With the introduction of the revamped fourth-generation Santa Fe (the name means “holy faith” in Spanish, but the SUV was actually named for the capital city of the state of New Mexico in the US), Hyundai South Africa has kept the venerable 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine as the sole propulsion option for the latest line-up – now consisting of only the Executive and Elite, with the Premium derivative being dropped.

While still badged D2.2 CRDi, it is, in fact, a new power plant with an aluminium block (making it 19.5 kg lighter), a displacement of 2,151 cc (versus the older R II’s 2,199 cc), a higher compression ratio (16.0:1) and fuel pressure of 2,200 bar (vs 2,000 bar for the older motor), now developing 148 kW at 3,800 r/min and 440 Nm of torque from 1,750 to 2,750 r/min.

The Smartstream engine also features an electric thermostat, a new E-VGT turbo, an intercooler bypass valve, a ceramic glow plug and uses a timing belt instead of a timing chain. Coupled with a new Double-Clutch Transmission, Hyundai claims a 0-100 km/h time of 9.0 seconds for the FWD Executive (9.2 seconds for the AWD Elite) and a top speed of 205 km/h.

Wide “Cascading” Grille

The new Santa Fe (based on the new Gen 3 platform)  is easily distinguishable from its predecessor by a prominent, wide “cascading” front grille merged with T-shaped LED Daytime Running Lights, a LED strip running across the width of the vehicle at the rear and wider wheel arches to accommodate up to 20” wheels. It is also slightly bigger, with more legroom for second-row passengers and increased cargo space (634 litres with the third-row seats folded flat). 

Inside, the Santa Fe has a redesigned “floating” centre console with a larger push-button gear selector, a new drive mode selector (with Terrain Driving Mode in the flagship Elite model), a 10.25” touchscreen for the infotainment centre and a 12.3” Super Vision digital instrument cluster. 

Full leather seats are standard, as well as auto climate control and a rear-view monitor. The Elite also has a panoramic sunroof, rear window curtains, heated and ventilated front seats and a smart power tailgate.

The new 8-speed DCT (replacing the 8-speed auto in its predecessor) is an important addition. The wet clutch shift by wire transmission supplies oil to control the clutch operation and gear shifting, ensuring smoother changes, and the top-model AWD Elite also employs the HTRAC system with Snow, Mud and Sand settings.

Fluid Transmission

On a route in the Western Cape over various surfaces (including good dirt roads), the improved engine impressed with its discreet yet forceful torque delivery. The new transmission aided fluid gear shifts, albeit measured and relatively slow. The enhanced chassis rigidity abetted road stability and balance, but the low-profile 20” rubber compromised the ride comfort of the Elite models (although it was still far superior to that of ladder-frame based competitors).

The quality of interior trim in the Santa Fe is comparable to the best in its class, but the graphics for the infotainment system are a bit outdated compared to those found in its German rivals. 

The local Hyundai flagship has a full suite of convenience and safety systems, including Remote Start (allowing vehicle start with the smart key, with aircon switches on and temperature set at 22°C), Rear Cross-Traffic Warning, safety power windows, Blind Spot Collision Warning, Safe Exit Assist and Rear Occupant Alert (in the Elite).

Last Word

Straddling the SUV market in terms of price and size segments, the Santa Fe faces diverse rivals, such as the bakkie-based Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest, its Kia Sorento counterpart, and the slightly smaller but price compatible BMW X3/X4, Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar E-Pace. 

Compared to its opponents, the Santa Fe models, starting at R796,500 for the Executive and R869,500 for the Elite (including a seven-year/200,000 km warranty and six-year/90,000 km service plan) is well-specced and competitively priced – and judging on first impressions, the seven-seat Hyundai is a very sensible option within this extended SUV segment.


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