Riding the wave of changeBy Charles E. Buban |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Of course, not all SUVs are created equal. They come in all shapes and sizes, have different engine displacements, off-road capabilities as well as interior appointments. But now that “crossover” SUVs (those that have the attributes of an SUV but ride on a car-like platform) are a hit with the public, Hyundai, one of the leading car manufacturers in the country, wants us to take notice of how way different its latest crossover SUV is from the rest of its competitors.
So, is it actually possible to come up with an SUV that boasts of a smooth ride, powerful but fuel-efficient engine, first-rate interior materials, and an exterior that could “seduce” prospective male and female buyers?
The answer, I discovered last week, is yes. While most competitors seem hell-bent on creating crossover SUVs that focus on a particular buyer segment, Hyundai has decided to seek a broader market by adorning its third-generation Santa Fe with sleek and edgy musculature, excellent safety features, as well as with impeccable road manners.
The all-new Santa Fe shows how far Hyundai has come. Not long ago, the argument to purchase a Santa Fe—or any Hyundai, for that matter—centered entirely on its price tag.
Then came the Santa Fe that played a key role in Hyundai’s transformation to a brand that rivals the best from Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Ford and Chevrolet.
Joining a convoy of nine all-new Santa Fes—each fitted with Mont Blanc roof racks to carry a surfboard—our group of motoring journalists spent three days in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, in order to appreciate Hyundai’s latest offering in all its different facets.
Upscale, bold design
The all-new Santa Fe’s upscale, bold design is a big improvement from the bug-eyed look of the original Santa Fe or even from the more contemporary-looking second generation that was first introduced here in 2006.
The all-new Santa Fe easily holds its own visually against the current competitions thanks to its LED-accented, sweeping angular headlamps, more aggressive and large hexagonal grille, upswept bodyside lines, as well as boldly upswept C-pillar (the pillar that supports the back window and the rear part of the roof).
The cabin is well laid out with plenty of soft-touch materials. The instrument cluster is readable at a glance and the many controls on the steering wheel are all clearly labeled—no need for trial-and-error experiment just to figure out what functions they control.
All the three variants offered here in the Philippines—manual and automatic front-wheel drive, as well as automatic four-wheel drive—are powered by a 194-horsepower, 2.2-liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine mated to a 6-speed automatic or manual transmission.
Plenty of torque output
Over our high-speed mountain road test route, the all-new Santa Fe’s torque output of 422 Newton-meter delivered plenty of kick.
A true crossover, the all-new Santa Fe sits lower—18.5-centimeter ground clearance— than most of its competitors, offering a stable, planted ride and nimble moves.
While suspension setting (MacPherson struts in front and the multilinks) and steering calibration was spot-on, we also appreciated the fact that the all-new Santa Fe has three different selectable driver modes for its electric motor-driven power steering. Basically, each mode increases or decreases feedback by about 10 percent, hence from “Normal,” which is the default setting, one would find that steering feel in “Comfort” mode was a bit loose while significantly stiff in “Sport” mode.
During our drive, we also tried the all-new Santa Fe’s other standard safety features, including Hill Assist Control (prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards while negotiating steep uphill climb) and Downhill Brake Control (safely controls the speed and traction of the vehicle while descending steep or slippery downhill slope).
Moreover, according to the European New Car Assessment Program (Euro NCAP), an international independent vehicle assessment organization, the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe is the safest car in its class for 2012.
It got the best results in all test categories during the testing and became one of the safest cars ever tested by Euro NCAP after it scored 96 percent in the Adult Occupant Category (with the highest score in the side barrier test); 89 percent in Child Occupant Category; 86 percent in Safety Assist Category for its Electronic Stability Program, Vehicle Stability Management and other standard safety features; and 71 percent score in Pedestrian Safety Category for its Active Hood System.
“Moreover, this handsomely redesigned crossover SUV comes in a seven-passenger configuration (the third row can fold flat to allow more cargo room). But despite its size, even first-time buyers of this midsize crossover SUV would not be intimidated when parking or maneuvering,” said Hyundai Asia Resources Inc. (Hari) corporate planning and communications division SVP Rene Pizarro during a presentation held in the Dedon Island luxury resort.
If the all-new Santa Fe is any indication, Hyundai has, indeed, evolved to a point where it is known not only as a rival to established brands, but an equal. Thanks in part to the success of Santa Fe, Hyundai (along with its affiliate Kia) is now the world’s fifth largest automaker selling more than 7 million vehicles worldwide in 2012 (Hyundai sold 4.39 million vehicles).
According to Hari Brand activation department AVP Paeng Batuigas, last week’s activities in Siargao only highlight all the possibilities that await owners of the latest Santa Fe.
“If you’re like most families these days, you live, work and play in a lot of different places, the all-new Santa Fe is designed and engineered to take up to seven individuals on those everyday adventures that are anything but ordinary,” he said.