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Driven: Hyundai's new Santa Fe in SA

By: Jesse Adams & IOL Motoring Staff

Hyundai hasn't toyed too much with the mechanical under-workings of its Santa Fe SUV, but a total overhaul of interior and exterior packaging was extensive enough to call this a completely new generation anyway.

Trapezoidal shapes all over the inside and out put the new Santa Fe stylistically more in line with all the other Hyundai models sold today and, subjectively speaking, this new one's a real looker.

Younger buyers will dig the 'angry eyes' headlights that are all the rage today, and the bum's reasonably attractive too even if it does bear a suspicious resemblance to Audi's Q5.

Build quality is not even worth mentioning within the Hyundai stable, as it's of competitive standard with most Japanese cars these days. The doors close with vacuum-sealed thuds and the switchgear all operates with precise little clicks and pleasing little presses.

Performance is decent too, with a healthy amount of torque pushing the deceivingly large Santa Fe around. To put it into perspective, this Hyundai is bigger than a Honda CRV but smaller than a Toyota Fortuner.

NOISY DIESEL ENGINE

There's just one engine on offer, this being Hyundai's 2.2-litre turbodiesel that pushes 145kW at 3800rpm and 436Nm at 2500rpm. It is noisy though, especially at idle, giving away its somewhat dated roots. It's also only rated to run on 50ppm fuel, although Hyundai says they've never heard of problems from previous model owners.

On the subject of juice, Hyundai claims a combined fuel consumption figure of eight litres per 100km for the front-wheel drive model and 8.3 l/100 in the case of the permanent all-wheel drive versions.

The six-speed auto gearbox does what it needs to do, but it's nowhere near as slick as other more modern transmissions in other brands today. Shifts are a little bit clunky comparatively, but hardly worth mentioning. Ratios are good as well, and at the coastal launch turbo lag was a non-issue.

The two top Santa Fe models at launch featured all-wheel drive, but I'd consider this a medium terrainer slotting between soft roaders like the smaller ix35 sibling and true off roaders like Mitsubishi's Pajero. It'll handle your average rutted road with ease, but it struggles with loose sand even with a 4WD lock mode that splits front and rear torque 50/50.

You can take up to six passengers along for the ride as the Executive and Elite models come with seven seats, although the base Premium model is a five-seater. With the back row seats folded, up to 994 litres of luggage space is available.

All versions of the Santa Fe are fitted with dual zone climate control and there is a switch to activate the aircon for occupants in the middle and back rows.

The Elite model comes with a 12-way power adjustable driver's seat as well as a reverse camera, automatic lights and wipers and a full-length panoramic sunroof.

However, prices start well north of the 400 grand mark, although you are getting a five-year/90 000km service plan and roadside assistance for five years or 150 000km. Service intervals are spaced at 15 000km.

THE DAMAGE:

R2.2 Premium FWD 5-seater - R434 900

R2.2 Executive AWD 7-seater - R459 900

R2.2 Elite AWD 7-seater - R499 900

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