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Comparison Test: Hyundai Santa Fe VS Toyota Fortuner



Hyundai Santa Fe VS Toyota Fortuner

Forward on fours. The Fortuner might hither to have been the default choice for those looking for a serious 4WD vehicle. But, can the Santa Fe change that? AUTO BILD INDIA tests the two back to back to find out.

'Office on wheels’ as a concept is great. After all, why should a commute be just a commute when one can devote extra hours to work rather than say read a book or muse about a family vacation while being chauffeured around? And with cars getting more high-tech, spacious and comfortable, it’s that much simpler to work harder still these days.

Personally, I’d rather have a ‘gym on wheels’ (just for the sake of staying with the theme). Not the existing ‘gym on wheels’ concept, mind, for that's for lazy folks who want to get fit, but won't walk two minutes to the fitness house to get toned. So, the gym comes to their house packed inside an SUV. Actually, I am quite okay with not walking, but spending time getting fit, no matter where you are, is such a waste. I’d rather just have the SUV. You know to go places, try challenging stuff and then spend a complete Sunday afternoon just trying to get unstuck in the middle of now here. I need a 'gym on wheels' for my soul; something that makes we want to get up and go out and play (in motoring terms, of course).

But, some SUV makers take the 'gym on wheels' idea quite literally. Take the BMW X1 for instance. It is the perfect tool to build up your fore arms and biceps thanks to its unnecessarily heavy steering. The Hyundai Santa Fe on the other hand is perfect for toning your thigh muscles. I know this because I have been driving one for a while now. But sadly, it only tones your left thigh, courtesy the heavy clutch operation. No wonder I have been limping and looking strange with my one thigh being larger than the other.

I haven’t been driving it because I care much about my physique though (you might have guessed that by now). I am driving it for it seems like a good prospect for my 'gym' concept. It's an SUV, has four wheel drive, complete with differential lock, and promises great on-road performance, given its engine specs.

Exterior & Interior

Hyundai Santa Fe Interior

Santa Fe's interiors are more luxurious and are better appointed, equipped and finished as well. There's a trip computer on board too with the clocks.

Hyundai Santa Fe Exterior

In a drag race, the Santa Fe easily creams the Fortuner. And, whether the race starts from a standstill or on the move has little bearing on the final result – the Hyundai always wins!

As is clear from the opening picture, the Fortuner still has no equal in its price bracket when it comes to road presence. In fact, SUVs costing twice as much can’t match it. It has a quint essential SUV stance; it stands tall, has a high face and large dimensions. Honestly, I’d buy it for its looks alone, and maybe most people already do. The Santa refinedFe in comparison looks meek, almost feminine. It’s not that the Hyundai isn't an imposing vehicle; but in Fortuner’s company, it’s rendered in significant.

However, if you believe that proof of the pudding is in eating it, then the Hyundai will appeal to you more. It has more upmarket, better looking and better finished interiors. It looks more modern and feels richer on the inside as well. The Fortuner in comparison feels a lot more utilitarian than luxurious. The Hyundai, as a plus, sports more features – it gets two-zone climate control, power seats and a steering that adjusts for both rake and reach. The Toyota has none of it, barring the steering, which only adjusts for rake. And then, the Hyundai simply blows the Fortuner out of contention come safety equipment with its six airbags and ESP over whatever else the Toyota sports.

Moreover, in terms of utility, thanks to its better designed boot, the Santa Fe comes out better. Its rear most seats are easier to fold flat on the floor. The Fortuner’s though need to be stacked away at the sides creating an uneven loading area.

Toyota Fortuner Interior

Fortuner's interiors lack the upmarket feel of the Santa Fe's. Similarity with Innova's insides and less equipment doesn't help either.

Toyota Fortuner Exterior

If it's an SUV you want with utmost road resence, it doesn't get better than the Fortuner as is clear in the picture

Now, the Santa Fe might not look as large as the Fortuner on the outside, but inside, it's clearly more spacious. And feels it too, especially in the last two rows of seating. The Toyota has cushier and more supportive seats for the second row. But, at the front, Santa Fe continues to rule due to its larger and more comfortable seats, and a better driving position. Staying with comfort, the Hyundai's ride is better. In typical SUV fashion, it does jiggle while tackling broken surfaces and feels skittish at times too, but so does the Fortuner. Importantly, the Santa Fe's ability to absorb road irregularities like potholes, bumps or even undulations is better. The end result is a less tiring drive for all occupants on board.

