DRIVEN: Updated Hyundai Santa Fe is a quality offering that’s worth a look

By Willem vd Putte Time of article published Apr 29, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - If you’ve been in the industry for a while it’s not often that you walk away extremely impressed by a new model or in the case of the Hyundai Santa Fe a facelift of the current rendition.

It’s more than just a facelift though with a substantial change to the exterior and interior and more importantly the engine and drivetrain.

When you’re competing against seven-seaters like the bakkie based Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport as well as the Land Rover Discovery Sport you know the competition is tough so you’re going to have to come up with the right stuff.

And to a large degree the Santa Fe has done that and they’re hoping that buyers in that segment will look beyond the familiar.

The previous model wasn’t bad to begin with and now Hyundai have improved the engine with their new Smartstream R2.2 turbo diesel pushing out 148kW and 441Nm, an improvement of 3kW and 5Nm respectively.

The steel block has been replaced by aluminium, giving it a 19.5kg weight reduction and some of the internals have been tweaked as well to give it more power and better efficiency.

Also, the Santa Fe is the first Hyundai SUV to be fitted with the newly developed Smartstream Wet 8DCT dual clutch transmission that increases maximum torque capacity by 58 percent.

The exterior boasts Hyundai’s new “Sensuous Sportiness” design language, the most obvious being the cascading grille. It’s a bold statement and may not be to everyone’s liking but combined with the reworked design of the daytime running light clusters and front bumper, it does give it a rather unique look and appeal.

The back has been reworked with a horizontal line that connects the rear combination lights and tailgate garnish. It’s rounded off with 18 inch alloys on the front wheel drive Executive and 19 inch alloys or optional 20 inch wheels on the range-topping Santa Fe Elite.

The interior is a significant improvement on the outgoing model with a floating centre console that’s fitted with easy access to the drive by wire transmission, climate control buttons, drive-mode dial, steering wheel heater button as well as the seat heating and cooling buttons and the vertical wireless charging slot..

The eight inch touchscreen infotainment system is Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible while the quality leather trim, electrically adjustable front seats, panoramic sunroof and 12.3-inch LCD digital instrument cluster on the Elite derivative give it an air of premium sophistication.

On the road the Santa Fe’s improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) suppression give it a drive not dissimilar to any luxury German brand.

The engine and gearbox combination is superb with seamless changes through the gears with more than adequate acceleration and cruising comfort and if you want a bit more sportiness there're steering mounted paddles.

The suspension handles road imperfections with ease and steering is direct with good feedback as we discovered while avoiding inevitable potholes.

The front wheel drive Executive is fitted with Eco, Comfort and Sport modes and the all-wheel-drive Elite with Sand, Mud and Snow allowing you to venture slightly off the beaten track while the Smart option allows the electronics to select the appropriate mode as needed.

We drove the Santa Fe on dirt roads as well and it proved to be sure-footed throughout and decidedly more comfortable than its ladder frame competition.

Safety comes in the form of six airbags, ABS with EBD, brake assist, electronic stability control with traction control, hill start assist, downhill brake control, reverse parking collision assist, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. There’s also a reverse-view monitor.

When it comes to packing space there’s 634 litres at the back with the third row of seats folded and with my tall frame there was enough space for me in the passenger seat with the driver’s seat set to accommodate me.

Overall the Santa Fe is a quality offering with on point pricing and if you’re in that market it deserves to be on your shortlist especially because of Hyundai’s seven-year/200 000km manufacturers warranty, six-year/90 000km service plan and seven-year/150 000km roadside assistance.


R2.2 Executive 8sp DCT: R769 500

R2.2 Elite 8sp DCT AWD: R869 500


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