If there was ever proof needed that Hyundai was moving upmarket, it’s here in the all-new Santa Fe. This third-generation of the car ditches the last Santa Fe’s plain Jane looks for a more glamorous exterior. In India, it goes head-to-head with the hugely popular Toyota Fortuner. Unlike most Hyundai products which focus on competitive pricing more than anything else, Hyundai hasn’t undercut its main rivals pricing with the Santa Fe. In fact the Hyundai costs almost 20 percent more over the Toyota. So is it really that good or has Hyundai promised more than it can deliver? We find out.
The face gets the same fluidic styling that has become part of Hyundai’s new design language. The big hexagonal chrome grille immediately grabs your attention. You get big rectangular headlamps and the skid plates to give it the authentic SUV look. It also gets adaptive cornering lamps. On the side, the rising waist line and pronounced wheel arches give it a coupe like look. The rear is dominated by the large tailamps which get LEDs in them. Overall, the design isn’t as intimidating or butch like most rivals but looks urbane, sophisticated and classy. Something that Hyundai hopes will appeal to the young city dwellers it is largely targeting.
The styling inside is funky and modern. Hyundai has offered beige and dark brown combination for the cabin and the quality is absolutely first-rate. The overtly styled dashboard with its accentuated air vents and hooded dials looks futuristic. This heavy styling can confuse the first time user initially, but the dashboard is very intuitive to use with most major controls clearly labelled and simple enough to operate. The cabin is loaded with equipment, you get dual zone climate control, Bluetooth enabled stereo and plenty of other kit to keep you happy.
The high-set front seats give a commanding view of the road ahead and there is a plethora of adjustments available for the steering and seat to get comfortable behind the wheel. Space in the rear seats is generous as well but the best part is that the floor board is completely flat. This means that the central passenger will have decent place to keep his feet at. The backrest can also be reclined and you can also move the bench forwards or back. The last row of seats neatly stows into the floor. But there isn’t legroom in the last row, which are best left for small kids. Being an SUV you get a large boot. The best part is that there is no loading lip so putting heavy luggage into the bay will be a breezy affair.
Engine, transmission and performance
The 2.2-litre common rail diesel engine on the Santa Fe is a hoot. It pumps out 195bhp of power and a mountain moving 436Nm of torque. Power is delivered via a six-speed automatic here (you can also choose a six-speed manual), which works well with the engine. Gearshifts are quick and smooth. There is negligible turbo lag and the engine feels alive from around 1,500rpm, making it an effortless car to drive in the city. Push the accelerator pedal hard and you get brisk acceleration. There is never any dearth in performance.
Just like most Hyundai cars, refinement levels are good. There is a bit of diesel engine clatter when starting from cold but once on the move, rear seat passengers will have a hard time that there is a diesel motor under the hood of the Santa Fe.
Ride and handling
Hyundai offers a feature called Flex-steer, which essentially means that you can customise your steering settings. There are three settings to choose from, comfort, normal and sport. In comfort mode, the steering becomes super light and you can use your finger to steer it. This mode will be ideal for parking in tight spaces. In normal mode the steering feels a bit heavier, ideal for moving around in town. In sport mode the steering adds more weight and this mode should be ideal for the highway. However, chances are that most users will simply drive the car in normal mode all day.
The ride quality is plush too. The wide 235mm-section tyres work in tandem with the suspension and help keep most bumps and potholes kept away from the cabin when in the city. Even as speeds increase, there is plenty of grip and the car feels well planted. Like most SUVs this is not a keen handler though and there is pronounced body roll around corners.
Hyundai have loaded the Santa Fe with plenty of safety tech. You get multiple airbags, ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), brake assist system (BAS), traction control system (TCS), Hill start assist, which doesn’t allow the car to roll back on an incline among other things. Hyundai also offers Xenon headlamps, which aid visibility as part of the standard kit.
The top of the line 4x4 automatic version driven here costs Rs 27.90 lakh(ex-showroom, Delhi), which makes it look pricey. But the Santa Fe’s wide range of talents including sophisticated looks, a classy cabin, seven seats, generous features, punchy and refined diesel engine mean this SUV actually has the wherewithal to take on even posher brands like Audi and BMW. You’ll be silly not to consider this as your next buy if planning a posh SUV.
The Toyota Fortuner which retails at Rs 23.42 lakh is a direct rival but costs around Rs 4 lakh less. But at this price point the Santa Fe also takes on the Audi Q3’s cheaper S version which retails for around Rs 24.37 lakh(all prices, ex-showroom, Delhi).