2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 V6 Active Review

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 V6 Active Road Test Review

2019 Santa Fe Active

After a short interlude, Hyundai last year reintroduced V6 petrol power to its Santa Fe range with the arrival of a 3.5-litre unit in front wheel drive and 8-speed auto form only.

Three versions are available and I had the chance to drive the entry Active model at $43,990

There’s only been a 2.4-litre petrol 4-cylinder Santa Fe for a while, apart from the 2.2-litre turbo diesel AWD so the re-appearance of a strong V6 petrol is welcome.

This engine, surprisingly using multi-point injection system not the more efficient direct fuel injection,  lives in Kia’s Sorento and  will no doubt find its way into other Hyundai group cars. It could be the basis of Kia’s alleged upcoming 3.5-litre, twin-turbo Stinger with a gazillion kilowatts.

In Santa Fe, the naturally aspirated V6 is good for a decent 206kW and 330Nm output which gives the medium/large SUV sporty performance not expected in a family oriented SUV such as this.

But it likes a drink of 91 at around 12.6-litres/100km in general driving. Claimed fuel economy is 10.6.

Hyundai’s clever AutoLink system is included in Active that remotely connects owners to the car by phone and monitors pretty much every in-car function providing information and other useful stats.

They fitted this new model with a comprehensive array of advanced driver assist features along with a few luxuries even in this entry level model.

It has a distinctive appearance and represents good value for a family wagon as long as you don’t need AWD. Towing might be problematic with front wheel drive and this amount of power and torque.

2019 Santa Fe Active

Santa Fe Active Exterior

A handsome vehicle by any measure, the latest version of Santa Fe generation 4 is the best looker by a longshot with classy styling all over in particular the front which has the angry bird treatment with multi element headlights tucked up under the bonnet combined with a sweeping garnish spanning the width of the front. It has a black grille instead of grey found on higher spec’ versions.

Like the front, rear styling nails it even if it is a touch generic compared with other offerings in the market.

It’s a bit BMW, a bit Mercedes-Benz, a touch RAV4, Jag, but is good to look at.

Santa Fe is a medium/large 7-seat SUV with pleasing proportions and a sporty stance through all versions including this base Active model.

2019 Santa Fe Active

Santa Fe Active Interior

Inside is pretty much generic Hyundai which is no criticism as the space is functional, modern and easy on the eye.

There are plenty of grey tones with some black contrast and metal look fascia and trim along with a sporty multi-function wheel and simple dash layout.

The obligatory centre tablet-style touch screen controller is large and assorted switches are underneath, along the centre console and to the right heading towards the driver’s space.

As this was the base model, it featured cloth upholstery with select use of leather on the wheel and other places….which is fine by me as the seats are comfy especially in the front and middle pews.

Santa Fe is roomy inside for five with a decent load space down the back complete with a full size alloy spare under the floor.

Santa Fe Active Features

“Base” doesn’t always equal mean….

This one gets plenty of good stuff like:

  • 4 drive modes
  • 2000kg towing capacity
  • Hyundai AutoLink system
  • Heated exterior mirrors
  • Reverse camera
  • “Walk-in” second row
  • Locally calibrated ride/handling

2019 Santa Fe Active

Santa Fe Active Drive and Engine

No cringe here as the 3.5-litre V6 gives Santa Fe plenty of get-go across the entire engine operating range. Coupled with Hyundai’s latest, slick-shifting, 8-speed auto Santa Fe is never, ever caught out in the acceleration department. The transmission feels almost intuitive as it seamlessly flicks between cogs to optimise the vehicle’s performance and efficiency.

There’s no paddle shift on Active but you don’t need it, just leave the selector in “D” in Sport mode and you have as much performance as you need.

But the multi-point injection system isn’t as efficient as a direct injection system reflected in the test vehicle’s liking of 91 octane fuel.

Expect around 13.0L/100km for general driving, perhaps a little better than that if you try. In contrast, the diesel gets into the mid-7.0s.

The good thing here is that you don’t get stinky diesel on your hands and shoes at the servo…

It’s quiet inside apart from a muted growl when you use full throttle… not bad at all really.

However, all that poke going through the front wheels does have its limitations as the Santa Fe tends to spin its drive wheels if you try and take off too fast on a slippery road or uphill.

It’s probably wouldn’t matter for 99% of buyers.

The ride and handling package is locally calibrated reflecting our rough roads and demanding conditions. Santa Fe is controlled and easy to drive with a slight sporty feel to the controls.

Perfect for the intended audience.

Some of the advanced driver assist tech is over sensitive activating a touch too soon or too late in the case of the smart cruise control. I prefer to be in control of the vehicle and not the car… just saying.

On test I drove the Santa Fe for about 800km and found it easy to live with and practical.

There isn’t much not to like…

2019 Santa Fe Active

Santa Fe Active Safety

Five stars here with a decent array of advanced driver assist stuff boosting the overall safety offering. As already mentioned I am not a fan of over-zealous driver assist technology finding it intrusive and annoying in some instances. But they make these cars for the bottom common denominator… for people who can’t really drive, you know, the ones who hit gutters, don’t use their indicators, change lanes without looking, tailgate cars in front and so on….

Good Bits

  • Impressive engine performance
  • Attractive styling
  • 8-speed auto

Not So Good Bits

  • No satnav
  • Front wheel drive wheel spin
  • Can be thirsty

2019 Santa Fe Active

Santa Fe Active Summary

I like Hyundai’s Santa Fe because it’s the right size, looks classy and is well featured in an affordable package. I would pay the extra and buy the diesel every day because it uses less fuel, has about the same level of performance on the move and is AWD… better for towing and general driving.

Facts and Figures: 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Active V6

  • Engine: 3.5L V6 petrol producing 206kW/330Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
  • Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
  • Safety: Five stars
  • Origin: South Korea
  • Price: from $43,990 MLP*

*MLP Includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of options. Some features mentioned in the article are options

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 V6 Active


I like Hyundai’s Santa Fe because it’s the right size, looks classy and is well featured in an affordable package. I would pay the extra and buy the diesel every day because it uses less fuel, has about the same level of performance on the move and is AWD… better for towing and general driving.

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