Santa Fe a super smart SUV
The new seven-seater is full of advanced features – including some aimed at families, writes
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.