SINGAPORE – I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you by now that the latest generation of Korean automobiles have taken a big leap from their predecessors, and now offer outstanding quality and impressive levels of equipment. It’s probably a given now, with Korean offerings continuing to impress with every iteration, and setting new benchmarks that ranks them at least equal to the best in Europe and Japan.
And the new Hyundai Santa Fe featured here is no different. Like all the new cars that have been emerging from Seoul lately, this third-generation version of Hyundai’s SUV packs an almighty punch when it comes to equipment and value for money. For about the same price as an entry-level Toyota Camry, you get, in the Santa Fe, the following as standard (deep breath): automatic cruise control, automatic cornering headlights, automatic rain-sensing wipers, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth integration, electric memory and heated seats for driver and front passenger, electronic parking brake, keyless entry, engine push-start button, panoramic sunroof, a reverse camera integrated into the rear view mirror, seven seats, and Hyundai’s Smart Parking Assist System, among others. Phew.
While the extensive equipment list alone might be enough to turn some heads towards the Santa Fe’s way, others might be attracted to the car’s all-new looks. Completely redesigned from the ground up, the new Santa Fe sits on the same platform as its recently revised sister, the Kia Sorento (which we tested in CarBuyer 207), but features arguably more striking looks. The large gaping grille at the front looks suitably aggressively, especially when combined with the tapered trapezoidal headlights, and our test car’s mean-looking black paintwork adds a tinge of menace to the car’s overall demeanour.
But that’s as far as the sportiness goes, because the Santa Fe drives pretty much as you’d expect for a family-oriented SUV. The 2.4-litre GDI petrol engine pumps out 192bhp and 242Nm of torque, and while power delivery is mostly smooth and fuss-free, it can get a bit raucous if pushed. Not that you’d really want to, because the Santa Fe is probably at its best when moving along sedately on the highway, given its excellent and well-damped ride that absorbs most road bumps finely. The car is also supremely quiet on the go, engine noise aside.
One feature plucked from the Sorento is the FlexSteer variable steering system, which offers a choice of three steering modes (dubbed Comfort, Normal and Sport) that vary by weighting. Surprisingly the Santa Fe’s steering seems to possess a touch more feel than its Kia sibling, but while it does make manoeuvring in the city that little bit easier, we still maintain that the system feels artificial and devoid of feedback.
Nevertheless, the Santa Fe is a compelling choice for anyone looking for a large, seven-seater family SUV, given its excellent value, striking looks and superb refinement. In fact, it’s probably unrivalled in the segment right now, with perhaps the only real competition coming from within, given that the similarly-specced Kia Sorento goes for the same price…
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 2,359cc, 16V, in-line 4
Power 192bhp at 6300rpm
Torque 242Nm at 4250rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 190km/h
0-100kmh 10.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 11.2 km/L
Price $170,999 with COE
Also Consider: Kia Sorento, Chevrolet Captiva
Photos by Edroos Alsagoff