Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid SUV: Intelligent But Not Artificial!

7-seater packed with latest creature comforts

Fri 18 Aug 23


I digress. Let’s veer off course from the main subject before we get there.

With more than 86 million cars produced globally this year, it’s no wonder car manufacturers are installing machinery and ways to enhance production.

Artificial intelligence in the automotive industry is changing not only cars on the road but the factories that build them and the processes for repairing them.

Motional, a joint venture by the Hyundai Motoring Group and Irish-American automotive technology supplier Aptiv, combines technical expertise with real-world experience to design autonomous driving systems that are pushing the potential of self-driving cars into reality.

The technology utilises three sensor types — LiDAR, radar and cameras — prioritising safety at all times, leading to the world’s first robot-taxi pilot and an operational commercial robot-taxi service that has provided more than 100,000 self-driven rides with a record of zero at-fault incidents.

So, to the subject at hand – Hyundai’s $69,550 Santa Fe Highlander hybrid SUV sits somewhere between Toyota’s two top performers – the Kluger GXL and Grande eFour hybrid. There’s nothing artificial about the Santa Fe Highlander, but it is very intelligent.

Sharp new technology completes the generational transformation, including a special tray that sterilises smartphones with UV light while up to two devices charge wirelessly, and Hyundai’s first panoramic curved display that blends a 12.3-in. information screen with a fully digital driver’s instrument cluster.

The Korean firm has put a lot of effort into upgrading the Santa Fe image through bold styling and motorsport cachet combined with its world rally championship inheritance.

This stylish and sporty SUV is both a seven-seater and a six-seater, the second option on the Highlander variant only, and comes packed with all the latest creature comforts, such as a ‘relaxation seat’ in the front row that fully reclines for a feeling of ‘weightlessness’, a 6.6-in. digital climate control touchscreen, a six-seat option which replaces the three-seat bench with two more luxurious chairs, and Hyundai’s ‘digital key 2’ which ditches the regular fob in favour of a smartphone application.

Footage courtesy of @carsguide.

This SUV comes with a 2.2-litre diesel or a 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a ‘self-charging’ hybrid or a plug-in hybrid set-up. This is the first-generation Santa Fe with a two-wheel drive option.

The two powertrains combine fast acceleration and effortless power, a best-of-both-worlds driving experience. The battery is charged via the braking system, harnessing the energy from deceleration, meaning this hybrid is always charged and ready to drive.

The petrol engine is good for 132kW and 265Nm, and expect the gearbox-mounted electric motor to raise combined outputs near or above the existing car’s 169kW/350Nm figure. The supplied specs confirm a 6.5L/100km efficiency rating.

Growing in all directions except width, the 2023 Santa Fe has more space inside with a deliberate focus on maximising the versatility of the load area for outdoor or suburban driving.

Now measuring 4830 mm long and 1720 mm high, the fifth-generation Santa Fe has grown by 45 mm in length and is 35 mm taller, 

Second-row legroom is up as much as 35 mm while, as a seven-seater, third-row legroom has increased by another 15 mm.

Comfort continues for passengers in the back stalls with nearly 70 mm more headroom and a 30 mm-boosted seat height which benefits from under-thigh support with seating reclining 10-deg, further for more comfort.

In the rear, Santa Fe’s boot grows to an impressive 725 litres with the third row of seating folded away, representing 91 extra litres compared with the fourth-generation model. Fold all the rear seats, and the boot increases to 1275 litres – 145 litres than before. 

Loading the larger cargo area is also more accessible thanks to a broader tailgate. At the same time, a new handle concealed in the C-pillar enables more effortless loading of items on the roof. 

As expected, there’s no fully-electric Santa Fe, leaving the stage free for Hyundai’s Ioniq 7 and the mechanically-related all-new Kia EV9, the luxurious, all-electric SUV soon to arrive.

“The EV9 is in proportion, yet captivating in appearance,” says Hyundai, which can pick winners. Hyundai and Kia are partner sponsors of the Matildas, the Australia women’s national soccer team that made history by defeating France in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the World Cup quarter-final in Brisbane last Saturday.

We’re booked in for a spin in the EV9. I can’t wait!


  • Orson Whiels

    Orson Whiels has been a motoring writer for many years and was motoring writer at Queensland Country life in the 1960s-70s and then motoring editor at Australian Timberman.)


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