Driven: Hyundai Santa Fe

1 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Driven: Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe

Joshua Dowling

Hyundai Santa Fe

Meet the latest version of the car that is putting the traditional family station wagon on the endangered species list.

The generation that grew up riding in the back of Ford Falcons or Holden Commodores is now embracing softroaders in a big way.

#8220;Faux-wheel-drives#8221; are rapidly changing the Australian automotive landscape #8211; and the types of cars in driveways and on nature strips across the country.

Sales of large softroaders like the Hyundai Santa Fe are up 30 per cent in the past 12 months alone (when you exclude their heavy-duty 4WD cousins).

Hyundai says more than 70 per cent of Santa Fe SUVs are bought by mums and dads #8211; either as a private purchase or a company-car lease.

More than 80 per cent of buyers have just one or two kids #8211; but they want a seven-seater because they don#8217;t want to leave friends or family behind.

Hyundai was one of the early entrants in the family-sized softroader class, with the first Santa Fe arriving locally 12 years ago.

But despite being around for much of the category#8217;s growth, the Santa Fe is still only the fourth-best seller in its class behind the Ford Territory, Toyota Kluger and Holden Captiva #8211; all of which sell at more than twice the rate of the Hyundai.

With that in mind, Hyundai has put its biggest effort yet into the latest, third-generation model.

As has been reported by Drive earlier, all three models are better equipped than before but pricing remains largely unchanged . starting at $36,990 plus on-road costs for the Active petrol model (add $2000 for automatic) and stretching to $45,990 for the mid-grade Elite diesel and $49,990 for the top-line Highlander diesel (both of which are automatic only).

The base model Santa Fe Active is also available with diesel power from $39,990 plus on-road costs #8211; but the petrol engine is not available in the top two models, for now.

As is the case with most vehicles in this category, where diesel engines are available they account for the majority of sales #8211; Hyundai is forecasting just 20 per cent of Santa Fe sales will be of the petrol version.

For now, all models are equipped with an on-demand all-wheel-drive system. A budget-priced front-drive-only version is not available but may be added at a later stage.

Hyundai is in no rush to add a 2WD-only model because it says it can#8217;t get enough cars to meet demand any way.

While the new Santa Fe began arriving in showrooms in limited numbers this week, Hyundai Australia hopes supply will improve next year.

All Santa Fe models now come with seven airbags, a rear view camera and a full-size spare wheel (as before, mounted behind the rear bumper rather than under the cargo floor).

The two top grade models come with a seven-inch touchscreen with navigation, as well as leather upholstery and other luxuries.

The second-row seat slides forward or back to make way for leg room or luggage in the rear #8211; and the seat back reclines at up to 10 different positions.

There is ample room for the front seat occupants and second-row passengers #8211; but you#8217;ll need to be small or tough to handle the back row.

The third-row seating is suited to kids or early teens who are yet to experience a growth spurt. My 178cm frame couldn#8217;t fit under the new, lower roofline without tilting my head.

The new Santa Fe#8217;s footprint #8211; the distance between all four tyres #8211; is but for a few millimetres unchanged from before, but the body is wider and lower.

However, the exterior width hasn#8217;t automatically translated to interior space.

The interior door panels have thicker padding than before which means the new Santa Fe is only 15mm wider inside up front #8211; and 30mm narrower in the back.

Hyundai also claims the new Santa Fe has a bigger boot than before, now 537 litres with seats up and 1632 litres with the two back rows stowed flat. (The second row splits 40:20:40 for seating and luggage flexibility.)

However, the new Santa Fe has a smaller tailgate opening than the old model #8211; a diagonal width of 1260mm compared to the old model#8217;s 1330mm, which is important to know before you make any trips to Ikea.

And you better start working out because you will need to lift the shopping/pram/mountain bike/Ikea kit a little higher because the load height (top edge of the rear bumper) is taller on the new model compared with the old (according to our tape measure 690mm versus 720mm).

At least you#8217;ll be pampered a little better once inside, with soft-touch materials on most points you come into contact with, and a well presented cabin.

Resetting the trip isn#8217;t as easy as a press of a plastic pin #8211; instead you#8217;ve got to navigate through a menu by pressing buttons on the steering wheel. Ah, technology.

And only the driver gets an express-up power window at a time when most new models have this convenience on all four doors. At least there are ample door pockets, cup holders and 12V power sockets #8211; and a deep centre console and glovebox.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Convex mirrors on both sides make it easy to see cars, trucks and bikes alongside you. However, the over-shoulder view when parking is restricted by the tapering side glass at the rear; the camera helps remove some of the guesswork.

On the road the new Hyundai Santa Fe is a big improvement on the previous model.

The diesel is eerily quiet and the petrol engine has sufficient urge despite being only a four-cylinder. The six-speed automatic transmissions worked intuitively and smoothly with both engines.

Although the layout of the Santa Fe#8217;s underpinnings are largely the same, the old model could feel like a pogo stick on bumpy roads #8211; like it was about to launch if you hit a bump in the middle of a bend.

The new one feels more surefooted than before #8211; but first impressions are that it still isn#8217;t class-leading, despite local engineering of the car and benchmarking the top five sellers.

It may sound like motoring journo gibberish #8211; most customers will have no issue at all with the way the new Santa Fe drives #8211; but the reality is there is still some room for improvement should Hyundai want to dabble with the suspension and steering further.

The steering has three settings. Adjusted at the press of a button, the modes are defined as comfort, normal and sport but are best described as light, medium and heavy.

We experimented with all three settings and found ourselves settling on normal #8211; and suspect most mums and dads will do the same.

At least the new Santa Fe is more consistent across the range in the way it drives. Each model comes with 17-, 18-, or 19-inch tyres as the price climbs.

The suspension is the same on each variant (but the spring rates are different from petrol to diesel to handle the diesel engine#8217;s extra weight). They all have a similar level of grip and comfort #8211; not too bouncy and not too stiff.

Hyundai says fuel consumption has come down (see table below) because the new model is 70kg lighter than before, and some further efficiencies have been found in the carryover petrol and diesel engines.

But experience tells us to wait until an exhaustive test in the real world. Check in with us again in a few weeks#8217; time.

Fast facts: Hyundai Santa Fe

Active petrol:

$36,990 (manual)

$38,990 (auto)

Active diesel

Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai Santa Fe
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