Hyundai South Africa adds the final piece of its 4-pronged SUV arsenal with the new Santa Fe adventure SUV.
For 2018, the Hyundai Santa Fe is an all-new piece of kit, offering 7 seats and a more refined and family-friendly package. The exterior design is lightly chiselled to feel more modern and keep in touch with Hyundai’s new global styling cues. It’s longer and wider than before and the wheelbase has been extended (slightly) to offer more ride comfort and -stability. Rear-seat flexibility is improved, as is passenger comfort levels in all rows.
There are more safety features as standard and you get a modern infotainment system up front. So the latest Santa Fe is on par with what you’d expect to see in a new adventure SUV model, but is it any good?
The old engine is mated to a new 8-speed gearbox.
The 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine is carried over from the previous generation with identical outputs of 142 kW and 440 Nm of torque. There is, however, a new transmission: the old 6-speed automatic has been replaced with a newly developed 8-speed version. The 2 extra forward gears work to provide better acceleration from standstill and under load, but also reduce the revs at freeway speed. The reduced revs are said to improve mechanical noise levels as well as reduce the Santa Fe's fuel consumption.
Thankfully, the new transmission does exactly what it says on the tin, and although we didn’t get to test it with a decent load on board, the Santa Fe accelerates up to speed well and is quite responsive to throttle inputs. At the freeway speed limit, the engine ticks over at under 2 000 rpm, so you can easily expect to beat the claimed fuel consumption figures on longer runs.
As for those consumption figures, it depends on whether you opt for a front-wheel-drive derivative or splurge on the top-spec Elite version, which is equipped with all-wheel-drive. The claimed fuel consumption for the former is 7.8 L/100 km and the latter, 8.2 L/100 km.
In terms of interior design, Hyundai hasn’t always put practicality at the top of its priority list. The Tucson, for example, requires you to run around from "door to door" in order to drop the rear seats flat. Most contemporary SUVs have buttons in the luggage bay or on the top of the rear backrest (the Tucson, for example, has them on the outside of the bench and they're a pain to use if you’re constantly folding and lifting the back row.
All versions get a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system and the top-spec Elite gets a digital instrument cluster.
However, the designers behind the Santa Fe have been more thoughtful and installed a 1-touch button that electrically slides the 2nd row forward and folds it for you to make access to the 3rd row easier than ever. Luggage space, meanwhile, has been improved by 5 litres in 7-seater mode to 130 litres and 31 litres in 5-seater mode to 547 litres. With all the seats folded, there’s a commodious total loading space of 1 625 litres.
The biggest improvement, in terms of comfort, is the provision of more space for 3rd-row occupants. There is an extra 127 mm of legroom in the back and an extra 190 mm of headroom. Hyundai has also increased the length of the rear window so that the rear-most passengers can have a bit more of a view of the outside world... it will probably make them less prone to car-sickness too...
Sales of the previous-generation Santa Fe didn’t quite meet Hyundai SA's expectations, so this new model has been packed with additional standard features to present a better value propositions overall. All derivatives come with the 7-inch infotainment system that’s Android Auto- and Apple Carplay compatible. The system also doubles as your reverse-view camera and PDC monitor. The top-spec Elite gets front sensors too.
The entry-level premium derivative is a bit basic on the inside, aside from the upgraded infotainment system and leather trim. You do also get 2 rear USB ports as standard across the range, which is a nice touch.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto are supported on the new Santa Fe.
With the Premium and Elite derivatives, Hyundai SA cranks up the spec levels nicely and with it, of course, the price. Some of the nice-to-haves on those versions include electric seats, electric tailgate, LED lights and cross-traffic alert when reversing out of parking spots.
Along with the all-wheel-drive, the Elite derivative has a digital instrument cluster that changes colour as you toggle through the drive modes. It’s a very clear and easy to read cluster. There are also paddle shifters on this version, but I’ve never seen the necessity for them on a family SUV.
The Santa Fe scores 5-stars on Euro NCAP and Australian "NCAP" (ACAP), although we await the published results to see how well it does in each facet of the test. Stability control is standard across the range, as is hill-start assist. Premium and Elite derivatives get the Safe Exit system that stops passengers from opening the doors into traffic (remember the Hyundai TV advert during the Fifa World Cup? It's that feature).
A better looking and more comfortable 7-seater than the more common rivals.
That Santa Fe incorporates improvements across the board. The engine and transmission work well together and the ride comfort, noise and vibration levels are excellent. The cabin is neatly styled and feels upmarket and well-built. Modern features are installed and overall, the Hyundai offers excellent specification for a family that needs 7 seats. It’s not as off-road biased as many of the competitors such as the Fortuner, Everest and Discovery Sport, but if you only plan on tackling the odd dirt road, it’s more than capable and has respectable ground clearance for that purpose.
Pricing still remains a sore point for the Santa Fe as most buyers in this segment seem willing to forgo the ride comfort and practicality offered by a unibody design in favour of the additional off-road ability that bakkie-based products have. The Santa Fe’s fuel-efficient engine and refined 'box play into its favour, but we’ll have to see if buyers can be tempted out of their beloved Fortuners and Everests in favour of the big Korean SUV.
Pricing in South Africa
R2.2 Premium AT R599 900
R2.2 Executive AT R659 900
R2.2 Elite AT H Trac R749 900