finally launched the new Santa Fe
at the Auto Expo and with this ends a rather long wait for many waiting to get their hands on it. Yes, Hyundai
has taken its own sweet time to bring out the latest version of the Santa Fe, but the fact is that the Korean carmaker had a very strong reason to do so. Simply put, it was costs. The new Santa Fe will be assembled in India from CKD kits but this time around the SUV will use a lot of locally-sourced components. Still, the Santa Fe is not particularly cheap. Prices start at Rs 26.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the two-wheel drive manual, while the two-wheel drive automatic costs Rs 27.33 lakh and the four-wheel drive automatic version caps the range at Rs 29.25 lakh. So can Hyundai's new flagship in India justify it’s near- Rs 30 lakh price tag?
Well, it certainly looks the part. Marginally longer (though a good 45mm lower) than the outgoing Santa Fe, the new version has great presence. There's a healthy dose of chrome on Hyundai's trademark hexagonal grille, the swept-back headlight looks very modern and detailing on the bumper is nice too. Even in profile, the Santa Fe manages to hold your attention thanks to its bold shoulder line and interesting glasshouse. Rear styling is neat as well, with a smart cut that arcs across the tailgate. A closer inspection will also have your eyes lock on to the superb detailing on the headlights - the xenon units come lined with LED daytime running lamps. More than anything else, they give an idea of the generous level of standard equipment the Santa Fe comes with. More on that in a bit.
Open the doors, and you are greeted by a genuinely luxurious cabin. There's a very pleasing mix of beige and brown plastics that contrast well with the silver accents in the cabin. Even small things like the fine stitching on the seats make this cabin comparable to a German car's. It betters the Honda CR-V on this front and is miles ahead of the Toyota Fortuner that will be its chief competitor. The dashboard is attractive but the touchscreen for the audio system is small. It's not only well styled, it’s a well thought out cabin too. The front seats offer good support while middle row passengers will love the space and comfort on offer. Access to the third row is not all that convenient because the middle seat only slides forward and cannot be flipped forward to ensure easy entry. But once settled in, it is at par with the best seven seaters. There is decent space but, as in other SUVs, it’s not a place you'd like to spend extended periods of time. However, what adds a great deal of versatility to the Santa Fe is that the last row seats fold flat, in addition to which the middle row splits 40:20:40 to maximise luggage space. But perhaps more than this, buyers will be interested in the long list of features standard on the Santa Fe. In addition to the xenon headlamps and touchscreen interface mentioned above, the Santa Fe gets dual zone climate control, air-con vents for all three rows, push-button start, cruise control, a rear view camera and 6 airbags (2 on the 4x2 models).
The driver's seat also gets 12-way powered adjust but curiously the front passenger's seat only allows for manual adjustment. The passenger's seat does without height adjust altogether and this makes it difficult for shorter passengers to get a good view of the road ahead. There's no sunroof on any version either.
The new Santa Fe may look very different from its predecessor but it uses the same 194bhp, 2.2-litre CRDi engine as the earlier car. Also as before, the engine is one of the strengths of the package. It's fairly quiet, responsive and offers good performance too. There's a nice surge of power as you keep the throttle pressed which helps when you want to overtake on the highway. We drove the 6-speed automatic-equipped Santa Fe and found it responsive enough for typical use. However, the gearbox has a tendency to upshift early so it's best to switch to manual mode on a twisty road.
It's also on twisty roads that you'd wish the Santa Fe's steering offered more feel. The steering comes with three modes to alter its weight - even in Sport mode there's a vagueness in the straight-ahead position and inconsistency in the way the steering piles on lock. Comfort mode is light and best suited to city use. Within the city, the Sante Fe does well to iron out the bumps. Even high speed stability is very good though the softly-sprung Santa Fe does tend to bounce (especially at the rear) and also tends to roll a fair bit when driven fast. What's nice is that save for some tyre noise, the cabin is well insulated from the happenings outside and this (combined with the powerful engine) really helps make the Santa Fe a great cruiser.
On the whole, the Santa Fe doesn't have much to offer enthusiasts but it makes a great choice as a family car. And thanks to the excellent space and good seats, you wouldn't mind being chauffeured in one either. It's got loads of kit too and does look rather special. But it may not be smooth sailing for the Santa Fe in India though it is high on features and equipment, it is pricier than what most people expected it to be. As a result, Hyundai might have a tough time trying to convince buyers to pay so much for its SUV at a time when you could have an Audi Q3 S for similar money. Truly, if there is one thing that stands in the way of the Santa Fe, it's got to be the badge.