Cape Town - Believe it or not the Hyundai Santa Fe has been with us close on 14 years now.
The 2016 third generation model continues the obviously successful trend with more room, more performance and even better practicality – all hallmarks that will endear the new, five- and seven-seater Santa Fe to a growing number of South African followers who enjoy vehicle ownership of this type.
Model onslaught for SA
There was a time when people bought a Hyundai product strictly on price alone. The initial foray into South Africa – onslaught might be a better word by this Korean company - saw them build up a really decent customer/client relationship, and in double-quick time too.
Image gallery: 2015 Hyundai Sante Fe
It’s worth recording Hyundai seems to be well ahead of their game in the 4x4 stakes, because a gap spotted is a gap taken, as the old adage goes.
Back to the present and we find the 2016 model year Santa Fe R2.2 5-seater Elite uses a front-wheel drive system, while the R2.2 7-seater Elite is equipped with an all-wheel drive system that can be locked when needed.
'Beast of burden'
Buyers in this premium segment are given a choice between the front-wheel drive Santa Fe and the all-wheel drive derivative, both called Elite, incidentally.
When carrying more passengers becomes a priority, the Elite with their third row of seats that fold away into the cargo floor in the rear, offers another option to make it an even more versatile “beast of burden.”
Tweaked and upgraded, but available in only two derivatives going forward, the latest Santa Fe model only available in Elite spec adopts the most recent Hyundai design features, with the signature hexagonal front grille and sharper profile visually uniting the range.
There’s newly designed 19” alloy wheels that accentuate the model’s refined lines while reinforcing the car’s status at the top of Hyundai Motor’s SUV line-up, while road presence is enhanced by new front and rear bumpers with redesigned fog and LED daytime running lights, framed with new silver trim.
Inside, Santa Fe remains a refined and comfortable place to be with updates to the console cluster and the navigation system presenting the car’s sophisticated image. The relationship between design and functionality continues throughout the cockpit where new material and exterior colours build on the premium quality that has become the hallmark of Hyundai’s flagship model.
One thing that’s very noticeable – and much to the chagrin from the German trio of Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW apparently – is an almost non-existent options list from this Korean manufacturer because the Santa Fe really does come full house.
Stanley Anderson, marketing director of Hyundai Automotive South Africa, told Wheels24 readers at launch: “There’s a whole raft of important upgrades that emphasise its visual stance and athletic character. Being the flagship car in Hyundai’s local range and its SUV line-up, the Santa Fe benefits from several new technologies in the Hyundai stable, all contributing to a more luxurious and safer motoring experience.”
Under the bonnet is a lusty 2.2-litre CRDi turbodiesel that's capable of 145kW/436Nm of torque… featuring an advanced third-generation common-rail fuel injection system and a high efficiency electronic turbocharger… coupled to a six-speed auto gearbox that offers the option of manual gearshift.
This engine delivers CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of 198 g/km and 8 litres/100 km respectively in the 2WD five-seater Elite variant, and 206 g/km and 8.3 litres/100 km in the All-Wheel Drive 7-seater Elite derivative.
Three driving modes can be selected: Sport, Normal and Eco. The normal driving mode is selected by default, and the Sport or Eco mode can be chosen by pressing a switch on the instrument panel right of the steering wheel. In Eco mode the gears shift slightly earlier to effect more frugal fuel consumption in a car that can boast with a figure of as low as 7.3 litres/100km on the open road.
How does it drive?
Seriously though, what’s it like to drive in real world conditions, I hear you ask.
Glad to report the Mark III Santa Fe boasts superb road manners and proved surprisingly agile, safe and virtually devoid of any rattles, bangs or shudders while making rapid progress on deeply rutted sand tracks. The new-found, much reduced levels of NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) have to be experienced to be believed, thanks due in the main to the brilliant suspension this particular Hyundai is blessed with.
Building on Santa Fe’s high safety specification, the new version introduces several new active safety and comfort features. In line with changing customer perceptions of the Hyundai, enhancements boost the premium feel and sophisticated appearance of the new model.
To sum up we’d like to think the Santa Fe is now built to a standard commensurate with the asking price, and we don’t think you’ll be disappointed. By virtue of its unique positioning in the marketplace, it deserves the attention of anyone looking for an affordable five - seven-seat family vehicle with loads more attitude than an MPV.
Santa Fe R2.2 2WD 5-seater Elite - R659 900
Santa Fe R2.2 4WD 7-seater Elite - R699 900
The prices of the above range include a five-year or 90 000km service plan, and a five-year or 150 000km warranty and roadside assistance. Service intervals are set every 15 000km.
*One eye was kept on the on-board computer readings where possible to check on fuel consumption but in truth to obtain really accurate figures one needs to have the vehicle topped up; travel say 200km and then refill – something that wasn’t possible to achieve in a weekday’s morning’s drive here in the Western Cape.