Hyundai South Africa recently launched a subtly facelifted version of its popular Santa Fe luxury SUV and it appeared rather good at first glance. However, only a more comprehensive roadtest will expose a vehicle’s flaws. So how did the revised Santa Fe fare during a week-long evaluation?
The current-generation Hyundai Santa Fe has always been a rather good-looking SUV, and remained a popular choice even as it approached its mid-life refresh. Predictably, cosmetic changes are limited, with this newer version boasting a revised front end with new daytime running lights, refreshed 19-inch alloy wheels as well as LED lights at the rear. The bumpers and exhaust outlets have also been tweaked for visual effect.
Changes: Inside and Out
The changes for the 2015 model are not just cosmetic either as both the cabin and technology receive upgrades. There are new materials which lend a more luxurious feel and the instrument cluster has been reworked to look more modern. The info-tainment/satellite navigation has also been upgraded. It’s not just about the driver though, as the rear seats are now able to slide back and forth, as well as recline. The addition of a powered bootlid which opens when you stand behind the vehicle is a welcome feature too. In terms of safety, Hyundai has thrown in Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert as well as a form of radar-guided cruise control.
Ride and Drive
The powerplant has remained the same and it is the venerable 2.2-litre CRDi turbo diesel engine which we’ve seen in many a Korean vehicle application. Packing 145kW and 436Nm, this motor’s got enough poke on paper to satisfy most demands. Power reaches the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission and the fuel economy is a claimed 8L/100km.
When driving the Hyundai Santa Fe, you’ll notice how quiet and refined it is. There’s a bit of hesitation which we suspect is a combination of turbolag and gearbox kicking down, but when you’re in the powerband and executing an open-road overtaking manoeuvre, the Santa Fe can really get a move on. You can mix things up a bit with some driving modes which are self explanatory - there’s Sport, Eco and Normal. Eco really does dull the throttle response, however.
One area in which the Hyundai Santa Fe does very well is refinement. In terms of ride quality and NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) control, the Santa Fe delivers and this is the vehicle’s best trait, especially compared with the body-on-frame seven-seaters it tends to compete with on price. Even on 19-inch alloys and on typical South African pockmarked roads, this Korean SUV really delivers on that premium ride quality you’d expect from something in this price ballpark. The steering is also worth a mention as it has a few modes which alter its responsiveness and feedback. If you’re wanting a relaxed and uninvolving ride, set the steering to Comfort or, and if you want a hands-on experience, then switch to Sport.
Cabin Space and Practicality
The interior is a nice place to be, too. With an emphasis on premium feel, comfort and space, the Hyundai Santa Fe offers a comfortable cocoon to its occupants. The panoramic roof also adds to the sense of spaciousness. Tested here is the five-seater model, but there is a seven-seater equipped with all-wheel drive. The seats are upholstered in leather and offer heating and ventilation functionality. The rear seats can be moved forwards or backwards which increases legroom as well as adjusts boot capacity. As it stands, the boot size is generous and you’re looking at around 1 003L of space. Fold the seats down and it increases to a useful 2 025L which is great for those trips to Builder’s Warehouse or long family holidays.
The infotainment system, despite being upgraded, is not the most user-friendly of devices and some testers couldn’t pair their mobile phones. The satellite navigation setup also took some time to get used to. One feature some of us did like was the rearview camera being integrated into the rearview mirror. It’s instinctive to look in your mirror when reversing and having the small, but useful camera screen there is a clever ergonomic touch. On the other hand, an old-fashioned microphone attached to the A-pillar is indicative of a car developed during a time of technology switchover, and which is playing catch-up.
Safety is where Hyundai has dropped the ball in the past (in terms of features fitted as standard), but it’s pleasing to see that the Santa Fe comes well equipped in this regard. There are driver, passenger, side and curtain airbags in the event of a collision. ABS with EBD & ESP is also thrown in to keep the vehicle stable. ISOFIX child seat mounting points come standard too. Hyundai is so confident of its Santa Fe in the safety department that it’s claiming ‘safest car in its class’, which is a bold statement!
Summary and Conclusion
While the Hyundai Santa Fe is an attractive vehicle that offers a lot, it also plays in a difficult and ultra-competitive market space that is dominated by the body-on-frame SUVs and, if you don't need the space, the five-seaters from the more upmarket brands. The product itself has a lot going for it, but in this segment where badge value is arguably the leading factor in the buying decision process, the Hyundai may struggle. Still, this situation is not new, and the Santa Fe has carved itself a sizeable niche in the market for buyers who demand car-like refinement, luxury and on-road dynamics, as opposed to real off-road ability. The arrival of the new Ford Everest, however, could spell difficult times for the Korean - it brings new levels of refinement to the body-on-frame SUV segment, and still offers real off-road ability.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Elite Price in South Africa
The five-seater Hyundai Santa Fe retails for R659 900 and the price includes a 5-Year / 150 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, 5-Year / 150 000 km of roadside assistance and a 5-Year / 90 000 km service plan with intervals set at 15 000km.
Test team opinion
The Hyundai Santa Fe continues to appeal for the same reasons it always has... refinement, space and features. But the price is eye-watering. - Hannes Oosthuizen
We Like: Premium feel, looks great, cabin space
We don’t Like: Pricing, fiddly info-tainment system
Also consider: Ford Everest, Dodge Journey, Kia Sorento, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Audi Q5