HYUNDAI SANTA FE: customer feedback helps shape new model

In our house we know it as the car that Jim drives….

Hyundai has introduced the New Generation Santa Fe – one of the brand’s most iconic and popular models in the range.

The popular D-segment SUV has been re-styled outside and inside, fitted with intelligent new technology, and is now powered by a more efficient diesel engine with reduced CO2.

Since its launch in the UK in 2001, the Santa Fe has sold 37,500 units. 2011 was the second best year in terms of sales for the SUV in Britain with just over 4,200 sold – which equated to a third of European Santa Fe sales  for that year.

Tony Whitehorn, President and CEO, Hyundai Motor UK, said: “We know Santa Fe buyers are amongst our most loyal customers, and it is their feedback that has helped to shape the new model.”

It’s certainly a big so and so. Just try clearing the snow off the roof  before driving (and yes, it is something you’re supposed to do, those of you who don’t bother) and you’ll get my drift (!!) Or possibly not, as I’ll have cleared it off.

It’s a big, roomy vehicle, with loads of space up front and in the back, and there’s also that seven seat option, with two setas in the rear that fold flat to the floor when not in use.

The level of fit and finish in your average Hyundai just gets better and better. The interior is quite black in its use of plastics but it’s all decent quality and there’s a nice sweep to the dash in the way it forms the barrier between you and the glass.

The dashboard is populated by loads of buttons and switches – it’s like the flightdeck of the starship Enterprise with a decent centrally located screen housing all the sat nav info you need for your journey.

And there are 14 buttons on the steering wheel to keep you occupied when the motorway trip gets tedious….

The 2.2 diesel ambles along adequately on the motorway, smooth in use and ticking over at a shade over 2000rpm means the engine is in no way intrusive and even though the tyres are on the big side the Santa Fe does a good job in dumbing down road noise to the point you hardly notice that either. Its bucketloads of torque (422Nm) mean you’re hardly ever going to get caught out when you need a bit of swift acceleration to pass quickly and safely.

The engine has been worked to ensure significant improvements in fuel economy along with associated reductions in CO2 emissions. The 2WD version returns 47.9mpg on the combined cycle and emissions fall below the benchmark 160g/km level for the first time (155g/km). The 4WD manual Santa Fe has a combined fuel consumption figure of 46.3mpg and 159g/km.

A big tall car is obviously going to be a bit wallowy on a bumpy road but this is a car built for the comfort of the occupants, and one which gives everyone a good view of their surroundings. And it manages to retain a car like feel to the way it goes about its business, despite growing significantly from Santa Fes you might have seen on the roads in the past.

Three trim levels are available and there is still a choice of either five- or seven-seat configurations. Style variants gets 18-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door handles, body coloured door mirrors with integrated indicator lights, reverse parking sensors, daytime running lights, self-levelling suspension (seven-seat 4WD only) and a rear spoiler with high-mounted brake light. Inside, air conditioning is standard along with Bluetooth® connectivity with voice recognition, heated front seats, drivers seat electric lumbar support multi-function steering wheel and Hyundai’s adjustable Flex Steer™ system.

Premium mid-trim adds additional specification over the entry-level Style such as touchscreen satellite navigation, reverse parking camera with Parking Guidance System, electric folding door mirrors with puddle lamps, dual zone climate control, roof rails, chrome effect door handles and black leather seat trim.  Beige leather can be specified as an alternative at no additional cost.

Santa Fe is backed by Hyundai’s 5 Year Triple Care package, which means owners get a fully transferable five year unlimited mileage warranty, five years roadside assistance and five years free vehicle health checks.

There is indeed a lot to like about the Santa Fe, apart from possibly its name. It conjures up images of huge trains ploughing across the open prairies of America, but I guess it’s kind of apt as it went like a train during its time in our hands.

Hyundai’s engineers have tuned the New Generation Santa Fe’s suspension specifically for UK roads to ensure a refined ride. Dampers have been stiffened over the European set-up in order to cope with bumps and uneven road surfaces that are more common in the UK. We can all vouch for that.

You get an awful lot of bits and bobs for your money  – the only extra on our test car was pearl paint at £495, Arabian Mocha, and very nice too. So you’re not having to dig even deeper for things like rear park sensors, a rear view camera, self levelling suspension, touchscreen sat nav, a premium sound system and as many safety features as they can cram in. All there for your £30,195.

FASTFACTS: New Generation Hyundai Santa Fe Premium 4WD 7 seat 2.2 CRDi manual; £30,195; Euro-5 2199cc 4 cylinder DOHC, six speed manual gearbox; 194bhp, 422Nm; top speed 118mph, 0-62mph 9.8 secs; CO2 159g/km; Fuel – urban37.3, extra urban 54.3, combined 46.3; five year unlimited mileage warranty, five year roadside assistance, five years of annual vehicle health checks.

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