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FIRST DRIVE: Hyundai's next-gen Sante Fe - Korean SUV pioneer reloaded for SA

2018-09-25 08:22

Ferdi de Vos

hyundai sante fe 2018

Image: Hyundai Motors

When the first SUV from Korean giant Hyundai made its debut in 2000 at the Detroit Motor Show in the heartland of the US auto industry, it carried a moniker with deep American roots. 

Called Santa Fe, after the capital of the US state of New Mexico and the fourth-largest city in the state, the SUV was part of Hyundai’s ploy to gain a foothold in the world’s biggest auto market. It worked. 

The pioneering model contributed significantly to the establishment of the marque; not only in America, but also worldwide. So popular did it prove, that at times Hyundai had trouble supplying to satisfy demand, and it quickly became the brand’s best seller in the US.

The latest incarnation of the successful mid-size SUV, that made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, continues this pioneering trend, as it still remains Hyundai’s pacesetter in terms of styling, technology and new systems.

Composite Light architecture

We recently met up with the fourth-generation Santa Fe during a regional launch event in Jordan. At first it did not appear the newcomer differ much from its predecessor in terms of styling, but some interesting changes soon became evident.

Perhaps the biggest and boldest alteration is the new Composite Light architecture, with slim LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) now positioned on top of the LED headlights in the bumpers under the signature cascading grille.

The lower position of the headlight cluster, according to Hyundai’s chief designer, Luc Donckerwolke, ensures more efficient lighting. It also makes the higher SUV appear less intimidating when following a smaller vehicle at night. However, it’s also somewhat controversial, as in this new position the intricate headlights are more exposed to crash damage – raising questions about higher costs. Still, according to Hyundai advanced safety systems such as distance control and parking sensors eliminate most of the accident risk.

Donckerwolke also indicated that the new cascading grille, the wide stance and bold, yet refined lines not only introduces a new SUV design direction for Hyundai, but also reinforces the vehicle’s status at the top of the SUV line-up. A character line running full length from the headlights to the taillights has been lowered to accommodate bigger windows and enhance dynamism, while the rear creates confidence with a new bumper design and unique tail lights.

The upper rear lamp is comprised of LEDs, and the indicator, reversing light and fog lights are now integrated in the rear bumper. While elegant, the low placement of the light cluster may hamper its effectiveness in heavy dust conditions.

Longer and lower

The new seven-seat Santa Fe is 70 mm longer and 10 mm wider than its predecessor, it has a longer bonnet and a 65 mm longer wheelbase, but shorter overhangs front and rear. All this means more interior space and increased comfort for second and third-row passengers.
 
Legroom in the second row is increased by 38 mm and the seat is 18 mm higher. A new child-friendly one-touch button eases access into the third row, and headroom for the rear-most seats has been improved by 22 mm. 

Visibility in the rear has been improved by larger rear quarter windows (41 percent bigger) and higher second- and third-row seating positions, and with the rear seats folded down the new Santa Fe offers 625 litres of luggage space.

Driving from the lowest place on earth – the Dead Sea, 430 metres below sea level – on a desert highway through the barren Jordan River valley leading towards the Red Sea, there was ample time to appreciate the roominess and the ergonomic design of the cabin. 

A floating-type touch screen is set high in the new horizontally laid out dashboard and instrument panel with central TFT screen, while a full head-up display (HUD) projects essential driving information on the windshield. The leather seats in our high-spec model, with electric extendable seat cushions, were comfortable, also at the rear, but the last row of seats still is only suitable for children. 

The 8-inch infotainment system integrates all navigation, media and connectivity features, and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Display Audio system also features radio, Bluetooth connectivity, AUX-in and USB connections, and is now comparable with the best systems in its class.

Safety system include Hyundai’s latest SmartSense active safety technology with features such as Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist. 

"This best-in-class safety technology benefits from Hyundai’s advanced research and development programs," said Mike Song, Hyundai’s Head of Operations for Africa and the Middle East. It also earned the Santa Fe a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating.

New auto ’box, diesel grunt

En route to the Red Sea we turned off, following a road that ascended nearly 1,500 metres on a steep pass towards Petra, the ancient Rose City with its spectacular temple facades and colossal stone pillars expertly carved out of the sandstone cliffs over three centuries ago.

Up the inclines our sunset red Santa Fe’s new in-house developed eight-speed auto transmission synchronised seamlessly with the proven 2,2-litre turbodiesel mill under the hood and the SUV’s newly developed H-Trac all-wheel-drive system.

Even fed with low-quality fuel (two VGT-driven derivatives, as well as extra diesel fuel, were specially brought in for the South African contingent as Jordan has no diesel infrastructure or vehicles) the new Santa Fe eagerly and willingly confronted the steep slopes and tight hairpins.

And while the petrol-sipping 2,4-litre and 3,5-litre V6 models struggled to negotiate some of the steep, sharp corners at pace, the diesel (the only model specified for South Africa – at least for now) dealt with them effortlessly.

By continually varying the power fed of the wheels, the H-Trac system also contributed towards the Santa Fe’s stability in the corners. The system increases traction on snow, gravel and on regular road surfaces while enhances handling. The ratio of torque distribution is changed via three drive modes – Sport, Comfort and Eco – while in slippery conditions the system distributes power to all four wheels automatically.

Even on 19-inch rubber, the ride comfort of the new SUV over broken sunburnt tar surfaces was decent, and while it felt quite agile and sharp in corners, I cannot really elaborate in this regard, as the whole route was unfortunately completed at slow convoy speeds.

SA line-up

The new Santa Fe, to be introduced here in November, will only be available locally with the improved 2.2-litre VGT engine (147 kW and 440 Nm of torque) coupled to the impressive new eight-speed auto transmission. It will be introduced with three levels of specification: Premium, Executive and Elite.

The Premium and Executive derivatives are both front-wheel drive and come standard with 17-inch or 18-inch wheels respectively, while the flagship Elite model is equipped with the H-Trac intelligent all-wheel-drive system and 19-inch alloy wheels and tyres. 

Pricing was not yet finalised at the time of writing but expect to pay around R720.000 for the entry-level Premium to about R760,000 for the top-of-the-line Elite.


Specifications: Hyundai Santa Fe 2,2 e-VGT

Engine Four-cylinder inline, turbodiesel
Volume: 2 199 cc
Bore & stroke: 85.4 x 96
Compression ratio: 16.0
Power:  147kW @ 3 800 rpm
Torque:  440Nm @ 1 750 – 2 750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, 2WD/4WD
Max. speed:  205km/h
0-100 km/h: 9.3 seconds
CO2 emissions: 158 g/km (2WD), 165g/km (4WD)
Consumption 6 l/100 km (2WD), 6.3 l/100 km

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