BETTER BEHAVE FOR SANTA
LIKE a fine wine, Hyundai's Santa Fe gets better with age.
My only misgiving, if you can call it that, is the price that continues to creep northwards.
You'll be lucky to see any change out of $60k for the top-ofthe-range Highlander, once you add in on-road costs.
Still, when you look at the competition, that's about the going rate for a 7-seat SUV these days, unless of course you opt for one of the cheaper ute-based offerings that have suddenly appeared.
For this model update, Hyundai has stamped the car with the new corporate face, which extends to redesigned lights, bumpers and radiator grille.
Headlights and tail-lights have been updated, together with new foglights and daytime LEDs.
Highlander also adds LEDs in the turn signals and reverse light.
Siri Eyes Free (iOS) and Google Now (Android) voice activation have been added to make calls, play music, or compose text messages.
But the big news is the arsenal of new safety equipment with this model.
New to the mix are save-your-bacon Forward Collision Warning (FCW) with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). There's also Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Lane Change Assist (LCA) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA).
Cruise control is now adaptive and automatically maintains a distance between you and the car in front.
The updated 2.2-litre four cylinder turbo diesel is one of the best in the business. The common rail direction injection diesel produces 147kW and 440Nm, the latter from a low 1750 revs.
The diesel is teamed with a sixspeed automatic in this model, with the facility to change gears manually if desired, but no change paddles.
Comes with a full-size alloy spare, can tow a 2000kg braked load and service is due every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first, with fixed lifetime service costs.
It rides like a magic carpet, thanks to many hours of local suspension development.
The cabin is generously appointed with large comfortable front seats that are both heated and cooled.
The two outboard seats in the second row are also heated.
It comes with leather and climate air, front and rear parking sensors, as well as automatic reverse and parallel parking.
A premium 550 watt 10-speaker Infinity audio system provides musical accompaniment, with separate subwoofer and external amplifier.
We found the car smooth and comfortable to drive and very economical too.
Rated at 7.7 litres/100km, we were getting 7.6 after 400km.
The suspension setup carries over from the previous model, with a minor change to the rear suspension.
Thankfully a digital speedometer has finally been added to the instrument cluster, making it easy to keep track of your speed, along with the satnav, which shows the current speed limit, and warnings for school zones and speed cameras.
Flexsteer offers the driver a choice of normal or sport for steering input, plus there's a choice of normal, eco or sport drive modes that alter throttle response and gear change points.
Verdict: Santa Fe's only real opposition in a diesel is the Kia Sorento, which brings a sportier edge to the equation. You can't go wrong either way.
The Santa Fe just keeps getting better.