2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2L CRDi Review

Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander 2.2L CRDi SUV Road Test Review

Santa Fe Highlander Overview

Hyundai has successfully marketed the Santa Fe to family buyers for a number of years. It has grown in size over those years and changed from a multi-purpose AWD SUV to what is now a more luxurious family chariot with the benefit of AWD.

The fourth generation Santa Fe continues a tradition of adding yet more standard features and safety to compete in a competitive segment.

Hyundai Sante Fe

Santa Fe Highlander Exterior

Showing a radical departure from the previous model, yet still displaying familial lines, the all new Santa Fe is a bold statement. It looks big, especially the bonnet and grill.

Taste is purely personal obviously. To me the Santa Fe doesn’t look integrated. The proportions somehow seem slightly out of whack. Contrast this to the Tucson Highlander we had the following week, which seems to have almost perfect proportions and the style, while definitely similar, seems more integrated.

While the Santa Fe looks sleek from the side and rear, the bonnet looks disproportionately long with a bulging grill.

The split lighting frontal treatment positions the LED DRLs above the headlights and unifies Santa Fe with Hyundai’s SUV family.

A 70mm increase in overall length from the preceding model and a 65mm increase in wheelbase bring a substantial injection space. The Santa Fe looks long from the side and tall with the roof rails.

The Highlander illuminates with LED headlights (Bi-function) with dynamic bending, LED DRL’s, LED taillights and LED Front fog lights.

I like the Dark Hyper Silver 10-spoke 19” alloy wheels. These run Continental tyres, 235/55 R19 101V with a full size alloy spare. The 55 profile tyres assist handling at a slightly reduced ride softness compared to the Elite.

Hyundai Sante Fe highlander dash

Santa Fe Highlander Interior

First thoughts are spacious and comfortable. It’s packed with features and yet to my mind it just doesn’t seem to gel. However, again this is a purely personal opinion and another reviewer that drove the vehicle in the week we had it loved the interior. I’m not a big fan of the overly accentuated curve on the passenger dash.

Front leather seats are really comfortable as well as being 14 way electronically adjustable, including a fantastic lumbar adjustment, squab extension and are air-conditioned. The front passenger seat is also electrically adjustable.

Hyundai Sante Fe front seats

You feel cocooned with the door trims that curve in to flow with the dash. All the key points for elbows etc. are soft touch points. The ambience is further enhanced by LED interior lighting.

Love the heated steering wheel, just the right size and frames the dash perfectly. It has the expected controls, however I still feel transmission shift paddles are a bit of a useless feature.

A 7-inch colour TFT LCD supervision cluster displays a range of trip computer information – including a digital speedometer – as well as system status and visual alerts from SmartSense and other safety systems (including DAW, FCA, LKA, RCCW, TPMS and DAW).

Visibility from the driver’s seat is not bad, excellent forward, with ‘A’ pillars that don’t impede too much and large rear external mirrors.

The centre console and stack house a multitude of controls and features.

Little things like the fact that the cup holders are on the other side of the transmission lever and associated switches, mean that cups don’t get in the way. Good design! However the smart phone charge tray can impede access to the USB inputs and also uses a tray that otherwise would store things like a wallet etc.

I’m not a big fan of the ‘stuck on the dash’ look of the 8.0 inch infotainment display. However the graphics are clear and easy to use and read, which is more important.

The overall functionality for the driver is excellent.

Rear occupants are treated to outside heated seats, with pretty good knee and leg room.

Hyundai Santa Fe rear seats

There is an abundance of head room all round. The middle seat is ok for a passenger, but it’s better to fold down the arm rest which houses cup holders as well.

A panoramic moon roof removes any feeling of being enclosed.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Third row seats are comfortable and suited for up to mid-teens I guess. The problem with all these style of seven seat vehicles is that there is restricted room all around for this row of seats, although it is improved in this model. Access is assisted by the fold system for the middle row.

The middle row of seats can slide up to 30cm allowing flexibility between the two rows.

Importantly though, the rear air conditioning works a treat for all two rows with good vents.

Hyundai Santa Fe boot

Boot space is great with the rear seats folded, more than enough for a family’s luggage for a holiday. With the third row in use it is obviously more restricted.

Hyundai Santa Fe boot

Luggage space is a reasonable 130 litres behind the third row seats, expanding to 547 litres behind the second row and to an impressive 1,625 litres with both rear rows folded.

Hyundai Santa Fe car play

Santa Fe Highlander Features

Well this could be a long section or short. The ability of the Korean car manufacturers to pack a multitude of features into their vehicles at a reasonable price is stunning and a lesson the European manufacturers could learn.

