THE MISS­ING PEACE

Take the fric­tion out of fam­ily road trips with the seven-seat Santa Fe’s smarter tech

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - COVER STORY - RICHARD BLACK­BURN

H yundai is giv­ing peace a chance with its new Santa Fe seven-seat SUV.

To main­tain peace and quiet on fam­ily road trips, there are more USB out­lets, ad­justable air­con in the third row and re­clin­ing, heated seats in the sec­ond row.

And for par­ents’ peace of mind there is an ar­se­nal of stan­dard driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy that puts most lux­ury brands to shame.

Hyundai mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Oliver Mann says safety and tech­nol­ogy are as im­por­tant to large SUV buy­ers as the seven seats or of­froad abil­ity.

“The seg­ment is all about mum and dad want­ing to keep the kids happy, com­fort­able, en­ter­tained and peace­ful and that way they can be­gin to en­joy the jour­ney them­selves,” he says. “So hav­ing lots of in-car power sources, hav­ing great heat­ing and ven­ti­la­tion, seat com­fort, re­clin­ing seats and easy ac­cess are all im­por­tant.”

As is safety. To that end, the Santa Fe can slam on the brakes if it de­tects a pedes­trian or cy­clist in its path, whether in drive or re­verse.

Its blind spot and lane de­par­ture warn­ing tech steers the car back into its lane if it senses dan­ger and its adap­tive cruise con­trol can bring the ve­hi­cle to a com­plete stop and ac­cel­er­ate again in stop-start traf­fic.

A wind­screen-mounted cam­era checks for signs of er­ratic driv­ing and rec­om­mends a break if it sus­pects fa­tigue, while the high­beams dip au­to­mat­i­cally if a car ap­proaches.

On more ex­pen­sive mod­els, a rear oc­cu­pant alert will sound the horn if you’ve ac­ci­den­tally locked a lit­tle one or pet in the back. The car will also stop you from de­ac­ti­vat­ing its rear-door child locks if a ve­hi­cle is about to drive past.

For added peace of mind, the Santa Fe has Hyundai’s Auto Link app that can record driver be­hav­iour. It will log max­i­mum speeds, rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing events and av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion, among other things — just the thing for keep­ing an eye on teen driv­ers. It also pro­vides the lo­ca­tion of your parked car and, if it’s on a me­ter, when your time will ex­pire. All this new tech­nol­ogy comes at a cost. List prices are up be­tween $1150 and $4410, al­though in re­al­ity the price rise is more sig­nif­i­cant, as the cheaper mod­els in the range have had drive-away dis­counts for months.

The Ac­tive petrol mod­els have been $40,990 on the road, while the new model’s drive-away

price is about $47,000. The V6 front-drive model has been dropped from the line-up for now but Mann doesn’t rule out a re­turn. The V6 ac­counted for one in six Santa Fe sales.

“Of course we’d like to have a V6. I hope we’ll have it avail­able at some point dur­ing the life­span of the ve­hi­cle. The out­go­ing ve­hi­cle has done well with the V6,” he says.

The Ac­tive doesn’t get stan­dard satnav but driv­ers can tether a smart­phone to the cen­tre screen and use the Ap­pleCarPlay/An­droid Auto maps.

Step­ping up to the Elite means leather, satnav, rear seat alert, front parking sen­sors, 10-speaker au­dio, a smart tail­gate that opens when the key is near, big­ger al­loy wheels and dual-zone air­con.

Over the Elite, the High­lander adds bird’s-eye view parking cam­era, auto parking, big­ger wheels, head­lights that can peer around cor­ners, sun­roof, heated and ven­ti­lated seats, wire­less phone charger for com­pat­i­ble phones and headup dis­play.

Its dig­i­tal in­stru­ment dis­play in front of the driver changes colour de­pend­ing on the drive mode se­lected.

The Elite and High­lander have a phone app that can re­motely start and stop the engine, pre-warm or cool the cabin and sound the horn.

The Santa Fe has grown, with more leg and head­room in the sec­ond and third rows, as well as eas­ier ac­cess to the third row — push a but­ton on the side of the seat and the sec­ond row tilts and slides for­ward.

The rear­most glass is 40 per cent big­ger and the sec­ond row seats are set higher to al­low kids a bet­ter look at the pass­ing scenery. The third row also has in­di­vid­ual con­trols for the air vents.

A no­table omis­sion is the lack of airbag im­pact pro­tec­tion in the third row — the airbags ex­tend to the win­dows of the third row but not all the way to the back of the car. A knee airbag for the driver has also been re­moved.

Mann says the com­pany was wary of mak­ing the Santa Fe too big.

“It’s prob­a­bly half­way to­wards its com­peti­tors,” he says. “A lot of peo­ple like the size of the cur­rent Santa Fe in terms of not be­ing too large and dif­fi­cult to park.

“It’s nim­ble and ma­noeu­vrable and I think those char­ac­ter­is­tics have been pre­served in the new car. It is big­ger and more ac­com­mo­dat­ing but it is more dy­namic to drive.”

ON THE ROAD

Hyundai made a con­certed ef­fort to mod­ernise the cabin and lift the look of var­i­ous sur­faces. The light grey cloth in­te­rior of the Ac­tive may not suit all tastes but sliv­ers of faux car­bon-fi­bre and stitched leather on the dash lift the mood.

The seat­ing lay­out has been im­proved, with eas­ier ac­cess to the third row, while the abil­ity to slide the sec­ond row seats fore and aft al­lows you to mix and match leg room and ac­com­mo­date adults or teens on a short trip across town.

Smaller kids will be fine for longer dis­tances and the in­di­vid­ual air­con con­trols should help com­bat car sick­ness.

Diesel and petrol en­gines carry over but both are qui­eter, thanks to ad­di­tional sound dead­en­ing.

The diesel, now matched to an eight-speed au­to­matic, is by the far the pick of the pair, de­liv­er­ing more grunt and qui­eter, more re­laxed cruis­ing. Hyundai ex­pects it to ac­count for 90 per cent of sales.

Its new all-wheel drive set-up can switch the drive bias front to back — send­ing power to the front wheels saves fuel while switch­ing to the rear de­liv­ers sportier han­dling.

The sports mode also im­proves throt­tle re­sponse, holds gears longer and adds weight to the steer­ing, al­though we pre­ferred the nor­mal steer­ing set­ting.

A stiffer body and lo­cal re­vi­sions to the sus­pen­sion en­dow a sportier feel. The older model was no slouch through the bends but the new one feels sharper and more nim­ble de­spite the in­crease in size and weight. Even with the sportier sus­pen­sion, it soaks up all but the rud­est of bumps with­out fuss.

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