2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander: Road Trip Report
Price & Specs7
Interior & Practicality9
Performance & Economy8
Ride & Handling8
Running Costs & Warranty9
What we like:
  • Very practical interior
  • Great ride quality
  • Frugal diesel engine
What we don't like:
  • Drivers’ only auto window
  • Lack of auto stop/start
  • Interior quality could be improved
8.2DiscoverAuto Rating

The Hyundai Santa Fe has been with us in its current generation for almost three years now, so we thought it was about time we got behind the wheel of one to see what’s what. The large seven-seat SUV was our chariot of choice for our little Covid-era trip from Sydney to Canberra. The Santa Fe is getting a midlife update soon but is it best to buy the current one and save some money or wait for the updated model? Read on to see how the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is as a road trip cruiser.

Price & Specs: 7/10

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe kicks off with the base Active trim level that starts at $43,990 plus on-road costs ($47,020 for the diesel AWD). For your money you get a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear parking sensors with a rear-view camera, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, automatic headlights with front and rear fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels and a full-size spare wheel.

Safety kit is generous too with auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and auto high beam.

Stepping up to the Santa Fe Active X adds $3,000 to the price ($47,020 and $50,050 respectively) and you gain larger 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, front parking sensors, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, rear privacy glass, auto wipers, a cooled glove box and power folding mirrors.

The mid-spec Santa Fe Elite is priced from $52,070 for the petrol and $55,100 for the diesel. This is a price hike of $5,000 when compared with the Santa Fe Active X – for the extra cash you gain a larger 8.0-inch infotainment screen, a 10-speaker Infinity sound system, a power tailgate, rear sunshades, electric front seats and paddle shifters.

We tested the top-spec 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander, which is priced $6,500 higher than the Elite at $58,630 for the petrol ($61,660 for the diesel that we had). For the money you gain larger 19-inch wheels with Continental tyres, self-parking tech, a head-up display (HUD), LED lighting, a panoramic glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard seats in the second row, a heated steering wheel, wireless charging and a larger 7.0-inch driver’s information display over the Elite.

One small niggle we had with the Santa Fe – especially in top-spec Highlander form – is that only the driver’s window is automatic.

The colour seen on our test vehicle is known as ‘White Cream’ and it and ‘Stormy Sea’ are the only standard colours offered on the 20202 Hyundai Santa Fe. Colours such as ‘Phantom Black’, ‘Earthly Bronze’, ‘Rain Forest’, ‘Magnetic Force’, ‘Wild Explorer’ and ‘Typhoon Silver’ come at a $695 premium.

Engine & Drive: 8/10

The standard engine choice for the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is a smooth 3.5-litre V6 driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It produces 206kW of power and 336Nm of torque. The claimed average fuel consumption for the V6 powered Santa Fe is 10.6L/100km.

Our test car was fitted with the optional 2.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine which, unlike the V6, powers all four wheels. It produces 147kW of power and 440Nm of torque through the same eight-speed automatic as the V6. The claimed fuel consumption figure for the diesel is 7.5L/100km, which we found to be pretty easily achievable.

When getting up to speed in the Santa Fe the diesel engine does a good job of achieving this without making a fuss. It is relatively quiet, though it’s not amazingly quick – the diesel six in the Genesis GV80 would be a welcome addition in the humble Santa Fe.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is a great highway hauler – it ate up the kilometres with ease and was extremely comfortable the whole way. The engine was quiet at speed and used just 7.2L/100km – not bad for a big boy SUV. The eight-speed auto is excellent – it’s always in the right gear.

Ride & Handling: 8/10

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander is an extremely comfortable car. Bumps don’t phase the Aussie-tuned suspension – at highway speeds it’s nicely floaty but taut, and at lower speeds in the city it cops bumps with ease, even with the large 19-inch alloy wheels.

While not a nimble sports car, the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander does a good job of keeping composed through the bends. There is a slight amount of body roll but that is to be expected of a nearly two-tonne SUV. The steering is nice and light, and road noise is low too.

Interior & Practicality: 9/10

The interior of the 2020 Hyundai Santa-Fe is a very relaxing environment to spend time in. The leather is soft to the touch and the cloth texture of the roof lining and pillars is soft as well.

The dash of the Santa Fe is very ergonomic, and buttons are where you’d expect them to be, which is handy on the open road. The driver’s display offers a plethora of information and the steering wheel controls are easy to locate and use. The seats of the Santa Fe are very comfortable, no matter which row you’re sitting in. The front seats are electric with both heating and cooling functionality. The second-row outboard seats are also heated, and the third row gets independent fan speed control as well.

The large panoramic glass roof opens up the interior and gives off an airy spacious feeling. The second-row seats get air vents, USB-A charging ports, heated seats, a centre armrest with cupholders and a small storage cubby. The rear legroom is also plentiful but if you are sitting behind the passenger and if you need more, there are controls to the right of the front passenger seat accessible from the rear seats that will move the seat around – a fun party trick that your kids will no doubt love.

The boot of the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander comes in at 547-litres of cargo space with the third-row seats stowed away but what is even more impressive is that if necessary, you can also fold the second-row seats to create 1,625-litres of space – the Skoda Kodiaq offers a larger 2,005L though.

Running Costs & Warranty: 9/10

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander comes with a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty – the only vehicle in this class that can beat that is the 2020 Kia Sorento, which comes with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. The Santa Fe also comes with 12-months of roadside assistance, which at every scheduled service through Hyundai, is extended for a further 12-months for up to four years.

The cost of servicing the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander over three years is $1,305 ($435 a service) – over five years it will set buyers back $2,239. The service intervals of the Santa Fe are 12-months or 15,000km which is better than the 2020 Mazda CX-9 and its short 12-months/10,000km intervals.

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.2/10

Is the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander the ultimate highway cruiser to pack seven people in and hit the road? We would say so – it’s an excellent grand tourer. With a comfortable ride, excellent standard equipment and a frugal diesel engine, the Santa Fe should be your companion on your next long journey. There are more luxurious SUVs on the road but the 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Highlander really ticks all the boxes for a road trip king.

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