Do you know the way to Santa Fe ?
Just why Hyundai named their largest car after a town in New Mexico is anyones guess ? It was introduced into the Hyundai line up for the 2001 model year as Hyundai’s first SUV & the third generation was introduced in 2014. Like sister company KIA, the Santa Fe like all of Hyundais models has had a serious transformation, going from a rather bland looking vehicle to now being one of the most attractive looking cars in a sector, where it competes with the likes of the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX5, KIA Sorrento & Ford Kuga.
Hyundai really has made great strides in terms of design, with the Santa Fe just one of the latest Hyundai models to be given a major makeover. Gone is the boxy and ungainly profile of the earlier models, replaced by a lower and sleeker design. The front end of the new Santa Fe features a large chrome grille while the headlights wrap around the front end giving it an imposing profile. Interestingly, Hyundai listened to both customers who bought the Mk2 Santa Fe as well as those who decided not to buy one when making improvements to the new range. Looks it seems are everything in a sector that offers customers choices that include the new Land Rover Discovery Sport, Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5 & BMX X3, so unsurprisingly, getting the outside right was of prime consideration to Hyundai when building the new model.
The cabin interior is neatly & logically set out & in the main is made of good quality & soft touch plastics, excepting the central binnacle which does feel flimsy & disappointing for a model costing £37,000. Both the steering wheel controls for the likes of cruise control as well as the touchscreen sat nav system were easy to use & to understand. Intelligent technologies on board new Santa Fe include Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, USB, Aux and iPod ports & on my test model Premium SE & Premium, touchscreen satellite navigation with a 7-inch TFT LCD screen, a cooled glove box & an automatic windscreen de-fog system – plus cruise control, speed-sensitive automatic door locking, automatic de-fog system for front windscreen, electronic parking brake& on Premium SE, Smart Parking Assist. The Premium SE also comes with puddle lamps fitted within the exterior mirrors to illuminate the ground alongside the vehicle, with privacy glass for added comfort & security offered across the entire model range.
Interior space was another important factor for potential Santa Fe customers, so Hyundai have improved this this with front & second-row legroom increased by 38mm & 45mm & front headroom increased by 11mm over the last-generation car.Luggage space in the boot has been increased by 37mm in depth over the previous generation model as well. Additionally, all models get a 12V power socket plus underfloor storage in the luggage compartment. Versatility is a must for any SUV & the New Generation Santa Fe boasts a large 534-litre boot (third row seats fold flat) to accommodate bulky items. With both the second and third row of seats folded flat, cargo capacity is increased to 1,615 litres.
The Santa Fe features Hyundai’s Flex Steer system, which allows the driver to vary the assistance. I tried all 3 versions & found them all to be similar in feel & unless your’e towing not really that relevant. Refinement though, is impressive throughout the Santa Fe & again thanks to customer feedback, the cabin is much quieter than before, especially on the motorway, thanks to extra sound proofing & thicker side windows. Hyundai has also given the Santa Fe a bespoke suspension set-up for the UK with stiffer dampers which means less body roll in corners, again a case of listening to what your customers want within the European market whose drivers want something different to their North American counterparts.
Safety is important to European customers as well. Every new Santa Fe is fitted with seven airbags as standard, including driver, passenger, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee units. Also fitted are ABS (anti-lock braking system), ESP (electronic stability programme), VSM (vehicle stability management), DBC (downhill brake control which keeps speed below 6mph when descending steep slopes), HAC (hill start assist control) & the new TSA (trailer stability assist). The fact that the Santa Fe is backed by Hyundai’s 5 Year Unlimited Mileage Warranty, which means owners get a fully transferable five year unlimited mileage warranty, five years roadside assistance & five years free vehicle health checks, should embarrass other manufacturers into offering something equally as impressive.
I tested the top of the range Premium 2.2 CRDi 7 seat 4WD automatic, which unsurprisingly sparkled in the sunlight with it’s sleek exterior making it a nice car to like. The seats & driving position are first class with electrically adjusted seats finished in leather making it simple to get comfortable. I like to set my seat position further back on longer motorway journeys allowing one to relax a bit more. In this respect the Santa Fe scores very highly as I haven’t driven anything else quite as comfortable for some time. Furthermore, my family enjoyed the spacious cabin& the panoramic sun roof really did make a difference when out & about on another depressingly grey May afternoon. The quick release levers in the boot allowed me to fold down seats 6 & 7 down easily to load up for yet another trip to the tip & to allow me to fit in the now ubiquitous ‘stuff’ purchased from IKEA.
Driving around town I found the Santa Fe handled well belying it’s size & the addition of rear parking sensors & a reversing camera made parking despite it’s size, simple as well. On the May Bank Holiday I had a close encounter with a steam traction engine on a country road, which resulted in me having to make an emergency stop & climbing a kerb. The alloy wheels were completely protected by the well designed wheels on the Santa Fe & I came away with nothing worse than a scuff mark on my front left hand side tyre which in another car would have meant a badly damaged alloy wheel.
Company car drivers will want to know how the Santa Fe performs vis a vis the tax man. The Santa Fe with six-speed manual transmission accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 9.8 seconds & has a top speed of 118mph. On the combined fuel cycle it posts economy & CO2 emission figures of 46.3mpg & 159g/km. The six-speed automatic Santa Fe that I tested, reaches 62mph in 10.1 seconds, has a 118mph top speed with a combined economy & CO2 emission figures of 41.5mpg and 178g/km. I have to say that over 7 days & 300 mile, I averaged around 35 mpg, almost identical the figures I achieved in the RAV4, CX5 & Ford Kuga, so in this respect the Santa Fe is a match for all of them.
In what is a ridiculously competitive market place, the new model Santa Fe ticks all of the boxes required to appeal to those who want a large SUV. It looks great, it’s spacious, comes very well equipped, is offered with a brilliant warranty & drives well both on the motorway & around town. Emissions could be lower, the build quality of some of the fittings could be better & a DAB radio should by now be standard, but other than that the Santa Fe is a really nice car & one that the family Walker including our dog, could happily live with every day.
A Route 66 3.5/5