A boom market of recent times, ideal for the mid level exec (or higher!) with family, has been the seven seater SUV. The Sports Utility Vehicle allows high riding, some “soft roading” and plenty of room for mum, dad, and up to five others with rear seats folded up from their storage locker.
And so it is with the Hyundai Santa Fe, with our test car being the Trail pack, fitted with a few extras. This particular version of the Santa Fe is at the end of its model life with the new version due in the fourth quarter of 2012. Powered by a torquey (and freeway quiet) 2.2L diesel, the Trail adds in a roof mounted DVD (PlayStation and Gameboy compatible), reverse camera with rear vision mirror display, leather seating/steering wheel/gear knob and privacy glass on the inside and some exterior enhancements such as 18 inch wheels and front/rear skid plates, adding a more offroad look to a car more likely to get wet and dirty going through a puddle on the road than anything offroad. Not that it couldn’t do it with Hill Descent and centre diff locking coming along for the ride.
The diesel peaks at 3800rpm powerwise, delivering 145 kW while the torque is astonishing in its flexibility, topping 436 Nm from 1800 to 2500 rpm in the auto, with that six speed box geared perfectly to take advantage of the linear delivery. At freeway speed, it’s ticking over at just under 2000rpm and a dive of the welly has truly startling acceleration, given the over two tonne gross vehicle mass.
Although the basic design is a few years old, with the exterior at odds with Hyundai’s current fluid design philosophy, it’s been kept fresh with updates along the way and certainly competes well against opposition such as Holden’s 7 seater diesel Captiva. Ride quality certainly is user friendly, with the striking18 inch alloys fitted with some high sidewall rubber, giving compliance, stability and comfort; importantly, with a chassis that seemed well composed and agile when asked to change lanes at speed.
There is some chatter on start up but once at operating temperature, the engine is muted and, even under load, not intrusive into the well insulated cabin.
Rear cabin space with the rear seats folded in is quite reasonable but don’t expect more than a couple of shopping bags with the seats in use; standard fare in such a vehicle. The Trail has a roof mounted DVD player (an option otherwise) for the rear seat passengers and came with two wireless headsets, a seemingly odd but sensible choice given that the majority of people buying would have a need for only two. The folding rear seats, as is the norm nowadays, are easy to pull up and set back in, by virtue of a simple lever mechanism set into the seat back.
The seats themselves are comfortable in their leatherishness, while the cabin design, although ergonomic, is showing a bit of age and does suffer somewhat against its similar specced and more modern brethren. It’s certainly not to say it’s an unhappy workplace but the updated model, due later this year, will no doubt be more on par. iPod/iPhone connectivity is catered for with a cable but Bluetooth is an option; given the growing market share of Android smartphones, manufacturers across the board are providing Bluetooth as standard and one would expect this in the upgrade.
Safety wise, ABS and Electronic Stability Control (ECS) are standard across the board as are front, thorax and curtain airbags with seatbelt pretensioners also standard.
Off road performance would not be a major consideration for this slice of the market, however the Santa Fe is competent enough in a softroad environment. Its main entrance would appear to be the family mover, with weekend taxi duties admirably dealt with by the addition of the folding rear seats. Towing capacity is 2000kg (braked) and with a 70L tank, running at a combined economy figure of 6.3L/100km (9.4L in an urban environment), the diesel sips pretty well.
Priced well against competitors such as the Kia Sportage/Sorento, Captiva 7 and Ford’s Territory, Hyundai, with its rebirth of recent years, has got many worthwhile miles from the competent AWD and with the new model due in Australia by year’s end, will be no doubt pushing the road to Santa Fe.