It handles better too, does the Santa Fe. Now, both SUVs, roll and understeer around bends and then twitch under hard braking. But, the Santa Fe's monocoque chassis feels nimbler and more controllable than the Fortuner's body on ladder frame.

The Hyundai also feels more spirited every time the throttle is pressed; it lunges ahead like a starved predator and there's less lag compared to the Toyota as well. The Fortuner isn’t slow, but feels so after the Hyundai. To boot, Hyundai’s smaller engine is way more refined too. In the crucial fuel economy stakes, the Toyota does take the lead. It returned better fuel economy both in the city and on the highway.

Engine & Gearbox

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2-litre might be smaller, but it is a performance powerhouse.

The Santa Fe's 2.2-litre unit though produces over 20 additional horses and almost 400Nm of torque. No wonder, it completes the 0-100kmph run two seconds quicker than the Toyota and manages better driveability in all gears as well. Now, two seconds might not seem much, but it’s enough to tell the difference in the real world.

Toyota Fortuner

Toyota Fortuner 3-litre engine is more efficient. It's however noisier and less refined Fe.

When it comes to engines, the differences become even starker, though both SUVs use modern day common rail diesel units. The Toyota’s 3-litre engine is larger but pumps out less power and torque.


Hyundai Santa Fe (mm)

Hyundai Santa Fe Overall Dimension

Also, the Hyundai's ingress height is just right, while the Fortuner is a tad high.

Hyundai Santa Fe Boot Dimension

Santa Fe's boot is more usable with last row of seats folded.

Toyota Fortuner (mm)

Toyota Fortuner Overall Dimension

Fortuner looks large, but interior dimensions are larger on the Santa Fe.

Toyota Fortuner Boot Dimension

while lack of a flat floor hinders practicality on the Toyota.

Scorecard & Verdict

Hyundai Santa Fe

Rank 1Hyundai Santa Fe- It is the best SUV you can buy for under Rs 30 lakh. It's spacious, practical, comfortable and loaded. It has a great engine as well.

Toyota Fortuner

TwoToyota Fortuner- The Fortuner is left wanting in the Santa Fe's company. But, it still remains the SUV to buy for the seriously adventurous lot.


Body: The Santa Fe is more spacious all round. But, the difference is most telling in the last two rows of seating with the Hyundai offering more usable shoulder, knee and headroom. It also has a more usable boot, but the Santa Fe runs away from the Fortuner under this head byoffering a lot more safety equipment. It gets four additional airbags and ESP, which is missing on the Fortuner.

Drive: Here again, the Santa Fe is clearly ahead. It out-accelerates the Fortuner to 100kmph by two seconds and then goes and posts better roll-on times as well. However, in terms of gearshift quality, both are reasonably precise but none really shine. The Fortuner has longer hrows and the Santa Fe is notchy. There's not much of a difference in the fuel economies of both SUVs either.

Comfort: The difference in points just keeps piling head after head in the Santa Fe's favour. Here again, it outscores the Toyota on account of a more comfortable ride, quieter cabin, better front seats and easier ingress/ egress. It also has more comfort equipment like two zone climate control and even cruise control as standard.

Dynamics: It's only under Dynamics that the two SUVs are evenly matched, however, not for the same attributes. The Fortuner is better under braking, while the Santa fe is easier to drive, helped no doubt y the smaller turning circle as well. In terms of straight line stability, steering feel and grip levels, both the Korean and the Japanese are at par.

Cost: Given that the Fortuner costs less to buy and Toyota has a better brand value, it's not surprising to see that it scores more under the Cost head. However, a threepoint difference here isn't good enough to even close the gap with the Santa Fe, which wins this comparison by a huge margin of almost 20 points!


The Fortuner is better looking, more affordable and surprisingly more effi cient. But, the Santa Fe comfortably outclasses it in every other regard. It has better ride, better on-road performance, a lot more equipment and space as well. And though the Fortuner is the better 'gym on wheels', the Hyundai balances the 'office and 'gym' concepts better. And it's not lost off-road either; it gets four wheel drive and a diff lock for most sticky situations.


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