The new-style ‘cascading grille’ gives the Santa Fe a more dramatic presence. Picture: SUPPLIED
The new-style ‘cascading grille’ gives the Santa Fe a more dramatic presence. Picture: SUPPLIED

Meet the Hyundai Santa Fe, perhaps the most crossed-over of crossovers. It doesn’t know what type of seven-seater it wants to be. Is it an SUV, MPV or both?

This is no blemish in its script. The SA vehicle landscape shows that some of the most popular cars, such as Toyota’s Fortuner and Ford’s Everest, are seven-seaters.

The Hyundai’s seats are in a 2-3-2 configuration, and the rear two rows can be stowed away to make it a cargo van or configured to combine passenger and luggage space. In full seven-seat mode, the rearmost load space is still a very spacious 547l.

The letter box-style lights are a key part of this Hyundai’s aesthetic appeal and disguise its bulk very well. At 4,770mm in overall length and 1,075mm high, the Santa Fe has a sleeker silhouette than most segment rivals.

The cabin looks great and is of a pleasant quality while the little mish-mash of buttons and the company’s preferred blue glow on the digital fascia add to an ambience of sophistication. The top-of-the-range Elite specification has a catalogue of kit, including a 28cm TFT command screen, reverse camera, cruise control and a panoramic sunroof. Safety is provided by front and side airbags, ABS-equipped brakes and blind-spot detection, among others.

Roomy and elegant, it’s a fine place for a party of seven. Picture: SUPPLIED
Roomy and elegant, it’s a fine place for a party of seven. Picture: SUPPLIED      

Mechanically, Hyundai has assigned its 2.2l four-cylinder turbo diesel engine with 142kW and 440Nm on tap to the entire Santa Fe range, meaning the Elite spec gets its top-of-the-pile status on standard specification levels, plus it’s all-wheel drive.

This makes it neither the quickest nor the most fuel efficient Santa Fe derivative, just the one with more grip on loose surfaces.

Efforts to disguise the noisiness of the diesel motor are also largely unsuccessful, and the agricultural din remains perceptible on the move.

Unsurprisingly, it goes like a diesel too, in that there’s hesitation on take-off just when you’d like it to step off the line and get a move on. The engine is smooth in operation but doesn’t push as bullishly as I’d have liked. But it was able to haul its bulk over steep inclines without fuss, the eight-speed automatic transmission’s intuitiveness slotting in correct gears timeously and circumventing the need to rescue it with manual gear-change intervention.

Fuel economy is impressive. Hyundai claims 8.2l/100km but this is one of those rare occasions where I bettered manufacturer claims, returning 8.0l/100km during the test period.  

The 547l boot expands to a cavernous 1,625l with the middle and rear seats folded flat. Picture: SUPPLIED
The 547l boot expands to a cavernous 1,625l with the middle and rear seats folded flat. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Santa Fe’s 185mm ground clearance makes it more suited to rural roads than dongas or dry river beds.

The Santa Fe is ideally aimed at customers who seek a car-like experience from their seven-seater. They will find it a more palatable offering to some of the alternatives.

But this doesn’t mean it’s entirely flawless. I found the steering to be underserved in such a heavy car, making the steering somewhat laborious in town driving.

Ultimately, it’s hard to criticise the winning recipe of this people carrier. It’s well built, drives comfortably, is sophisticated enough and is fitted with respectable luxuries and amenities.

Tech Specs:

ENGINE

Type:  Four-cylinder turbo-diesel

Capacity: 2,199cc

Power: 142kW

Torque: 440Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed automatic

DRIVETRAIN

Type: All-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 203km/h

0-100km/h: 9.3 sec (as claimed)

Fuel consumption: 8.2l/100km (as claimed); 8.0l/100km as tested

Emissions: 200g/km

 

STANDARD FEATURES

Audio system, Bluetooth, on-board computer, cruise control, ABS, EBD, ESP, VSM, HAC, DBC, AWD, Lane Change Assist, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, Rear & Front Park Assist, 28cm TFT colour display,  panoramic sunroof, electrically operated rear hatch door, driver and passenger seat heating and ventilation, paddle shifts on the steering wheel, rear-door retractable side curtains, keyless start, leather seats, electric adjustment for driver and front passenger seats, climate control.

 

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: 7 years/200,000 km

Price: R749,900

Lease*: R16,027 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Hyundai Santa Fe R2.2 Elite AWD

 

WE LIKE:

Fuel consumption, spacious cabin, looks

WE DISLIKE:

Hesitant take off, steering could be lighter

VERDICT:

Multitalented people mover

 

MOTOR NEWS

star rating

*****Design

***Performance

****Economy

***Ride/handling

****Safety

**Value For Money

****Overall

 

Competition

Toyota Fortuner 2.8GD-6 4x4 auto, 130kW/450Nm – R678,200

Ford Everest Limited 3.2 6 auto 4WD, 147kW/470Nm - R751,900

Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD EX, 147kW/440Nm – R649,995