Hyundai Motors India Limited (HMIL) is one of the few privileged names in Indian automobile industry that continuous to enjoy high brand loyalty among masses. Over the years even amidstrising cut and thrust of competition; Hyundai has not only successfully strengthened its strongholds like hatchback and sedan bastionsbut also successfully spread its wings across new segment territories. Of late successful launch of grand i10 and Xcent testifies how well this Korean manufacturer has come to grip with meeting expectations of much discerned Indian consumers’. After winning over customers in hatchback and compact sedan segments; Hyundainow seems all set to taste thepremium SUV slice of Indian market pie. In fact success at this pricier end of market has eludedHyundai for a long time. Despite of its repeated attempts to establish its credibility in SUV market, Hyundai achieved little success with all of its previous efforts bore little fruitin luring customers. Initially company tried its luck with rather a half-hearted effort; Tucson which was literally unbecoming of SUV. Stood on thin ice of unimaginative design and crude interiors;Tucson drew lot of flak with potential buyers rejecting it out rightly. Next in chain of efforts came original Santa Fe which was although a capable machine but lacked heavily on flair; an aspect of critical consideration for SUV customers’. Further its exorbitant price proved final nail in its coffin; thereby forcing Hyundai to retreat once again. Buteven after burning its fingers twice,it seems Hyundai hasn’t given upon its SUV ambition. Recently advent of all new 3rd generation of Santa Fein Indian market buttress the fact that still smitten by charm of SUV segment Hyundai is in no mood to call it a day.
Hoping to get lucky this time; Hyundai is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that this 3rd generation Santa Fe strikes responsive chord with Indian customers. Backed by highly touted claims of performance and efficiency that may even sound pompous, Hyundai has set the ball rolling with new Santa Fe staking its fresh claim on premium SUV segment currently ruled by Toyota Fortunner and to some extent by Ford Endeavour. So whether this time Hyundai will finally be able to break SUV jinx or not; we find through our extensive road test of all new 3rd generation Santa Fe.
Design has emerged as one of the critical success factors as in recent years as customers have become far more beauty conscious than these masses were used. With vehicles now seen more in light of individual’s personality extension than only merely being commuting medium, manufacturers have realized the importance of form factor. In the same vein, design of SUV must relate to macho and butch traits of personality as even a subtle hint of meekness could prove detrimental to overall success of SUV. Hyundai has already borne brunt of timid styling in past and fortunately this time company got styling aspect right with new Santa Fe. In fact we think on designing front, this Korean manufacturer has scored some brownie points by cunningly integrating opposite themes of sophistication and masculinity while outlining design of new Santa Fe. We think credit must be given to Hyundai designers for bringing these two rather opposite ends of dichotomous scale together amicably in their new offering.
At front large grill splashed by liberal quantity of chrome equips Santa Fe with bold and aggressive demeanour. Swept back pointed headlamps though feel a bit meek still make good symmetry with rather a large nose of SUV. There is nice detailing on bumper that along with design elements also houses strikingly good fog lamps now equipped with cornering function too. A black cladding runs all-around Santa Fe which also acts as scratch resistance in addition to endowing Santa Fe with some pure aesthetic value. Back to back running character lines and sharply kinked rear window add all necessary zing that a typical premium SUV customer expects from SUV. 18” alloy wheels handsomely fill beefy wheel arches though these arches are not as pronounced as we have witnessed in some of the other offerings.
Rear of Santa Fe has got its share of design attention too and unlike most of other SUVs’ which struggle to justify their stern; this Hyundai never feels jittery about its back. In fact Santa Fe is so confident about its rear that it could easily pull a fast one by disguising herself as Audi’s Q3 or Q5. One needs to have a keen eye to distinguish this Hyundai from Audi; at least when seen from a distance.Wrap around windscreen and strikingly good tail lamps lend very modern design air to Santa Fe. Plenty of nips and tucks at rear make Santa Fe look quite dynamic though an ounce of bulkiness also tries to sneak in though rear door.Further skid plate just below cladding complements overall SUV stance of Santa Fe; something that older version was heavily devoid of. Overall new Santa Fe certainly looks the part and although it comes with same wheelbase, this new generation is leaps and bounds ahead of outgoing model. The only fly in ointment is rather low ground clearance of 185 mmthis new version of Santa Fe comes with. In a stark contrast to 230 mm clearance of older version; Hyundai has lowered belly of new model by up to 45 mm which in turn is sure to restrict off-road ability of this new beast. On length front however new version gets some marginal increase although not something that is very perceptible even for hawk-eyed person.
