbs most imperfections and the rear-end stays firmly planted on the ground.
Within the first few days of taking delivery of the Santa Fe it was used to tow a 1500kg boat on short trips and early indications are that the 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine handles the job with aplomb.
On one short uphill section the 145kW/436Nm four-cylinder worked a little harder but still had plenty of torque in reserve.
With the heavy-duty suspension the boat sits beautifully behind the Santa Fe and in most instances you barely know it is there. (We will have a more comprehensive tow report after we have lived the car for a little longer and put it through a more thorough test).
First impressions of the Santa Fe have been very positive. I am still constantly surprised at the number of features, like puddle lights and door-handle lights that automatically switch on when you unlock the car.
The one annoyance, to date, is that the electric windows will not wind up once the ignition is switched off, which has led to the need to restart the car several times.
Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander AWD CRDi price and specs:
Price: $51,490 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel consumption: 7.3L/100km (combined)
CO2 emissions: 192g/km (combined)
Crash rating: Five-star (ANCAP)
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Heavy-duty tow kit