Hyundai’s new Santa Fe – closing the gap on premium competitors


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Personally, I enjoy reviewing a car while having no expectations and then being pleasantly surprised. I felt the same way about the previous generation Santa Fe. This says something about Hyundai’s ongoing innovations.


The Santa Fe has been redesigned to convey a look of strength. Its bold new styling is distinctively attractive thanks in part to its striking new grille. The eye-catching cascading grille has been improved, with its signature geometric patterned inlay integrated with the headlights. The T-shaped daytime running lights, along with the sculpted front bumper, offer a highly distinctive presence and completes the edgy and powerful appearance.


At the back, the rear bumper displays a low and wide look that conveys stability. Its bold stance is reflected by the sweeping horizontal line, connecting the combination lights and tailgate garnish. The wraparound combination lamps enhance the look even further thanks to a highly distinctive high-tech design.


The Santa Fe also features new 18-inch alloy wheels that really enhance the side view of the Santa Fe Executive, while the Elite derivative comes with 19- or 20-inch wheels with a different design.


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 benefit from increased cargo space that has a capacity of 634 litres with the third-row seats folded flat.


A spacious interior with full leather seats and a new floating centre console which is equipped with shift-by-wire transmission buttons provides an ambience of luxury and operational convenience.


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. What’s more, in the Elite derivative, there are also terrain modes for the all-wheel drive system. Next to the cup holder in the console is a neat, almost hidden wireless charging slot for a cell phone.


An 8-inch infotainment system display with touchscreen functions provides hands-free convenience with Bluetooth connection to a cellphone, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.


Rear window curtains and heating and ventilation for the front seats are also on the list of convenience features, as well as Remote Start (which allows one to start the vehicle remotely with the smart key) and automatically switching on the air-conditioner and setting the temperature at 22°C.

On both derivatives, 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.


Both the driver and front passenger can adjust their seats electrically in the Elite derivative and the driver can lower or raise his or her seat position, too.  The Elite also comes with a 12.3-inch LCD Super Vision Instrument Cluster for the driver, for which illumination can be altered by a rheostat. Both derivates have paddle gear shift levers on the steering wheel for manual shifting because the transmission controls on the centre console are push buttons.


The new Santa Fe is the first Hyundai model to be fitted with the next-generation 2.2 turbodiesel engine which has a maximum output of 148 kW (vs 145 kW of the previous R2.2 turbodiesel) and maximum torque of 441 Nm (an increase of 5 Nm from the old engine).


It is also the first Hyundai SUV to be equipped with the newly developed 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.


The 8DCT offers the smooth shifting characteristics of a conventional automatic transmission while enhancing efficiency over dry dual-clutch transmissions. I can attest to this and will say it is amongst the very best I have experienced.



In the Elite derivative, the new Santa Fe features Hyundai’s signature HTRAC four-wheel drive technology. HTRAC is a combination of the words “Hyundai” and “traction” and the technology is intended to enable agile handling and better torque application depending on wheel grip and vehicle speed.


For the first time, the Santa Fe Elite derivative comes with a Terrain Mode selector: a control knob located in the centre console to conveniently switch between different drive modes. The different drive modes optimise driving performance and HTRAC settings for a variety of situations. This feature includes unique driving modes for sand, snow and mud, as well as the driving modes Comfort, Sport and Eco. An additional driving mode option, Smart, means the car will automatically recognise the driving style and select a mode so the driver does not have to.


The drive modes Comfort, Sport, Eco and Smart are also standard features in the Executive derivative.


A stronger steel chassis means improved front collision safety as well as better ride & handling. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are also lower compared to the previous Santa Fe model.


One of the active safety features in the new 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.


Rear Cross-Traffic Warning will give a warning to the driver when reversing, while rear bumper radar sensors monitor cross traffic approaching from left and right sides behind the vehicle.


Safe Exit Assist should issue a warning and keeps the door locked to ensure child safety when a rear occupant attempts to open the rear door while the Santa Fe is standing still and a vehicle is approaching from the rear.


Downhill Brake Control, a safety feature especially for 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 airbags for the driver and front passenger, as well as a curtain airbag that also provides protection for other occupants of the car.


The competition

Ford Everest, Kia Sorento, Isuzu mu-X, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Peugeot 5008 and Toyota Fortuner



Santa Fe R2.2 Executive 8sp DCT – R769 500

Santa Fe R2.2 Elite 8sp DCT AWD – R869 500


Service and warranty

The prices include a 7-year / 200 000 km manufacturer’s warranty; a 6-year / 90 000 km service plan; and roadside assistance over a period of 7 years or a distance of 150 000 km.




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