Staking claim on premium SUV category with hefty price tag stretching up to Rs 30 lakh makes it nothing but mandatory for any manufacturer to equip its offering with all bells and whistles by offering laundry list of equipment. Hyundai is well versed with this fact, henceadorned Santa Fe with long list of equipment that is aimed to deliver high level of comfort and convenience to passengers. Even safety parameter has been covered comprehensively as there are innumerable provisions to safeguard occupants in case of any untoward incident.
Entry into Santa Fe cabin doesn’t require key as long as you have it within the vicinity of sensor detection area. Request sensor button and host of automatic operations activates like unfolding of wing mirrors, lightening of puddle lamp, front door handle lamp etc. This is indeed an impressive start to begin with especially after or at dusk.
Getting in and out issurprisingly easy as Santa Fe doesn’t require occupants to do acrobatics for their ingress-egress manoeuvres. Floor height is spot-on courtesy of monocoque chassis helping this brawny SUV to score extremely well on this opening bout. Dual-tone beige and brown colour scheme adopted by Hyundai feels fresh and complements multi-layered dash design.
Hyundai has used hexagonal theme for centre console that is flanked by equally dynamic air-con vents on both sides. Like other Hyundais’ material quality is of top-notch and fit-finish is absolutely flawless. Electrically assisted leather power steeringfeels featherweight in its operation and comes with host of mounted controls. Fabulously looking hooded dials of Santa Fe deserves special mention here as Hyundai seems to have taken a leaf out of Mercedes book to design these illuminated dials. There is laundry list of equipment on offer that include2-zone automatic climate control, separate vents for 2nd and 3rd row, rear parking camera and sensors, music system with USB and Aux-in, adaptable steering modes etc. though deletion of GPS and sun roof is quite surprising and a bit downer. On safety front 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, TCS, ESP and hill-hold are some of the prominent technologies customer can count on in case of any misfortune.
On space dimension, Santa Fe is mixed bag arousing bittersweet emotions simultaneously. First and second row of Santa Fe is supremely comfortable and sure to gratify its occupants. Driver seat features 12-way electrical adjustment though co-driveris deprived of any such convenience and has to adjust chair manually. Like the front row, second bench occupantscan also enjoy long journeys in utmost comfort as abundance of room and space is at their disposal. Not only this 2nd row bench offers good thigh support, its large reclining ability makes its quite flexible to adjustment for a wide range of conditions. Even three fully grown adults sitting on this 2nd row won’t grumble for any sort of inconvenience.
Move to 3rd row and cosy space feeling quickly converts to cramped claustrophobic impression. Sinking into 3rd row of Santa Fe is nowhere as pleasurable as experience of occupying the first two rows is. To start with, 3rd row is severely short on head and leg room though worst part is headroom which is virtually non-existent. Further the small glass area makes this congested feel even more claustrophobic and though sharp rising window sills look sportyfrom outside, these severely hampers overall space feel in third row. Even at its best, this 3rd bench seems to be fit only for small children and that’s too for a short city run around. And did we forget to mention the need to practice your athletic quotient as it’s sure to come handy while you try to clamber into and settle at stern of Santa Fe.
2nd row of Santa Fe comes with 40:20:40 split option while 3rd benchinherits flexibility of 50:50 split. With all rows up in arms there is hardly any trunk space left for luggage though with second and third row folded down, Santa Fe can easily gulp down litres of luggage easily. Hyundai engineers has concealed spare wheel neatly under the bodywhich is nice practical touch although it further compromises Santa Fe’s off-road credentials.
Heart Of Matter
Hyundai has carried over oil burner from older version as new Santa Fe features same 2.2-litre capacity motor under its hood. 4-cylinder arranged in in-line geometry displaces 2199 cubic capacity that works force in this work horse. Engine uses modern architecture of twin cam shafts mounted with total of 16 valves; 4 valves per cylinder to accomplish task of breathing in and out of fuel mixture and exhaust respectively. In terms of sheer volume Santa Fe lags behind the current segment king Toyota Fortunner with latter displacing 3.0-litre against 2.2-litre of former; still output figures of this Korean horse leads the segment standards. With power output of 195 PS@3800 rpm and humongous earth shaking torque of 436 Nm in range of 1800-2500 rpm, Santa Fe is leagues ahead of competition; especially in terms of rotating force.
