SPACE MOD­ULE

There’s more room in all three rows in the smarter Santa Fe, due in July

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF

As­marter, sharper Hyundai Santa Fe fi­nally has the metal to take it up to seven-seat SUVs such as the Toy­ota Kluger and Mazda CX-9.

The fourth-gen­er­a­tion Santa Fe has been stretched by 70mm, lib­er­at­ing more room in all three rows. Legroom in the sec­ond and third rows still isn’t a match for a big sev­enseat SUV such as the Nis­san Pathfinder — but at 272mm shorter, the Santa Fe is more ma­noeu­vrable around town.

The sec­ond row now sits 18mm higher to im­prove out­ward vi­sion and there’s a but­ton to fold and slide the out­board seats to ease third row ac­cess.

In con­sid­er­a­tion of those stuck in the back, the third side win­dow has grown by al­most half to give the lit­tle peo­ple a bet­ter view.

A 42mm in­crease in head room means adults can fit in the last two seats but legroom is less than in the pre­vi­ous model — so they’re best re­served for oc­ca­sional use, much like the Kluger and Nis­san’s X-Trail.

The trade-off for the ex­tra space is the re­moval of the spare wheel — the re­pair kit will have to suf­fice un­til you find a tyre shop.

Au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing is stan­dard, even when re­vers­ing if the Santa Fe de­tects a car ap­proach­ing from the sides, and Hyundai has fit­ted a safety exit as­sist fea­ture that locks the doors to stop pas­sen­gers leav­ing the car when ve­hi­cles are driv­ing past.

There’s also a rear oc­cu­pant alert mon­i­tor in­tended to stop peo­ple leav­ing kids or pets in the third row seats. The in­tent is ad­mirable but it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing it op­er­ates with a mo­tion sen­sor, so if your child is sound asleep it won’t is­sue an alert.

Other smart touches in­clude a pair of USB ports in the sec­ond row, a Qi wire­less phone charg­ing pad and the abil­ity to close all win­dows by hold­ing down the re­mote con­trol’s lock but­ton for three sec­onds.

The front end of the Santa Fe has slim LED day­time run­ning lights where con­ven­tional head­lamps would nor­mally re­side. The head­lamps them­selves are now a pair of ver­ti­cally stacked jobs sit­ting much lower on the bumper — about where you’d ex­pect to see fog lamps. We were un­able to test their per­for­mance.

The in­te­rior is a big jump up from the ex­ist­ing model. The seven or eight-inch float­ing in­fo­tain­ment screens run An­droid Auto/Ap­ple phone mir­ror­ing and there is a colour head-up dis­play and dig­i­tal in­stru­ment panel on top­spec ver­sions.

In ev­ery di­rec­tion, the qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als has im­proved with an abun­dance of soft-touch plas­tics. The High­lander‘s plush, vel­vety rooflining looks great but will en­cour­age lit­tle fin­gers to re­peat­edly touch it.

Hyundai will stick with the Ac­tive, Elite and High­lander grades when the new model ar­rives in July. Fi­nal spec­i­fi­ca­tions have yet to be set but the get-in price for the new Santa Fe is likely to be higher than be­fore, as Hyundai is yet to de­cide whether to of­fer a petrol model.

That means that the cheap­est ve­hi­cle in the range could be the 2.2-litre diesel auto, which is likely to start from $45,000. The cur­rent 2.4 petrol auto costs $41,850.

Hyundai’s front-drive V6 model will also be dropped from the range. Ex­pect to hear about a petrol-elec­tric hy­brid ver­sion in the near fu­ture.

ON THE ROAD

The 2.2-litre turbo diesel that pow­ers all-wheel drive ver­sions of the ex­ist­ing Santa Fe has been tweaked to im­prove emis­sions. In Euro 6 guise it is good for 144kW/436Nm, which is marginally down on the cur­rent model.

An eight-speed auto re­places the six-cog ver­sion now in use and — on the flat roads around the South Korean cap­i­tal Seoul — showed no signs of hes­i­ta­tion or jerk­i­ness.

Chang­ing driv­ing modes ad­justs the power dis­tri­bu­tion be­tween the front and rear wheels, from front-wheel drive only in Eco to a 50-50 split in Sport.

The steer­ing is well cal­i­brated for around­town du­ties and the turn­ing cir­cle seems close to the 11m mark of the cur­rent car.

The sus­pen­sion didn’t do any­thing wrong on the smooth Seoul sur­faces but Aus­tralian ve­hi­cles will have a lo­cal tune to en­sure com­pli­ance over the ruts and pot­holes that make up our roads.

The sec­ond row seats are sup­port­ive and spa­cious, even when sit­ting be­hind a 180cm adult. They also slide to in­crease leg room, at the ex­pense of any­one in the third-row seats.

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