Amidst a flurry of fast cars and limo-sized luxury, it took me a while to warm up to my calling of sharing with the family men in the world, the merits and maladies of a substantially uplifted family SUV from Hyundai. Well I finally did, and it would leave me a pretentious pothead if I didn’t admit this – yes, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is mighty impressive.
UPSIDE: Flexible seating and storage, Comfortable ride quality, Innovative Navigation screen, Silent cabin
FLIPSIDE: Fuel efficiency could be better, Music system lacks taste, Second row comfortable only for two
Price: AED 124,000 as tested
At a time when luxury is more and more being defined by the ‘3 S’ as a marketing strategist might call them – sportiness, silence and space – the Hyundai Santa Fe offers all this in the right measure to make it one of the most eligible family SUVs on the road.
While sportiness is perhaps the last thing you check out in a seven-seater family SUV, let’s get it out of the way as is custom these days. The Hyundai Santa Fe driver has three steering modes to choose from – you guessed it – Sport, Comfort and Normal. The sport mode stiffly resonates with the V6 snarl of the engine but the comfort mode suits the temperament of this vehicle more than the sport – which feels like a slightly forced input – even though it is a pretty responsive and a reasonably powerful car.
Honestly, the 3.3 V6 feels more powerful than the 9.5 seconds to get from 0 to 100, which belies the relentlessly flowing torque in the midrange that is extremely useful in overtaking on highways.
While it has well-bolstered seats in comfortable leather, and features like hill assist, traction control and differential locks for the not-so-comfortable terrain, the new Hyundai Santa Fe comes with all the useful stuff but not those frills that would flex their muscle on the price tag. Like, it uses a large pair of side view mirrors instead of blind spot monitors and the regular cruise control instead of radar cruise control, which cars are tempted to accommodate to stun segment-scanners.
It was an extremely dusty day on Sheikh Zayed Road as I took the Hyundai Santa Fe out on its second drive. Unlike the calm of the previous evening, the wind built a boisterous background but all other noise was largely kept out. The engine could be hardly heard – even while idling. The Santa Fe doesn’t have a start-stop system but it was almost like the engine had gone to sleep.
As I now happened to drop a fuel saving jargon, let me tell you that the Hyundai Santa Fe is a thirsty car that drinks up a litre for every 5.75 km covered. Things might improve a bit in the Santa Fe economy if you are using the Active Eco mode and you aren’t actually losing out much on the power. The fuel efficiency does call for some boost, so give it all you can.
Cabin and Controls
I have a checked beige blazer I got stitched in Bangkok – at the same place Bond allegedly gets his three-piece stitched. The cabin material used on either side of the console and the doorsills of the Santa Fe reminded me of that. Though kind of rubbery, the soft touch thing doesn’t feel cheap and the coordinated beige and chocolate brown trims bear some class. But for a carbon effect strip that over-line the air-vents, Hyundai has shown the good sense of staying away from a design and colour overdose.
Inside the cabin, the Santa Fe looks more compact sideways than rivals. So, while the second row centre seat gets a premium looking armrest with concealed cupholders, this slightly reduces shoulder and seating room. But does it really matter when you have two extra seats behind for the sub-teens?
The dashboard of the new Santa Fe is a pretty interesting place. Especially the supervision cluster behind the steering, that is as equipped as the ones on much more expensive models. On its 4.2 inch TFT LCD screen, you see all the information you might or might not need, like distance, fuel efficiency, and even what is playing on your media and – listen to this – navigation cues as well.
What is unique about the central touch screen on the Hyundai Santa Fe dash is the innovative way of showing you the way. It uses picture grabs of the road itself complete with exit numbers and even the blue and white boards we are familiar with. But what is not so cool on the dashboard is the music system, which makes an attempt of providing us with an inspiring tone but falls ‘flat’ in the bargain.
The new Hyundai Santa Fe has tons of practicality packed for the family – right from the safety features like automatic door lock, 4 airbags plus curtain airbags, the convenience of automatic park brake release, a navigation screen which offers a unique realistic view of turning points and milestones, and yes, the old family favourite – the sunroof.
While the third-row seats are fit for sub-teens or not so tall people, they considerately lie flat under the platform in the Santa Fe’s spacious boot, separately if you wish.
Because of the sloping roofline, there is a slight compromise on the headroom towards the rear but that is quite common in 7-seaters. You aren’t going to dump your Frankenstein uncle in the backyard anyway!
The Essential Hyundai Santa Fe
At AED 124,000 in the segment that cares more for value, the Hyundai Santa Fe offers plenty of premium to the customer. There aren’t many frills but what there is, is offered with finesse. The new Hyundai Santa Fe is probably the most spacious 5-seater and the most practical 7-seater in its segment; arguably the most stylish crossover in the affordable segment and a very useful 4 x 4.
Drive Courtesy: Hyundai UAE
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy & Supplied