The Highlander is absolutely packed with bling and features.

So in order to keep this short I will highlight the key features only:-

  • Integrated memory system (IMS) for driver’s seat, mirror and HUD settings
  • 14 way power Driver’s seat with cushion extension
  • 0-inch infotainment display. The navigation system presents three-dimensional map views and live traffic data, and comes with a lifetime map care update plan.
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility
  • 10-speaker Infinity Premium Audio System
  • Electro-chromatic (auto-dimming) interior mirror
  • Hyundai Auto Link Premium makes its debut on Highlander model with vehicle remote control functions via mobile phone
  • Head-Up Display (HUD) adjustable
  • Wireless inductive smartphone charging
  • Park Assist (PA) – Parallel, Perpendicular and Reverse
  • A ‘Walk-in’ switch allows effort-free folding of the second row for easy third-row access,
  • Highlander’s Smart Power Tailgate opens automatically when it detects the Smart Key

Hyundai Santa Fe engine

Santa Fe Highlander Drivetrain and Engine

Hyundai runs the 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine that delivers power of 147kW @ 3,800rpm and torque of 440Nm @ 1,750 to 2,750rpm. This runs through an 8 speed automatic transmission and Hyundai’s own HTRAC all-wheel drive system.

This engine/transmission combination is tried and tested previously in the Sorento and works a treat. Well matched and balanced it allows for responsive driving and economy.

The HTRAC AWD system apportions drive based on wheel- and vehicle-speed inputs. In combination with each of the three drive modes, HTRAC optimises traction to increase comfort, stability, acceleration and fuel efficiency.

In each of the three modes, the system automatically distributes torque to all four wheels (from 35/75 to 50/50) to maximise traction on wet or slippery roads and on snow and gravel, and enhances cornering performance.

Hyundai Santa Fe drive mode

Drive Mode Select lets drivers choose between Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart modes. Not only does the torque distribution between all four wheels change, the Drive Mode Select also changes throttle response, weighting from the electronic assisted power steering and gear shift points for differing experiences.

The 2019 Santa Fe is underpinned by optimised MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension. The broad development strategy for the new Santa Fe’s suspension and steering was to optimise responsiveness and stability while enhancing comfort and refinement.

A Rack-Mounted Motor-Driven Power Steering (R-MDPS) system gives reasonably direct, well-weighted feel with varied assistance depending on vehicle speed.

Hyundai Santa Fe driving

Santa Fe Highlander Driving Experience

Being a family car the driving dynamics focus on comfort and quietness. With revised suspension, floorplan and chassis, the all new Santa Fe certainly provides a smooth, quiet ride.

Hyundai has spent a long time tuning the suspension and steering for Australian conditions. The result is that over most road surfaces there is considerable improvement over the previous model, which was pretty good.

On road the ride is incredibly smooth and quiet. The steering is responsive to input and varies depending on the drive mode selected.

I did feel however, the Lane Keep Assist was overly intrusive and found myself seemingly wrestling with it, even when in the middle of the lane. Two other drivers felt the same.

Bearing in mind this is a family car with no sporty pretensions, the ride and handling was excellent. Little things like absorbing mid corner bumps and potholes shows the benefit of Australian tuning of the suspension. Dirt roads are taken in stride (within reason) and if the access is easy, beach excursions are fun. Driving along Parramatta rd. was almost relaxing.

Motoring journalists like using high modality words to make it seem like we know what we are talking about. But in this instance such words are warranted.

The ride and handling seem very composed and refined.

I have long been BIG fan of the engine transmission combination, even more so now with the 8 speed. It allows a linear delivery of power, great overtaking acceleration and excellent fuel economy. With the majority of the torque coming in around 1,750rpm, the driving is relaxed and responsive when it needs to be.

I don’t understand why anyone would choose the petrol engine over this excellent diesel.

With a family on board there is little noticeable difference. The Santa Fe seems to take it all in its stride.

It will allow moderate adventure off the tar roads, or towing something small. Snow trips are bread and butter for the Highlander. It is not however designed for venturing far from formed roads.

This is definitely designed to take a family on a long driving holiday and arrive feeling relaxed.

