2014 Hyundai Santa Fe India first drive

Bertrand D'souza  /
03 Mar 2014 11:10:10 IST

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a premium SUV that had at one point outlivedits shelf life when the price bracket it existed in got run over bythe Germans. At a similar price point people preferred the brand valueof BMW or Mercedes or Audi over that of Hyundai leading to a slowdeath for the Santa Fe. In an increasingly crowded space and one thatwill only get even more crowded shortly the Santa Fe just does notmake sense. Curiously enough Hyundai India isn't willing to let go ofthe Santa Fe, it just isn't willing to pull the plug and after havingdriven it myself, I can see why they are so adamant.

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So I'm going to skip the history of the Santa Fe and where it camefrom and what it did. All I will mention here is that it came into theIndian market, did extremely well in its initial years and then salesliterally just fell off a cliff. Shift focus to 2013 and Hyundaishowcased an all-new Santa Fe whose design language is an extension ofFluidic Design called the Storm Edge. Its is a highly evocative tagfor a design form that instantly helps identifies the Santa Feanywhere in a crowd. It simply stands out, makes people gawk and stealsecond glances. The interesting bit is that the design of the Santa Feis literally teetering on the sheer edge between bold and loud. Onewrong stroke of a pencil in a designer's hands and it could easily havebeen ostentatious and noisy. Instead its a superb shape that lends awhole new character and stance. Its graceful, strong, full ofcharacter and hard to miss! It is without a doubt a damn good job onthe outside.

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Move inside and the high notes continue to sound off what isessentially a good design but also typically eschewing what Hyundaihas shown off in their sedans and hatchbacks. The interiors look crispand modern and stylish though I personally am not a big fan of thoseswoops lines and would much prefer some more solidity. Everything alsoisn't positive in here and there are definitely some areas that couldhave been treated in a less miserly fashion. I'm referring to thecentre infotainment screen that enables touch control but is such asmall display it almost feels like someone is correcting their mistake.In a SUV this large it looks ridiculously out of place and definitelydemands a rethink and execution.

The Santa Fe is a generously large SUV and seats seven passengers inthree rows of seating. The last row is generous enough but becausethere is very little height to the seats you basically sit with yourknees touching your chin. The middle row can be adjusted for reachand that only complicates matters in the last row. Ideally that spaceis best reserved for children. When not required the last row seatsfold into the boot area and this provides generous boot volume whichcan further be expanded by folding down the middle row of seats. Thedriver's seat is the only one to get power adjustment while thepassenger has to manually adjust his seat.

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There will be three options offered to the customer, there is onemanual transmission variant and two automatic transmissions. Theengine in all three is the same, a next generation R series enginethat has been worked on to enhance efficiency, reduce friction andprovide better NVH than before. So the engine is the new 2.2-litreCRDi unit that delivers 197Ps of max power and two torque outputs. Inthe manual you get 420Nm of max torque but the automatic gets around16Nm more, both between the same 1800-2500rpm. The new generationcommon rail direct injection diesel displaces 2199cc and its a quickand responsive engine. Having said that I must also comment on thenoise within the cabin, despite the claims of NVH being up to date,you can definitely hear enough of the diesel engine clatter. Anelectronically controlled variable geometry turbocharger kicks inearly enough to ensure power delivery is linear and immediate.

Where efficiency is concerned, Hyundai claims 14.74kmpl for the manual and 13.01kmpl for the AT, these being ARAI figures. 1800bar rail pressures pumping fuelthrough piezo-electric injectors, the electronically controlledvariable geometry turbo, swirl control valves and and electronicallycontrolled EGR ensure that the fuel efficiency is optimised.

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I did not get to drive the manual and while is obviously themore fuel efficient variant, what is apparently becoming increasinglyclear is that a lot of customers in the past have opted for theautomatic transmission Santa Fe. That explains why Hyundai is sort ofgiving the manual version the step motherly treatment. In this casethe automatics also get all the bells and whistles while the manual ismore of a basic or lesser specced variant.

Both transmissions however have six forward ratios and the automaticadds a manual shifter to the equation. So the automatic is remarkablyeasy to drive. Even the automatic shift quality is surprisingly agileand not slow. Power is derived instantly and acceleration as a resultis brisk and hurried.

On the chassis front there have been several updates giving it a moresecure feel. A MacPherson strut at the front and multilink suspensionat the rear gives it better dynamics than before. There is still afair amount of body roll but what I did like is that it is wellcontrolled and measured. Never did the Santa Fe feel like it waslosing comfort or getting too hairy. Of course there are a host ofsafety nets to reign you back in but still its a very decent handlingSUV.

With the chassis also come a few other changes. The steering forinstance can be set up to match the effort you want to put in. So a comfort mode makes the steering light for urban duties, a normal modeadds some more weight while a sport mode significantly increasesresistance in the steering feel while also making it more precise.

On the drivetrain front the manual transmission variant is availableonly as two wheel drive with torque applied to the front wheels. Theautomatic has two options, there is a two wheel drive and a full timefour wheel drive variant. The four wheel drive variant I drove largelyemploys 2WD in normal driving cycles. However when the need arises inslippery tractionless conditions, torque is spread between all fourwheels to enhance stability and get you out of tricky situations. Ahost of other driving aids also come in to play such as a tractioncontrol system, vehicle stability management and electronic stabilitycontrol. You also get hill start assist and hill descent control, thelatter if which can be activated through a button on the dashboard.

The Santa Fe's advanced traction cornering control system utilisestorque vectoring between the four wheels and braking power to reduceor eliminate understeer. The system proved its worth on certain tighttwisty sections on the roads to Athirapally and I can vouch that thedynamics were not just up to date but also fun.

Coming around finally to the features, the Santa Fe has a whole arrayof comfort and convenience features to offer to its consumers. Ofsignificant interest would be the six airbags on the safety frontalongside the host of dynamic control systems. You also get LEDs andhigh intensity discharge headlamps. The driving lamps have a corneringfunction in them and then there is the cruise control and the airconditioning for all three rows of seats and a host of controls on thesteering wheel and what not. The list is exhaustive and rich.

So yes the Santa Fe continues to be just as good as it always was, andthe improvements to every aspect make it a much more rewardingpurchase. And that brings up the big question, at 26 lakhs for thebase variant ex-showroom Delhi stretching all the way up to around Rs30lakhs for the top of the line variant is the Santa Fe truly valuefor money? Look at it like this, if you weren't looking for badgevalue there is hardly anything in this segment that offers you theluxuriousness, styling, ride, handling and performance that the SantaFe has to offer. Of course you could buy a German luxury SUV but takeit from me, there really isn't much difference. The German brigade infact offers stiffer suspension setups that aren't suited to Indianroad conditions, they cannot seat seven and they definitely don't havethe richness of features the Santa Fe can offer. To me that isdefinitely better value, even though there is still a shred of doubtat the back of my head. The Santa Fe is a well endowed SUV but itmight just not be a hot item at the box office!

Our image gallery of the new Hyundai Santa Fe is here

Hyundai Santa Fe 2014
Price (Delhi)
  • Rs. 36.39 Lakhs On Road
  • Rs. 31.07 Lakhs Ex-Showroom
Engine
  • CRDi Model
  • 2199cc Displacement
Mileage
  • 13.01Kmpl Overall
Transmission
  • Automatic

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