By NAKAMPE LEKWADU AND SYDNEY MORWENG
Santa Fe the latest 4×4 addition into the Hyundai family has thus far stood the test of time, thanks to latest ABS brakes and sophisticated gadgets which were vigorously tested at the media launch recently.
Untarred, rugged and at times slippery roads were the order of the day!
It kicked-off at Irene Country Club, Centurion and made its way to the hills and mountains of Mogale City and passed Maropeng Human of Cradlekind before cooling off at De Rust, a secluded venue next to Magaliesberg.
Hopefully the ‘multitude’ of dust did not cause any major damage to those gadgets.
Despite its classic and intimidating features, Santa Fe became a mission for certain ‘members of the fourth estate’ to drive up the man-made steep-hill. As they revved until they ran out of ideas, the only option left was for them to bow out graciously and ask for assistance.
What an injustice and insult to Santa Fe the beau’.
Santa Fe like one of the classics, and like any good classic, a follow-up is needed. That’s why it has been upgraded for 2011 with a series of improvements and mechanical changes to keep the opposition in its generously-proportioned heated and foldable mirrors with integrated side repeaters.
“The second-generation Santa Fe was at the forefront of Hyundai’s renaissance and established the philosophy that the brand can go toe to toe with its rivals (VW, BMW, VOLVO etc) for quality and overall value rather than just price,” says Hyundai SA’s Marketing Director, Stanley Anderson, who unfortunately did not take part in the sojourn.
“With the major changes taking effect with this facelifted version it will continue to offer a highly appealing package in the full-sized recreational SUV segment,” he continued.
A realignment of the range sees HASA offer the Santa Fe in five and seven-seater versions, both with four-wheel-drive.
The most significant part of the update is a new engine and the new double overhead camshaft, 16-valve turbodiesel with its variable geometry turbocharger and common rail direct injection sees substantial gains in terms of power, torque and fuel efficiency. The new engine is still a 2,2-litre but it is slightly enlarged and now measures 2 199 cc. The increase in displacement is by virtue of a longer stroke than on its predecessor while the bore is slightly smaller.
On a strict diet of 50 parts per million diesel peak power of 145 kW is available at 3 800 revs/min with maximum torque of 436 Nm already on tap from 1 800 revs/min. This figure remains unchanged all the way to 2 500 revs/min. Power starts to taper off slowly and the engine will rev willingly to 4 500 for a wide and user-friendly power band.
A further key change to the drive-train is the addition of a new, six-speed automatic transmission with a sequential ‘sports’ gate. This wide choice of ratios makes the Santa Fe far more versatile in terms of driving environment and at one end of the scale improves performance off-road (both in terms of its ability to climb steeper ascents and for improved engine braking control on descents) as well as maximising the benefits of the engine’s impressive headline numbers.
In the traffic the Santa Fe has zesty responses while the closely stacked ratios make for impressive overtaking ability with the additional gear resulting in effortless cruising. When in flurry-hurry the Santa Fe will easily dash to 100 km/h in about 9, 5 seconds and will only run out of momentum at 185 km/h.
Because of its wind-cheating shape, changes to the sheetmetal were not deemed necessary but the front bumper has been restyled to create a more striking front view.
For males the profile of the Santa Fe is virtually unchanged, save for the larger, body-coloured mirrors with their integrated turn signals, and new wheels which are now 18 inches in diameter. Ladies will be wowed by the darker body colours which the chrome trim strip in the door handles is readily evident, adding a classy touch.
The rear clusters imitate the projector-style front lights and there are two distinctive red circles for park and stop lights, surrounded now by a clear plastic with an appealing jewelled look.
The rear bumper is also new with swooping lines creating an ever-more sleekness while the twin exhaust outlets are now an elongated geometric rather than oval shape. The final and arguably most subtle changes to the rear view is the small lens just above the number plate garnish, aiming down at the rear bumper, and a small black button as part of the rear door handle.
Gadgets and many other surprises such as the revamped interior: the camera communicates with a 3.5 inch LCD screen positioned in the rear view mirror, activating when reverse gear is selected to give the driver a panoramic view of what’s behind the vehicle – it makes for safe and simple manoeuvring.
Most striking and popular is the part of the keyless entry system. Another new item on the Santa Fe’s long list of accoutrements is the stop/start button to the right of the steering column and a slot in the centre console for the smart key.
A traditional key is no longer required and indeed the device does not need to be in its slot for the engine to be started. Ditto unlocking or locking the vehicle where a gentle press of the button on either front door or the tailgate will do – which means the smart key can be kept in one’s pocket.
With its generously-proportioned cabin there is generous leg room, shoulder room, and headroom available and even the optional third row are able to accommodate children well into their teens. With the emergency brake moved to the footwell, there’s more convenience space than before and a large central storage compartment is linked to the air conditioning.
Luggage with second row seats up is 969 litres but with all the seats folded down (the middle row collapses flat against the floor allowing for bulky items to be carried) luggage volume is an impressive 2 247 litres. Those in need of additional space will find it under the boot floor of the five-seater version, two compartments enabling adventurous travellers to keep the wet/dry, dirty/clean lifestyle ‘stuff’ separate.
On a purely aesthetic level, the facia, centre console and doors are highlighted with a contemporary carbon fibre trim, and the instruments now have chrome bezels around them and the satellite controls are now more elegantly integrated with the steering wheel spokes.
Leather interior -although it’s still to be confirmed whether all of them come in full leather- sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a six-disc entertainment system with amplifier and able to interface with virtually every multimedia device known to homo electronics, cruise control, steering wheel satellite controls, full-function driving computer, one-touch up/down driver’s window(with safety stop), electrically-adjusted front seats with a height and reach adjustable steering column all confirm, that the Santa Fe is an SUV spiced with the comfort and convenience of its occupants high up on the list of priorities.
But so too, is the security of all who travel in a Santa Fe. Already of a high standard, no further additions have been required and the repertoire of six airbags, active headrests, stability/traction control and all-disc braking with ABS, EBD and BAS assistance in addition to a reinforced passenger cell bookended by extra-long crumple zones ensures maximum safety.
Safety extends to additional features such as front and rear fog lamps, and a 4×4 system while perfectly capable of driving the rear axle via a central clutch when required, also gives the driver the option of manually locking a centre differential to ‘force’ an equal distribution of drive torque to all the wheels.
Safety and peace and mind generally go hand in hand and that’s why the Santa Fe is sold with Hyundai’s legendary Five Year/150 000 km Warranty which includes roadside assistance for the same time/distance parameters. In addition there’s five year/90 000 km service contract as part of the price.
They retail from R 399 900 (5-seater) and R 409 900 (7-seater).
It remains to been seen whether Santa Fe, as soon as it enters the market will be available in popular optional colours such as black, blue, and ruby red, because at the launch they were unavailable.