In terms of transmission, Santa Fe comes with both manual and automatic transmission. 6-speed manual gear box is available only in 2WD version which is in fact stripped off version of fully loaded 4WD model. On other hand 4WD comes with 6-speed automatic transmission featuring regular P-R-N-D nomenclature in addition to featuring tip-tronic option for manual shifting. We expected Hyundai to provide paddle shifters especially considering hefty price tag Santa Fe comes with though company seems to differ with our point of view.
While settling behind driver seat of Santa Fe automatic, we find driving position a bit on lower side. After some height and steering adjustment, we unleashed beast through stop-start button located at dash. A shiver down our spine is all what announced the Santa Fe engine roaring to life. Like other Hyundai vehicles, this engine too is ridiculously refined. NVH levels are damned good and seem notches above the rivals’ shaky and noisy hearts.
Automatic transmission (AT) in Santa Fe uses torque-convertor theory to channelize the power to wheels. AT unit is quite responsive and even with slight dab on accelerator, Santa Fe lunges forward with alacrity. Up shifts comes early but in a smooth manner and Santa Fe really impresses us with its seamless jerk-free shifting ability. Most part of drive is smooth and devoid of any jolt; something we don’t come across very often in AT transmissions.
Now shift from sedate driving to enthusiastic one starts unravelling some weak points of this AT unit. Peddle to metal manoeuvre in Santa Fe doesn’t result in immediate surge as gearbox takes a bit to translate driver wish into real action. Still it is not very slow either as after delay of some seconds; Santa Fe quickly swings back into action. This is only weak point in this otherwise very competent and user-friendly engine-transmission package of Santa Fe. Brakes bite well and with all around disc option combined with host of other sophisticated braking technologies, Santa Fe owners can easily have every bit of confidence in braking ability of this chariot.
Rock & Roll
In terms of suspension hardware Santa Fe uses MacPherson strut up-front and multi-link at rear to suspend its wheels. 18” alloy wheels are shrouded with 235 mm of wide rubber endow Santa Fe with decent road gripping capability. Ride quality of SUV is very typical of Hyundai that features a rather soft suspension setting. Owing to its softly sprung nature, Santa Fe provides a very complaint ride city as it feels completely at home with most of road undulations. But then increase in whack start to unfold different story altogether as jerks starts filtering in the cabin that is sure to arouse some sense of bitterness. Further considerable vertical moment at times could further hamper comfort of rear occupants. This struggle of Santa Fe continuous before finally some relief comes as SUV approaches triple-digit speed mark.
On handling front, Santa Fe is quite an accomplished vehicle; especially when compared to ladder-on-frame vehicles like Fortunner, Endeavour etc.Unlike these vehicles, Santa Fe using monocoque chassis feels much more confident while going through steep curves and tackling corners. Of course one shouldn’t expect Swift like handling from this big brawny SUV with its rear often threaten to move out; still by segment standards it performs quite well.
Electronic power steering (EPS) unit of Santa Fe is absolutely lifeless; devoid of any feedback. Like all other Hyundai though it is very light which is quite a boon city driving, it robs driver of any kind of feedback or back communication. Further Hyundai has equipped the steering unit with flex steer ability that can alter steering weight according to option selected by user. Comfort, normal and Sport are the options one can choose from though difference in these different modes in real-world conditions is barely perceptible.
Pulling It Together
Santa Fe retail starts at Rs 25.08 lakh for 2WD manual variant and extends all the way up to Rs 29.30 lakh for fully loaded 4WD automatic version. At around hefty tag of around Rs 30 lakh, Santa Fe score poorly on value for money (VFM) aspect. Fortunately for customers of this premium SUV segment, VFM is not all that crucial consideration. Nonetheless wishing this high price away is not under control of even Hyundai as company is assembling this SUV from itscompletely knock down (CKD) kit. So it is all but expected to have high sticker price for this SUV. In contrast to its previous iteration, this new Santa Fe is leaps and bounds ahead in almost all crucial parameters; be it styling, interior or performance. This new version has got dynamic styling, sophisticated interiors, powerful oil-burner mated with equally competent automatic gearbox and rather good overall dynamic sense. The only downside of this newer version is its low ground clearance that is sure to limit its off-roading ability. Overall new Santa Fe is a commendable offering though real challenge before Hyundai is to convince customers to cough up such an exorbitant amount for its badge. Overcoming the brand perception of mass-manufacturer holds the key of success for Santa Fe. If Hyundai successfully humbles this uphill challenge, no other force can stop Santa Fe from becoming symbol of success.
Style& Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 4/5
Power& Transmission 3.5/5 Fuel Efficiency 3/5
Value for Money 3/5