The much bolder new design adopts Hyundai’s new “sensuous sportiness” look. Picture: SUPPLIED
The much bolder new design adopts Hyundai’s new “sensuous sportiness” look. Picture: SUPPLIED

Hyundai has introduced the fourth generation of its largest SUV, the Santa Fe, which involves a major restyle, extra space, and some refinement and safety upgrades.

For a brand that moves big numbers in other automotive segments, the Santa Fe has been a relatively slow seller in SA’s competitive big-SUV market that includes rivals like the Kia Sorento, Volvo XC60, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Audi Q5, among others.

The anonymous styling did the third-generation Sante Fe few favours but, in a nod to the new “sensuous sportiness” Hyundai family look that was introduced in the recently-launched Kona, the newcomer is sculpted into a far more eye-catching shape with its slimmer front and rear lights and bolder “cascading” grille.

Under the guidance of Hyundai’s recently appointed chief designer Luc Donckerwolke (previously of Lamborghini fame), the large SUV now sports a more purposeful look with what Hyundai describes as having athletic muscles.

The more handsome body perches atop a lengthened wheelbase that has liberated more space in the seven-seat interior of the 4.770m long vehicle. The boot is now expanded to a very roomy 547l, and has a handy underfloor nook to stash the detachable cargo cover. All the seats in the middle and rear rows can fold flat to create a giant cargo-swallowing space of 1,625l.

The third row is large enough for a pair of adults (just), and access to the third row is by means of a simple one-touch system that moves the middle seats forward.

Three Santa Fe derivatives are available, all with the same 2.2 turbodiesel engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, but offered in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive guises and three specification grades.

The four-cylinder engine is carried over from the old range but its outputs of 142kW and 440Nm are now more efficiently delivered with the addition of two extra gears. The gear ratio in the new eight-speed auto is widened to deliver improved engine response during acceleration, while the longer top gear has reduced fuel consumption to a claimed 7.8l/100km for the FWD versions and 8.2l for the AWD.

With an 185mm ground clearance the Santa Fe is capable of some rough-terrain work, especially so in the AWD model which uses Hyundai’s HTRAC system to electronically vary drive between the front and rear wheels, and controls braking between the left and right wheels. There are three driver-selectable modes — Sport, Comfort and Eco — which vary the torque split between the front and rear wheels.

Suspension upgrades have improved the big SUV’s ride comfort, while noise levels have been reduced with additional sound deadening materials. Picture: SUPPLIED
Suspension upgrades have improved the big SUV’s ride comfort, while noise levels have been reduced with additional sound deadening materials. Picture: SUPPLIED

Suspension upgrades have improved the big SUV’s ride comfort, while noise levels have been reduced with additional sound deadening materials.

The vehicle’s rigidity has also been improved and the efforts were evident in the solid, flex-free feel of the Santa Fe I drove at last week’s SA media launch in Gauteng. The route had  both tar and gravel roads, and the large vehicle cruised over it all in bump-soaking comfort.

Its high-speed stability and good traction on bumpy dirt roads — in both the two- and four-wheel drive versions — were particularly impressive, suggesting it will make a very capable adventure vehicle for families who don’t want the journey to end just because the tar does.

The diesel engine is a gutsy performer with plenty of smooth-sailing, easy-overtaking torque. The Santa Fe seems well-sealed too, and the interior wasn’t coated in dust after its dirt-road sojourn.

A 7” infotainment system and leather seats are part of the deal in all three Santa Fe versions. Picture: SUPPLIED
A 7” infotainment system and leather seats are part of the deal in all three Santa Fe versions. Picture: SUPPLIED

All versions are equipped with climate control, a 7” infotainment system and voice-activated Bluetooth, leather seats, cruise control, and a rear parking camera. Six airbags are standard across the range and the Santa Fe has a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating.

The upper two models get additional features like an electronic tailgate (with adjustable height and opening speed), LED headlamps (instead of halogen), keyless operation with push button start, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and safe-exit assist which won’t let you open the door if there’s traffic approaching from behind (as seen in Hyundai’s ad during the Fifa World Cup). The innovative Rear Occupant Alert in the Elite derivative monitors the rear seats to detect passengers and alerts the driver when leaving the car.

The range-topping Elite version, in addition to all-wheel drive, also lays on features like LED tail lights, dynamic bending headlamps, front heated and ventilated seats, a panoramic sun roof, and electrically adjustable front seats.


PRICES

Santa Fe 2.2 Premium – R599,900

Santa Fe Executive – R659,900

Santa Fe Elite HTRAC – R749,900

Prices include a seven-year/200,000km manufacturer’s warranty (consisting of the standard five-year/150,000km warranty plus the additional two-year/50,000km drivetrain warranty extension), road side assistance, and a five- year/90,000km service plan.