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Model update: Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in

Date: 14 October 2021   |   Author: Simon Harris

Can Hyundai's plug-in version of the Santa Fe make in-roads in the corporate sector where premium-badge models are in demand?
What's new:
A few months after trying the new Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid, we get behind the wheel of the more fleet-friendly plug-in hybrid version.
Standard equipment on Premium:
17in alloy wheels, LED headlamps, tail lamps and positioning lamps, privacy glass, roof rails, electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seats, one-touch folding second row seats, heated front and rear seats, dual zone climate control air conditioning, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control with stop/go function, smart key with keyless entry and start/stop button, smart electric tailgate with hands free operation, rear parking system with rear camera and guidance system, premium audio system with subscription-free Apple Carplay and Android Auto, Bluelink (connected car services) with five-year subscription, USB charging ports in centre console.

The Santa Fe is a car that has grown in stature during its 21 years on sale. It started as a slightly odd-looking 'me too' addition to the Hyundai range, when SUVs were a much bigger deal in North America than they were in Europe.

Now closely related to the Kia Sorento, the fourth-generation model launched as a full-hybrid, combining a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine with electric power to achieve 230hp, and like the Kia, this was followed by a 265hp plug-in hybrid version with up to 36 miles of EV-only range after a few hours of charging from a wall box, and CO2 emissions of 37g/km.

And, in common with the Sorento, but with little else this size or at this price, the Santa Fe performs the feat of packaging a battery large enough to travel more than 30 miles as well as seating up to seven occupants.

As mentioned in our first encounter with the new Santa Fe, the visual updates seem like a mere facelift, but Hyundai has migrated the car to a completely new platform, so it's completely fresh from the ground up.

The outgoing model - barely three years into its facelifted incarnation - had already taken a step up in image and perceived quality, so it has an opportunity to persuade senior managers and directors who might normally be familiar with premium-badge SUVs, to try a higher value option, offering more practicality and better value as standard.

Although Hyundai now has a premium brand of its own with Genesis, the company has ruled out plug-in hybrids for Europe, so the Santa Fe has a clear run at plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Land Rover Discovery Sport and others.

Only badge snobbery and old prejudices are likely to get in the way, as the execution of the Santa Fe plug-in hybrid seems excellent. Hide the badge on the steering wheel and you could easily imagine this is a premium car.

Its power output at 265hp is a shade below the 290-300hp offered by premium-badge alternatives, but it's no slouch with 0-62mph achieved in 8.8 seconds, and its lower power allows Hyundai to play off an even greater value proposition. Its running costs are several pence per mile lower than Audi, BMW and others, while you get lower BIK tax and seven seats.

Accommodation in the third row is mainly designed around kids, but seven-seat SUVs tend to be aimed at using all seven seats only occasionally.

While the new Tucson PHEV is targeting the bulk of middle management user choosers, the Santa Fe could be a shrewd alternative for those who are prepared to give up the cache of a premium badge for better value and versatility.

Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV Premium 

P11D: £45,660

Residual value: 43%

Depreciation: £26,012

Fuel: £2,090

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,670

Cost per mile: 51.28p

Fuel consumption: 173.7mpg

CO2 (BIK %): 37g/km (11%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £84/£167

Luggage capacity: 571 litres (third row folded)

Engine size/power: 1,598cc/180hp plus 90hp electric motor


  • Premium feel
  • Seven seats
  • Competitive BIK
  • Small fuel tank
  • Third row seats are tight