Hyundai Santa Fe boot

Santa Fe Highlander Dimensions

Santa Fe Highlander has an:-

  • overall length of 4770mm,
  • wheelbase of 2765mm,
  • width of 1890mm and
  • height of 1705mm (including roof rails)
  • Unladen ground clearance is 185mm.
  • Approach angle is 18.5 degrees, rampover is 20.7 degrees and departure angle is 21.2 degrees.
  • Wading depth is N/A
  • Turning circle is 11.42m
  • Fuel Tank is 71L
  • GVM of 2630kg, GCM of N/A,
  • Kerb mass of N/A and Payload* of N/A,
  • Towing capacity is 2000kg,
  • Tow ball rating is up to 100kg**

*Includes occupants, fuel and fitted options/accessories. The weight of these must be deducted from the payload to determine load carrying   capacity. Front and rear axle loads must not be exceeded

**must be accounted for in the payload calculations

Santa Fe Highlander Safety

Even though the Santa Fe hasn’t been tested by ANCAP yet it is loaded with both active and passive safety features.

Key safety features include:-

Electronic Stability Control (ESC) including;

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Brake Assist System (BAS)
  • Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
  • Downhill Brake Control (DBC)
  • Hill-start Assist Control (HAC)
  • Traction Control System (TCS)
  • Vehicle Stability Management (VSM)

Hyundai SmartSense™ including;

  • Advanced Smart Parking Assist System (ASPAS)
  • Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist – Rear (BCA-R)
  • Driver Attention Warning (DAW)
  • Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) – Car, Pedestrian & Cyclist
  • High Beam Assist (HBA)
  • Lane Keeping Assist (LKA) – Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Active LKA.
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist (RCCA)
  • Rear Occupant Alert (ROA)
  • Safe Exit Assist (SEA)
  • Smart Cruise Control (SCC) with Stop & Go
  • Surround View Monitor (SVM)


  • Front airbags – driver & front passenger
  • Side (thorax) airbags – driver & front passenger
  • Side curtain airbags – 1st & 2nd rows

Other features

  • Emergency Stop Signal (ESS)
  • Parking Distance Warning-Front (PDW-F) – 6 sensors, with guidance display
  • Parking Distance Warning-Reverse (PDW-R) – 6 sensors, with guidance display
  • Rear view camera with dynamic guide lines
  • LED Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)
  • Speed limiter
  • Hill descent control
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) – individual tyre pressure readout
  • Roll-over Sensor
  • Electronic child safety lock system
  • ISOFIX child restraint anchors (rear outboard seats) – 2nd row
  • Top tether child restraint anchors (rear) – 3 anchors – 2nd row

Hyundai Sante Fe side

Santa Fe Highlander Fit for Purpose

Hyundai Santa Fe sits firmly in the family market segment. It is designed for either a larger family or one with two or three kids that takes others to school, sporting events etc. Safety is a key feature as is comfort and keeping the kids occupied.

Mostly the driving will be around town and freeway driving. There will be holidays and occasional forays along dirt roads, to the snow or towing a smaller camper trailer or sea doo etc.

Within its size limitations the Santa Fe is ideally suited for this purpose. It will fit four occupants in comfort, five in relative comfort and the rear seats are suited for occupants up to mid-teens I guess.

Santa Fe Highlander Summary

The all new Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander certainly makes a statement. Some reviewers and people really liked the external design and the internal dash design, me not so much.

That’s why style is subjective!

With the new Santa Fe Highlander there is no doubt that the latest version is a marked improvement over an already excellent product and definitely worth the look if you are after a 7 seat family AWD SUV.

Hyundai Sante Fe rear

The Good:-

  • Engine and Transmission
  • Family Practicality
  • Standard Features

The Not so good:-

  • Dislike the dash style
  • LKA overactive
  • Looks awkward

Also look at

Model:   Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander

  • Model Price $60,500 RRP*
  • Engine 2.2L 4 Cyl CRDi
  • Drivetrain 8 Sp AT on demand AWD
  • Power 147kW @ 3,800rpm
  • Torque 440Nm @ 1,750 – 2,750rpm
  • Safety TBA
  • CO2 Combined 198g/km
  • Economy ADR 7.5 L/100 km
  • Servicing Fixed Price Lifetime service plan fixed $
  • Tow Rating 2,000 kg
  • Tow Ball Rating 100 kg
  • Warranty 5 Yrs. / Unlimited km with 1yr Roadside Assist

*excluding statutory charges (which change by location), dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP.

Overall Rating: 83/100

  • Behind the Wheel 8
  • Comfort 9
  • Equipment 9
  • Performance 9
  • Ride & Handling 9
  • Practicality 9
  • Fit for Purpose 9
  • Towing Ability 7
  • Off Road Ability 6
  • Value for Money 8