I am in lust with the new Hyundai Santa Fe. So, that’s it said and put out there.
But, what am I in lust with? I love the new, bold – even aggressive – grille. Arguments among car fans are still raging long and loud about the grille designs on other cars that have tended towards the oversized and in-your-face and, in some cases, I agree with the WTF.
However, Hyundai has successfully gone the big grille route and made it fit with the overall design and styliing of the Santa Fe, as opposed to it looking like something that was slapped on as an afterthought – the cascading grille, with its signature geometric patterned inlay is integrated with the headlights. The T-shaped daytime running lights, along with the sculpted front bumper, offer a distinctive presence.
At the back, the rear bumper has a sweeping horizontal line, connecting the combination lights and tailgate garnish. New 18-inch alloy wheels enhance the side view of the Santa Fe Executive, the derivative on test.
At 4 785 mm (exterior, length), 1 900 mm (width) and 1 710 mm (height), the Santa Fe is bigger than the previous model. With the fitting of Hyundai’s new Gen 3 platform, second-row passengers can enjoy more legroom (1 060 mm) as well as benefitting from increased cargo space that has a capacity of 634 litres with the third-row seats folded flat.
This is probably – or, should be – as big as Hyundai will go with this car. Mrs W commented it just fitted the parking bays at the local shopping centre and sometimes strayed uncomfortably close to an equally grown-in-size variant from another manufacturer.
Admittedly, shopping centre parking bays are notoriously designed for Dinky Toys and people less than 1-metre tall but any additions to the dimensions and the Santa Fe would cross over to becoming just plain bulky.
Inside are full leather seats and a new floating centre console, which is equipped with shift-by-wire transmission buttons – something Hyundai is quite proud of, even though it is a revert to the 1956 Chrysler PowerFlite where push-button gearing was first introduced.
Apart from the buttons for the transmission, the centre console also contains the buttons for the automatic climate control and selector knob for the drive modes and next to the cup holder in the console is a neat, almost hidden wireless charging slot for a cell phone.
While neat and able to hold the phone firmly, I found the lack of air cirulation in that slot did heat up the phone very quickly – so it needs to go on charge and be removed to avoid over-heating.
The 8-inch infotainment system display, with touchscreen functions, provides hands-free convenience with Bluetooth connection to a cell phone, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
A Smart Power Tailgate opens and closes the back door at the touch of a button on the remote key fob, or by touching the respective buttons on the tailgate.
The new Santa Fe is the first Hyundai model to be fitted with the next-generation powertrain Smartstream R2.2 turbo-diesel engine which has a maximum output of 148 kW at 3 800 r/min and maximum torque of 441 Nm from 1 750 r/min.
This is a small increase over the previous generation engine but it is noticeable, especially during take-off acceleration and overtaking.
Compared to the previous engine generation, the new engine block consists of aluminium instead of iron, meaning a weight reduction of 19,5 kg. Different parts of the engine have been improved, including, for example, the camshaft, to reduce internal friction and improve overall fuel efficiency.
Furthermore, the engine has been equipped with a new 2 200 bar injection system (compared to 2 000 bar on the previous engine), improving overall engine performance.
It is also the first Hyundai SUV to be equipped with the Smartstream Wet 8DCT, a dual clutch transmission delivering quick eight-speed shifting and acceleration performance. It employs two clutches, one coupled to a shaft for odd-number and the other to the shaft for even-number gears.
This provides slick and accurate changes determined by driving style and the use of the accelerator and brake and this shifts (pun intended) to match the selected drive mode – Comfort, Eco or Sport.
For most driving scenarios, including Sport, I found the shift patterns more than adequate for the task without needing to manually make the changes, even when doing some brisk motoring through a nice twisty section of road.
With a mass of 1 745 kilograms to get moving the acceleration to 100 km/h came up in 9,2 seconds and it moves on to a top speed a shade over the 200 km/h mark
Fuel efficiency is improved by 3% through reduced engine power loss and increased hydraulic efficiency, in comparison to 8-speed automatic transmission models. The new 8DCT also creates a more dynamic driving experience and enhances acceleration performance by up to 9%, compared to 6-speed manual transmission models.
One of the active safety features in the Santa Fe is the Reverse Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist (PCA), which uses a rear-view camera and rear ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles when reversing, providing a warning and applying the brakes, if necessary, to avoid a collision.
An anti-lock braking system, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) are also on the list of active safety features.
Downhill Brake Control, also a safety feature especially when the vehicle is driven on a steep downhill in off-road conditions, and Hill Start Assist Control, which holds the car stationary when starting and pulling away on an uphill, also makes driving the Santa Fe so much easier and safer.
Passive safety features include front and side crash bags for the driver and front passenger, as well as a curtain crash bag that also provides protection for other occupants of the car.
It has a 7-year / 200 000 km manufacturer’s warranty; a 6-year / 90 000 km service plan; and roadside assistance over a period of seven years or a distance of 150 000 km.
Mrs W’s final comment: “I could live with that.” Me too.