Santa Fe a su­per smart SUV

The new seven-seater is full of ad­vanced fea­tures – in­clud­ing some aimed at fam­i­lies, writes

The Southland Times - - Motoring -

Make me an in­stant ex­pert: what do I need to know?

This is the fourth-gen­er­a­tion Santa Fe since 2000 and it’s 70mm longer (most of that in the wheel­base) than the out­go­ing gen­er­a­tion.

Santa Fe brings the choice of the fa­mil­iar 2.4-litre petrol engine or the 2.2-litre turbo diesel.

The lat­ter is def­i­nitely the star per­former, with 200Nm more torque than the petrol and an ex­tra two gears from its new eight­speed transmission.

The AWD sys­tem, called HTrac, is also new. It’s more so­phis­ti­cated than the pre­vi­ous mod­els and op­er­ates with a dif­fer­ent torque split, de­pend­ing on drive mode: 90 per cent to the front in Eco, 70 in Com­fort and 50-60 in Sport. You still get a 4x4 Lock mode.

Gavin Young, na­tional ser­vice man­ager for Hyundai New Zealand, de­scribes the new Santa Fe as ‘‘the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced SUV on the road to­day’’. Bold claim.

But dis­agree­ing with him might be a hard task. The new Santa Fe is the show­case for the lat­est the Korean giant has to of­fer.

You can take for granted all the driver as­sist stuff avail­able in other Hyundais. The Santa Fe also in­tro­duces to the brand blind spot col­li­sion avoid­ance, rear crosstraf­fic col­li­sion avoid­ance and lead­ing ve­hi­cle de­par­ture alert.

Also con­sider new stuff like safety exit as­sist (which pre­vents the rear doors un­lock­ing if there’s traf­fic ap­proach­ing), rear oc­cu­pant alert (it’ll re­mind you via mo­bile phone that you’ve left a child or an­i­mal in the car – hey, it hap­pens) and a frankly stag­ger­ing ar­ray of func­tions avail­able through the new ‘‘live’’ Auto Link Pre­mium ser­vice, which links your phone to a SIM card em­bed­ded in the ve­hi­cle, and it’s clear this fam­ily SUV is su­per­s­mart.

Other parts of the pack­age just reek of prac­ti­cal good sense.

There are but­tons on the side of the front pas­sen­ger seat that en­able the driver to move it for­ward to as­sist with pas­sen­gers’ rear legroom, there’s an ingress/ egress han­dle for third-row oc­cu­pants and 41 per cent more rear-quar­ter glass area so they can see out. And so on.

Where did you drive it?

From Auck­land to Hokianga in the Far North re­turn, on a mix of mo­tor­ways, rut­ted back­roads and even a quick di­ver­sion over some farm­land onto a beach to play in the sand. With per­mis­sion, hon­est.

There were Elite and Lim­ited mod­els on the fleet, but tur­bod­iesel only. Not a petrol in sight – which pretty much re­flects Santa Fe sales, which are ex­pected to be more than 80 per cent in favour of the CRDi.

That’s out of line with the seg­ment by the way, which is 54 per cent petrol – but it’s also skewed by ev­ery­body’s favourite large-SUV ren­tal, the Toy­ota High­lander (which is petrol only of course).

The Santa Fe is re­fresh­ing in that it’s con­tent to be an SUV rather than a sports ve­hi­cle. The turbo-diesel engine is mus­cu­lar and the smooth eight-speed gear­box keeps it nicely on the boil.

The chas­sis has ben­e­fited from some Hyundai Aus­tralia tweak­ing. It’s rel­a­tively firm, but nicely con­trolled on Kiwi back­roads.

The steer­ing is still no great shakes and the steer­ing/lane-keep as­sist is way too in­tru­sive if you’re not on a mo­tor­way – but $59,990-$82,990. 2.4-litre petrol four (138kW/241Nm, 9.3l/100km) with 6-speed au­to­matic, 2.2-litre turbo diesel four (147kW/440Nm, 7.5l/100km) with 8-speed au­to­matic, AWD. Five-door SUV. Now. you can switch that off quite eas­ily.

The sta­bil­ity con­trol can be hy­per­sen­si­tive on loose sur­faces (it’s a Korean thing) but it’s fine on black­top. And you can still dis­able it for off-tar­mac driv­ing.

One of the things that makes Santa Fe a great way to travel is the cabin, which has a dis­tinc­tive de­sign and real qual­ity feel.

Sure, there are still hard plas­tics hid­den in the ar­eas you’re not likely to touch so much, but the look and range of tex­tures are deeply im­pres­sive.

What’s the pick of the range?

We haven’t driven the petrol yet – but it’s got to be the diesel, right? More torque, more gears and the over­whelm­ing choice of pre­vi­ous­gen­er­a­tion Santa Fe buy­ers. There’s a $6k to $7k pre­mium for diesel, but it’ll surely all come out in the wash at re­sale time.

The en­try-level Santa Fe ac­tu­ally looks like smart buy­ing, given that the pow­er­trains are the same no mat­ter what spec­i­fi­ca­tion you choose. You get most of the ‘‘Smart­sense’’ safety fea­tures with the ex­cep­tion of rear cross-traf­fic avoid­ance as­sist (you still get an alert though), blind spot col­li­sion avoid­ance (ditto), safe exit as­sist and rear oc­cu­pant alert.

Also ab­sent is the all-singing SIM-driven Auto Link Pre­mium sys­tem. In­stead, both en­try and Elite have a ba­sic Blue­tooth-only setup driven from your mo­bile phone.

But if you want to go full tech, you can add the Pre­mium ver­sion for $299. You then pick up re­mote fea­tures (start the car with your phone, for ex­am­ple), more com­pre­hen­sive ve­hi­cle man­age­ment, lots of driv­ing his­tory data, the abil­ity to ‘‘ge­ofence’’ the car if some­body else is us­ing it, cus­tomer-re­la­tions stuff like ser­vice book­ings and even direct chat via Face­book Mes­sen­ger with Hyundai New Zealand.

Pri­vacy, you ask? Young says the Santa Fe Auto Link Pre­mium sys­tem is ‘‘prob­a­bly more se­cure than most banks’’. So maybe you can also keep some cash in the car; the boot’s pretty big (547 litres in five-seat con­fig­u­ra­tion).

Any­way, if you do ac­tu­ally go all out with the Lim­ited, you’re get­ting a pretty posh SUV – as you should for $83k in diesel form. There’s stuff like a panoramic sun­roof, ‘‘hy­per fin­ish’’ 19-inch al­loys, adap­tive lights, smart park­ing, en­hanced in­stru­men­ta­tion with head-up dis­play and even an acous­tic lam­i­nated wind­screen for im­proved re­fine­ment. Al­though the Elite is also im­pres­sively quiet on the open road.

Why would I buy it?

Be­cause you like SUVs that aren’t try­ing to look like coupes or sports cars. You like all the techy stuff and you like the fam­ily-cen­tric pack­ag­ing.

Why wouldn’t I buy it?

You’re not a diesel per­son and you’re not con­vinced the four-pot petrol has enough mus­cle (or transmission ra­tios).

Or you just got a re­ally great deal on an ex-ren­tal High­lander.

Hyundai Santa Fe Price range: Pow­er­trains:

Body style: On sale:

Hyundai Santa Fe – take four. The new SUV goes over­board on tech­nol­ogy.

The cabin has a pre­mium look and feel. Hyundai was the first brand in New Zealand to have Ap­ple CarPlay, you know.

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