Hyundai Santa Fe
The new Santa Fe looks bolder than ever and comes well-equipped, even in base specification. 

This is the new, 4th-generation Santa Fe, which came to market late last year. Not only does it now look more striking than its predecessor, thanks to its bolder cascading grille, but it’s a more refined product – both in terms of build quality and driving character.

It’s a 7-seater (for those who will regularly need seating space for 6 passengers), but unlike its ladder frame bakkie-based rivals (Fortuner, Everest, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport), the Santa Fe is a unibody SUV. Where its rivals place more emphasis on ground clearance and rugged off-road ability, the entry-level, front-wheel-drive Santa Fe on test here is a family mover through-and-through. How does it perform? Let’s see…  

Performance

Nestled under the bonnet of the Santa Fe is a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine that offers 142 kW and 450 Nm of torque – outputs that eclipse those of the equivalent Fortuner (2.4L) and Everest (2.2L) by a fair margin. It’s a more refined engine too (a lower level of NVH is prevalent in the cabin) and, by virtue of its new 8-speed automatic transmission, the 2.2D Premium delivers surprisingly brisk acceleration (once the initial turbo lag subsides).

The transmission is responsive to throttle inputs and it executes gear changes in a smooth, unobtrusive manner, all of which aids driving refinement. The Santa Fe gets up to highway speed fairly quickly and, if required, there’s sufficient in-gear shove to facilitate quick overtaking manoeuvres.

Hyundai claims the new transmission helps to reduce fuel consumption by between 3 and 4% (compared with the previous model) and, while the firm claims an average figure of 7.8 L/100km, we saw quite acceptable figures of around 8.6 L/100 km during our test.

Overall, we were mightily impressed with the performance and level of refinement offered by this new Santa Fe.   

Handling and ride quality

Another strength of the Santa Fe is undoubtedly its impeccable road manners. Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels and fitted with McPherson struts up front and a multi-link suspension at the rear, it maintains a composed ride over various road surfaces; even harsh imperfections are “ironed out”.

Not only does it have a more pliant ride quality than its bakkie-based rivals (including the Everest), the Santa Fe has a positive and well-weighted steering feel. It feels positively planted when cornering (a tribute to well-balanced body control), which is an admirable trait in a fairly hefty, let alone softly-sprung, people-mover. Overall, it offers an admirably comfortable and reassuring driving experience, which will please family car buyers.

Solid, spacious cabin

Step inside the Santa Fe and you’re welcomed by a capacious cabin that’s not only attractively designed, but solidly built and well-specced. We found the leather seats comfortable and, in the case of this Premium derivative, the driver’s seat is manually adjustable, including for height.

The steering column is adjustable for rake and reach and the leather-bound ‘wheel equipped with remote buttons for audio, Bluetooth and cruise control functions. The neat 7-inch infotainment touchscreen is easy to navigate and offers full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Other nice-to-have features include rear park distance control with a reverse-view camera, automatic headlights, dual-zone climate control (automatic aircon), front and rear electric windows, a quartet of USB ports (including 2 at the rear), as well as an auxiliary audio input.  

In terms of safety equipment, the Santa Fe has a total of 6 airbags, ABS with EBD and electronic stability control with traction control.

Super-practical

There’s no shortage of space in the Santa Fe and passengers should find the rear quarters to offer ample headroom, shoulder room and legroom, no matter how tall you are. More so, the middle row can be shifted forward at the press of a button to gain access to the 3rd row of seats.

With the 3rd row of seats folded flat into the load bay floor, space is generous (at 547 litres) and, when you fold all the rear seats down, you have access to a capacious 1 625 litres. However, with the 3rd row of seats in place, luggage space is, predictably, quite limited.

The 3rd row is best suited to accommodate children and rearmost passengers are afforded a cupholder each. Having said that, even average-sized adults may find the 3rd-row seating tolerable over short distances. The Santa Fe has one of the most spacious 3rd-row seating setups that we have experienced in a long time (Hyundai is said to have increased legroom by 127 mm and headroom by 190 mm). Impressive indeed…

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