Hyundai Santa Fe 2012 - 2018 guide

Is the Mk3 Santa Fe a good second-hand buy?

What’s it like?

The Hyundai Santa Fe had already been around for two generations by 2012, when the Mk3 came out, but this model was a huge step-change in quality from its predecessors. One of the first Hyundais that started to make the established mainstream opposition really sweat when they saw the quality of the Korean vehicle’s overall offering, it’s a large, seven-seat SUV that has a genuine hope of accommodating some adults in its third row of chairs – but it also has smart styling, a quality level of interior finishing and as with any Korean car, plenty of equipment for the money. While you could consider it a great-value alternative to high-end premium seven-seat SUVs, such as the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7, during its six-year life the Santa Fe also went toe-to-toe with the likes of the Skoda Kodiaq, the Land Rover Discovery Sport, the Nissan X-Trail and the mechanically related Kia Sorento.

Which model to go for?

It’s very straightforward because Hyundai offered the Santa Fe with just one engine during its life, a strong 2.2-litre turbodiesel developing 197hp and 436Nm of torque. There was the option of having the big SUV as a two-wheel-drive (front-driven) manual model, or as a four-wheel drive with an automatic – both transmissions had six speeds. Trim lines ran Comfort, Executive and Premium, with the last of these being a fully loaded luxury specification, but in truth every Santa Fe comes with plenty of desirable gear on it as standard so you don’t need to search out the higher-grade ones to have the best possible ownership experience.

Nominally, all Santa Fe were seven-seaters, but our quirky laws mean you’ll see some Santa Fes listed as commercial vehicles, and that might mean they’re the rarer five-seat version inside. Either way, tumbling the rear seats down is the work of a moment and there’s plenty of boot space on offer in the Hyundai if you configure its cabin just so. To drive, it is genuinely excellent – quiet, comfortable and even decent in the corners considering its size, although the steering is a bit wishy-washy. Expect economy around 35-40mpg (8.1-7.1 litres/100km) in regular use, which is not bad for something this large that can seat seven.

Does anything go wrong?

Hyundais are reliable cars, in the main, with a generous manufacturer warranty from new, and the Santa Fe doesn’t buck this trend. Most problems reported with it pertain to electrical niggles with various onboard systems and the navigation, but most owners had these rectified under the warranty when the Santa Fes were newer cars. Nowadays, you’re watching for the usual signs of a diesel’s turbo being on the way out, which is either excessive white or blue smoke on cold start-up and during bouts of heavy acceleration. Other than that, watch for slipping clutches on the manual or automatic transmissions which are slurring their shifts, but in general the Hyundai is a solid second-hand choice.

Hyundai issued four recalls for this generation of Santa Fe during its life cycle, which related to a short circuit in the ABS control modules, the mounting position of the curtain-airbag bolt, problems relating to the steering-wheel assembly, and an issue with the bonnet closure and locking system.

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