The Grand Santa Fe, which takes over as Hyundai’s largest SUV, could give more es­tab­lished ri­vals a run for their money, says wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Hyundai’s Grand Santa Fe is poised to give ri­vals a run for their money.

Hyundai has proved time and again that it’s no pris­oner of its past. The enor­mous progress the South Korean car­maker has made in terms of de­sign, build qual­ity and en­gi­neer­ing over the past decade is tes­ti­mony to the fact that it took home valu­able lessons from its pre­vi­ous mis­takes. And it seems it’s also learn­ing from the mis­takes of ri­vals, es­pe­cially Nis­san, when it comes to po­si­tion­ing its cars.

While the Ja­panese car­maker seems to have tied it­self in a knot with its eight SUVs and over­lap­ping prices and specs, Hyundai has gone the op­po­site way by stream­lin­ing its util­ity ve­hi­cle line-up.

The Vera Cruz has fi­nally been eu­thanised and its po­si­tion in the fam­ily has been taken over by the Grand Santa Fe, a longer wheel­base, seven-seater ver­sion of the reg­u­lar Santa Fe. By do­ing that, Hyundai has cov­ered the en­tire large cross­over/ SUV mar­ket with just one name­plate, leav­ing the Tuc­son to take care of the en­try-level cross­over seg­ment.

Apart from sub­tle styling changes to the front, a longer wheel­base and

larger rear quar­ter-win­dows, there isn’t much that sep­a­rates Grand Santa Fe from the five-seater, which al­ready had fairly at­trac­tive looks.

Longer over­all by a good 225mm and boast­ing a 100mm longer wheel­base, it’s a proper seven-seater that can ac­com­mo­date two adults in the third row. All seats in­clud­ing the power-ad­justable driver’s seat with power lum­bar sup­port are sup­port­ive and com­fort­able.

The full-length panoramic sun­roof adds to the sense of roomi­ness in the cabin. Mean­while the ex­tra glass area in the rear quar­ter makes it less claus­tro­pho­bic for third-row pas­sen­gers, who get their own cli­mate con­trol switches as well.

And as you’d ex­pect, the Grand Santa Fe can carry con­sid­er­ably more cargo than its sib­ling with a re­mark­able 634 litres of space when the third-row seats are folded flat. Fur­ther cargo space can be freed up by fold­ing the 40:20:40 split sec­ond-row seats, mak­ing this one of the most func­tional SUVs in its price range.

While the five-seater Santa Fe is of­fered with two en­gine op­tions in­clud­ing a base 2.4-litre four-pot, the Grand Santa Fe is avail­able only with a 3.3-litre V6. Mak­ing 270bhp and 318Nm.

Mated to a six-speed au­to­matic here, it’s more pow­er­ful and re­fined than Hyundai’s 3.0-litre V6 that pow­ers the Az­era in our mar­ket.

How­ever, I found the Grand’s ride sur­pris­ingly not as com­fort­able or smooth as the shorter model’s.

Having taken the Santa Fe off-road at its launch in Oman a cou­ple of years ago, I know the sus­pen­sion set-up and Hyundai’s Ac­tive Cor­ner­ing Con­trol all-wheel-drive sys­tem are ca­pa­ble of han­dling light off-road du­ties.

Al­though Hyundai claims that the Santa Fe is “rugged but always ready for an ur­ban land­scape”, it would be wiser to limit its use to the “ur­ban land­scape”.

Also, de­spite the steer­ing having three dif­fer­ent modes – Com­fort, Nor­mal and Sport – switch­ing

Where the Grand Sante Fe wins hands down in its seg­ment is in its price – start­ing at just Dh89,000

between th­ese does not bring about any per­ceiv­able dif­fer­ence in its re­sponse, which is kind of de­tached. But the in­her­ent light­ness of the steer­ing makes it a breeze to park and ma­noeu­vre in tight spots.

Stan­dard fea­tures in­clude the now cus­tom­ary Blue­tooth, USB and aux­il­iary jacks, as well as safety fea­tures like ESP, Brake As­sist, trac­tion con­trol, sta­bil­ity man­age­ment and seven airbags.

While th­ese fea­tures are stan­dard fare in most SUVs in this seg­ment, where the Santa Fe wins hands down is in its price.

With an un­be­liev­ably low start­ing price of Dh89,900 and the fea­turepacked top-spec vari­ant cost­ing just Dh122,900, the Grand Santa Fe is a truly com­pelling al­ter­na­tive to more es­tab­lished but pricier seven-seat ri­vals like the Ford Ex­plorer and the Nis­san Pathfinder.

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