Santa Fe keeps getting better
The Hyundai Santa Fe has evolved into a true executive vehicle – luxurious, spacious, and comfortable. John Oxley reports.
I well remember the first Santa Fe, way back in 2001. It was a funny-looking vehicle, very much Korean in design, with bulbous styling and a fat V6 petrol engine that didn’t do a lot for economy. But in those days nobody cared much. What it did have was a fair amount of room, decent on-road performance, passable off-road ability, and it didn’t cost a lot compared to comparable vehicles from Japan, Britain and Germany. Since then the Santa Fe has come in for a number of incarnations, with lots of facelifts to the first one, until a new model was introduced in 2007. This was more modern, bigger and more spacious, and its looks were a lot more acceptable, more European and less Korean. And then in 2012 we saw a new Santa Fe, with ultra-modern styling, and even bigger and more luxurious. This became a hit, thanks to its good looks and spaciousness, and by now Hyundai, in New Zealand at least, had introduced a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine with lots of grunt and great economy. Fast forward (I promise) to third quarter 2015, and Hyundai introduced what it termed the Series II Santa Fe, with some exterior upgrades, but mostly safety and driver assistance improvements, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) on the top Limited model as tested here. To cut a long story short, the Sante Fe has come a long way in a short time. From a vehicle that operated very much as a medium SUV, the latest Santa Fe has moved into the large segment, and more than that, in terms of the Limited model tested here, in terms of pricing into the Executive market – a spacious and sophisticated SUV, able to carry seven people and their stuff in comfort, and to occasionally venture onto a beach, paddock, dirt road, or hit the snow fields.
So what’s new in the Series II?
Exterior styling changes are minimal, with the front getting a tweaked grille and new front bumper, xenon headlights, DRLS, fog lights, cornering lights and wing mirrors, as well as a new design of alloy wheel, while at the back there’s a tweaked bumper and taillights, as well as a new exhaust tip. Retained (thankfully) is the excellent 147kw/440nm 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, hooked up to the same six-speed automatic transmission. And there are improvements in road noise and ride quality. However, as mentioned it’s in the technology department that most changes have occurred. The top-spec Limited diesel now comes standard with blind spot detection, radar cruise control, lane change assist, autonomous emergency braking, and there’s also a lane departure warning system, auto headlights and rain sensing wipers, as well as 19-inch alloy wheels, reversing sensors and a camera, keyless entry, daytime running lights, cornering lights, heated side mirrors, Hyundai’s flex steer system, Bluetooth, and a leather-rimmed steering wheel with satellite controls. And on top of that there’s an electrochromatic rear view mirror with a digital compass, a windscreen de-icer, a proximity key with keyless start, electric folding side mirrors, a “smart welcome” system, rear privacy glass, SUNA satellite navigation, an upgraded audio system, dual zone climate control, a chilled glovebox, leather electrically adjustable front seats, front and second row seat warmers and an electric parking brake. Plus the benefit of xenon headlights, LED taillights, rear window shades, a panoramic sunroof and smart park assist. Hyundai has basically taken an excellent car, left all the good bits alone, jammed a bunch of new stuff in and tweaked a few bits to make them even better. Keeps getting better.