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HYUNDAI SANTA FE 2.2 e-VGT – From the Dead Sea to the Red Sea

Changes made to the newest iteration of Hyundai’s premium SUV are subtle, yet powerful. And while the Santa Fe is never likely to be a top-seller on local shores, it heralds an entirely new direction of refinement for Hyundai, as FERDI DE VOS discovered while driving it around the Dead Sea.

The road from the lowest place on earth – the Dead Sea, 430 metres below sea level – ascends nearly 1,500 metres through a steep pass with challenging hairpins and tight curves to Petra, the ancient Rose City with its spectacular temple facades and colossal stone pillars expertly carved out of the sandstone cliffs over three centuries ago.

The new Hyundai-developed eight-speed automatic transmission in our sunset red Santa Fe seamlessly toiled with the proven 2.2-litre diesel-fed turbo engine and latest H-Trac all-wheel-drive system to coax the medium-sized Korean SUV up the inclines.

Even fed with low-quality fuel (two VGT-driven derivatives, as well as extra diesel fuel, were specially brought in for the South African contingent as Jordan has no diesel infrastructure or vehicles) the new Santa Fe eagerly and willingly confronted the steep slopes.

And while the petrol-sipping 2.4 and 3.5-litre V6 models struggled to negotiate some of the steep, sharp corners at pace, the South African specified diesel derivative dealt with them effortlessly.

Since the original Santa Fe, the first SUV from the Korean auto giant named after the New Mexican city in the US, made its debut in 2000 it soon proved to be popular worldwide.

The model also contributed to the establishment of the marque in South Africa, soon to be overshadowed by the sales of its smaller Tucson sibling. Even so, the Santa Fe remains Hyundai’s pacesetter in terms of styling, technology, and new systems.

THE FOURTH ROUND

Hyundai Santa Fe

At first glance, the fourth generation Santa Fe does not appear to be much different from its predecessor concerning styling. However, upon closer inspection some exciting changes become evident. Perhaps the most significant change-up is the new Composite Light architecture, with slim LED Daytime Running Lights positioned on top of the LED headlights in the bumpers under the signature cascading grille.

The lower position of the headlight cluster, according to Hyundai’s chief designer, Luc Donckerwolke, ensures more efficient lighting. It also makes the loftier SUV appear less intimidating when following a smaller vehicle at night. However, in this new position the intricate headlights are more exposed to crash damage – raising questions about higher costs – but according to Hyundai advanced safety systems such as distance control and parking sensors most of the risk is eliminated.

Donckerwolke also indicated that the new cascading grille, powerful wide stance, and bold, yet refined lines, not only introduce a new SUV design direction, but also reinforces the vehicle’s status at the top of the SUV line-up. The full-length character line running from the headlights to the taillights has been lowered to accommodate bigger windows and enhanced dynamism, while the rear creates confidence with a new bumper design and unique tail lights.

Hyundai Santa Fe

The upper rear lamp is comprised of LEDs, and the indicator, reversing light and fog lights are now integrated into the rear bumper. While elegant, the low placement of the light cluster may hamper its effectiveness in heavy dust conditions.

The new seven-seat Santa Fe is 70 mm longer and 10 mm wider than its predecessor, and it has a longer bonnet and a 65 mm longer wheelbase, but shorter overhangs front and rear. All this means more interior space and increased comfort for second and third-row passengers.

Legroom in the second row is increased by 38 mm, and the seat is 18 mm higher. A new child-friendly one-touch button eases access into the third row, and headroom for the rear-most seats has been improved by 22 mm.

Visibility in the rear has been improved by larger rear quarter windows (41% bigger) and higher second- and third-row seating positions. With the rear seats folded down, the new Santa Fe offers 625 litres of luggage space.

SANTA FE PASSENGER CARE

Hyundai Santa Fe

On the desert highway leading through the barren Jordan River valley towards the Red Sea, there was ample time to appreciate the roominess and ergonomic design of the cabin. A floating-type touch screen is set high in the new horizontally laid out dashboard and instrument panel with central TFT screen, while a full head-up display (HUD) projects essential driving information in the driver’s line of sight.

The leather seats in our high-spec model, with electric extendable seat cushions, were comfortable, also at the rear, but the last row of seats is still only suitable for children. The 8” infotainment system integrates all navigation, media, and connectivity features, and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Display Audio system also features radio, Bluetooth connectivity, AUX-in, and USB connections, and is now comparable with the best systems in its class.

Safety systems include Hyundai’s latest SmartSense active safety technology with features such as Blind-Spot Collision Warning and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist.
“This best-in-class safety technology benefits from Hyundai’s advanced research and development programs,” said Mike Song, Hyundai’s Head of Operations for Africa and the Middle East.

It also earned the Santa Fe a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
Even on 19” rubber the ride comfort of the new SUV over broken sunburnt tar surfaces was decent, and while it felt quite agile and sharp in the corners, I cannot elaborate in this regard since the entirety of the route was completed at slow convoy speeds.

LAST WORD

Only the enhanced 2.2-litre VGT turbodiesel engine that produces 150 kW and 441 Nm of torque will be available locally. It will be coupled with Hyundai’s new eight-speed automatic gearbox, while three levels of the specification will be made available locally; Premium, Executive and Elite.

The Premium and Executive derivatives are both front-wheel driven and come standard with 17 and 18” wheels respectively, while the flagship Elite model is equipped with the H-Trac intelligent all-wheel-drive system and 19-inch alloy wheels and tyres.

While pricing was not yet finalised at the time of writing, it is confirmed that the new model range will be introduced locally in November.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © HYUNDAI SOUTH AFRICA

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