Sante Fe gallery
Hyundai is ambitious and and it's no secret - the Korean carmaker is blunt about its aim to be one of the top five manufacturers by 2009. The new Santa Fe SUV makes this obvious.
Like most recent new Hyundai products such as the Getz, Tucson and Sonata the second generation Santa Fe is proof of Hyundai's commitment to becoming a major player.
Hyundai is also telling you straight that it is pitching their products against those of Toyota. And the new Santa Fe is out to spoil the RAV4's party.
It is without doubt a complete different vehicle than its predecessor - not only is the newcomer more stylish, but it's larger all-round too.
The new generation car is 175 mm longer, 45 mm wider and 60 mm higher, with the wheelbase extended by 80 mm.
Initially Hyundai is launching the Santa Fe in South Africa with one engine derivative, a 2.2-litre turbodiesel, but it is available in either 4x2 or 4x4 guise.
The 4x2 model comes with manual transmission while the 4x4 features an autobox. Buyers can also opt for seven-seat versions of both derivatives.
Ugly Hyundai stayed behind in the '90s and Hyundai has done a good job with the Santa Fe's styling, giving it a clean and upmarket look. Yes, the design is a bit of a copycat act as you do see design elements of other popular SUVs featuring on the Santa Fe.
For example the nose seems very familiar Toyota RAV4, while at the rear you see styling cues of the VW Touareg. But hey, it works and the result is a sleek looking and modern SUV.
Its appearance, which seems more chic than rugged, hints that this is not an all-out off-roader. Like the smaller Tuscon the new Santa Fe is aimed more at the so-called "lifestyle market".
However, those who opt for the 4x4 derivative can attempt some limited off-roading.
Hyundai?s electronic four-wheel-drive system supplies torque on demand. A series of sensors monitors road and driving conditions, seamlessly engaging the all-wheel-drive system to ensure that torque is distributed to tyres with grip.
In this way the technology improves efficiency in relation to permanent four-wheel-drive systems, distributing torque precisely and cleanly from rear axle to front without involving the driver in any extra work.
In tricky situations, such as slippery or uneven surfaces, the driver can engage full-time four-wheel-drive with the push of a button.
This will ensure that the drive is distributed to all wheels, and this locking feature includes a tight corner braking mechanism.
According to Hyundai it has made several changes to the Santa Fe?s underpinnings too, to give the vehicle a good on-road ride and better handling quality.
As mentioned, Hyundai is launching the Santa Fe here with one engine derivative, a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, but a V6 petrol might come next year. The diesel kicks out 110 kW at 4 000 r/min and torque is 335 Nm which is available at 1 800 r/min. Hyundai claims a top speed of 180 km/h for the 4x2 and 178 km/h for the 4x4.
This engine seems to be quite happy in the Santa Fe and when at speed one is hardly aware of its diesel genes as Hyundai has done a good job in isolating the engine noise.
It might not be the quickest on the take off (0-100 km/h takes about 11.3 seconds according to Hyundai) but it is potent enough to be a happy cruiser on the open road.
It should be more than able for towing purposes too. One should also compliment the new Santa Fe for its drivability. Despite being a big vehicle it doesn't feel its size and comes across as nimble.
Neither does it feel heavy or bulky giving the driver confidence to tackle the road with ease.
It's for sure a vehicle that one will be able to live with on a day-to-day base and the vehicle is versatile enough too, offering great loading space. And there is the option of a third row of seats.
The Santa Fe boasts a luxury interior and comes with all the bells and whistles as standard. There are features such as leather trim, dual zone climate control and a CD/radio player.
Ergonomics seems good too while the build quality doesn't disappoint either.
There's more than ample space for all passengers and Hyundai says the luggage capacity is now 969 litres.
The Santa Fe's safety credentials are impressive too, achieving a four star rating in the highly acclaimed Euro NCAP safety tests. Passive safety features include dual arbags at the front, pre-tension seatbelts and active headrests.
The vehicle also comes with an upgraded ABS and EBD braking set-up, as well as Electronic Stability Programme.
The second generation Santa Fe looks the SUV part and its classy looks deserve a thumbs up. This vehicle also shows that Hyundai is increasingly delivering desirable products that are able to tackle the more established manufacturers.
The new Santa Fe offers good quality and comfort but the one thing that is lacking is perhaps Hyundai's reputation of value for money.
Thanks to recent changes in the value of the Rand, Hyundai couldn't quite price the Santa Fe very far below its main competitor, the RAV4.
Pricing starts at R319 900, which is about the same of the RAV4 D4D. But in the Santa Fe's defence, it is more than able to be a good alternative.
Furthermore Hyundai nowadays has a reputation for quality and reliable products as it generally scores well in customer satisfaction surveys. At first glance the Santa Fe will also be able to live up to these expectations.
It has all the right SUV ingredients to be a major player and is definitely worth a look at if you are shopping around for a luxury and reliable SUV.
Sante Fe gallery
4x2 5-seater: R319 900
4x2 7-seater: R329 900
4x4 5-seater: R349 900
4x4 7-seater: R359 900