Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors launched the all-new Santa Fe in May this year. The local line-up comes in a 2.4-litre petrol and 2.2-diesel engines with two variants of Executive and Premium. Visually, the exterior design is bold, athletic and has a wide stance. The front showcases Hyundai’s signature cascading grille and is complemented by the composite light – a mix of functional lamps at the front which includes LED DRLs, headlights and foglights. Look at the brand’s current SUVs – Kona, Nexo and Palisade, and the design language connects.
Move to the side and the sleek roof line and bold side character line runs from the headlights to the taillights to form a fluid design. The rear lights are LED brake units and sport a 3D graphical look (akin to the navigational deflector on a Star Trek Enterprise ship). Separate from this is the reverse, signal and fog lights integrated in the rear bumper.
The model we reviewed is the 2.4-litre Theta II MPi Premium variant. It outputs 170 hp and 225 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm and is mated to a six-speed automatic, with power going to the front wheels. Unfortunately the local petrol units do not come with Hyundai’s variable AWD (HTRAC) system. The AWD system is only reserved for the diesel variants locally.
Inside, the Santa Fe is truly special. Hyundai has brought the latest generation to another level when it comes to refinement. For the front driver and passenger, the dashboard design has been sculpted to provide a dual cockpit layout.
The layered style wraps the door trim and upper dashboard together before it opens up to the central unit that connects the air vents, driver cluster and steering wheel. Premium materials of leather cover these parts while the pillar, sun visor and roof trims are wrapped in a stylish grey deluxe cloth.
For the unit tested, the one-tone black interior is garnished in a tactile metallic pattern trim. For owners, there’s a choice of a Black or Burgundy interior (optional extra) for the Premium variants.
When it comes to the feature list, there’s plenty to go by. The 7-inch infotainment unit has AUX, USB, Bluetooth with Voice Recognition and is also compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There are two 12W power sockets (one at the front console, and one in the luggage area), four USB A ports (two in the front, and two in the second row) and a Qi charger at the centre front cubby. As for comfort and driver assistance, there’s dual-zone air conditioning, auto lights and wipers, cruise control and the convenience of a one touch access to the third-row seats. The third-row passengers also have access to the button on the second row seat shoulder.
As for leg room on the second and third row, it can be comfortable for the two at the rear most with some allowance in the middle. We say that it is certainly better than other seven-seaters in the market.
Hyundai’s Smart Trunk feature is enabled here as well, and when locked, only requires the key to be nearby the trunk area for auto access.
The local spec cars also do get a good amount of standard safety – Six-airbags together with ESC, ABS, Downhill Brake Control, Hill-start Assist Control, Brake Assist Systems, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Management. The Premium variants add on Rear Occupant Alert, Blind Spot Warning, and Rear Cross Traffic Warning. What we think would be a great addition to this has to be the Safe Exit Assist for the rear doors, and of course autonomous emergency braking.
What’s it like to drive? Comfortable. The petrol variant has enough power for the standard day-to-day commute and even with a full passenger load of seven. The ride is nice is pliable without being too soft, and translates well inside the cabin.
Manoeuvring the Santa Fe is impressively sharp, allowing for almost anyone to place it well. This is thanks to the light steering and overall set up. Nonetheless, the latest generation has grown from its predecessor (80 mm longer, 10 mm wider and 65 mm longer wheelbase), and is undoubtedly a larger car. The bulk of it comes when you realise it takes up over the length and almost a full width of a standard parking lot. Yet with the driving aids of all round sensors and reverse camera, parking shouldn’t be too much of a daunting task.
How do we conclude? The new Santa Fe has been certainly a good experience for us. We can’t believe the lengths Hyundai has taken to insert that premium feel, but it has worked in leaps. The price of RM 189,888 for the Premium petrol puts this alongside other SUVs in the range, but very few are full fledged seven-seaters. Go ahead, check it out and take it for a drive. We’re quite certain you’d be amazed too.
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