Review: Hyundai’s grand Santa Fé

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If there is one manufacturer keen on ever expanding its SUV portfolio, it has to be Hyundai. The Korean manufacturer has quite a number of these high-riding vehicles in its line-up; comprising MPVs, Crossovers, and SUVs. At the top of the pile sits the big daddy of them all, the Santa Fé. Standing 1.7m off the ground, this SUV is no pushover and does it project an imposing presence on the road. It’s one of those SUVs that you know will demand respect and even though it does not have the badge of a premium German automaker, you’ll get the acknowledgment from those who know.

Hyundai made sure that its top SUV has what it takes to warrant its place at the top, both in terms of curb appeal and design. The Santa Fé boasts with a new slim-line design for the headlights that feature daytime-running LEDs, and two sets of lights at both ends of the front bumper. The honeycomb grille is also a lot more prominent with the ‘Hyundai’ badge taking center stage.

At the rear, the Santa Fé is fitted with dual exhausts and big 19-inch wheels shod with 235/55 tyres round off the exterior design.

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Panoramic sunroof

The Santa Fé further impresses with one of the best interiors Hyundai had ever used in one of its vehicles. The leather-covered seats, grippy steering wheel, electrically adjustable front seats, and roomy cabin all add up to create a very user-friendly environment. Also standard is a panoramic sunroof that stretches the length of the roof. Unfortunately, the two passengers in the third row of seats are not treated to UV rays shining on them.

The interior is very well equipped with numerous technologies, such as ventilated and heated front seats. The multimedia system with its colour display is easy to operate, but the vehicle has to be stationary for you to connect your smartphone with the Bluetooth function. Another gripe is that this top-of-the-range Elite model does not feature satellite navigation. However, the system is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; which should see your phone’s navigation projected onto the screen.

Regarding occupant safety, the Santa Fé is not shy to show a bit of leg and are there six airbags placed strategically across the interior.

The information display in front of the driver is very easy to operate and is it very easy to understand Hyundai’s steering wheel-mounted controls. Another nice feature is that each driving mode brings a different character to the information display. ‘Smart’ has a neutral feel, but will adjust accordingly to each of the programmed modes depending on driving style; i.e. Eco or Sport.

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Proven diesel engine

Hyundai’s turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel engine has been doing duty for a number of years, but the unit is far from resting on its laurels. For 2019, power is rated at 142kW and 440Nm. Fair enough, the new turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine in the new Tucson Sport delivers 150kW/460Nm, but the Santa Fé has the benefit of power being delivered in a much smoother manner. There is a slight bit of turbo lag, but that is soon forgotten as soon as the engine finds its groove around the 1 750rpm mark.

The new eight-speed automatic gearbox sends power to all four wheels, providing the big SUV with ample grip as you shoot off the line. In-gear acceleration is not the very best, but as soon as turbo lag is out of the way there is simply not stopping the motor.

Steering feel for a vehicle weighing 1 870kg is surprisingly nimble, but this is an SUV that is not too comfortable being thrown around sweeping bends. It can take get you to where you need to be in quick fashion, but it’s strong point is to rather enjoy the journey with you as you make your way from A to Z.

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Technologies

Starting with the rear, the Santa Fé Elite is fitted with an electric tailgate that also has hands-free usability. A rear-view camera with park distance control is standard, as well. Access to the cabin is easy thanks to key-less entry, which automatically translates to key-less start. Front and rear passengers are each treated to a 12V power socket, and Isofix child seat mountings are standard, too.

Hill descent control/downhill brake control is standard, so too are automatic wipers, lane change and blind-spot alert.

And if you want, you can use the voice control function to direct commands to the vehicle.

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Summary

The new Hyundai Santa Fé was launched in South Africa towards the latter stages of 2018 and was one of the big news around the vehicle that only three models will comprise the range. This Elite model is not only the top dog but also the only one with 4WD.

Retailing for just under R760 000, this model has a lot going for it. A very extensive list of standard features it does have, but the omission of satellite navigation can’t be overlooked in this price range. Regardless, the Hyundai Santa Fé Elite is a mature SUV and it may lead Hyundai’s SUV lineup without hesitation.

Price: Hyundai Santa Fé 2.2 4WD Elite – R759 900

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