The Hyundai Motor Group has stolen the thunder from other global carmakers where outstanding style is concerned, as proven by the awards and accolades won worldwide by the Hyundai Genesis, Sonata, Elantra and now the 2013 Santa Fe.
Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, the new Santa Fe is built on the same platform as the Kia Sorento. The design of the third generation Santa Fe, Hyundai’s midsize sport utility vehicle, is called “Storm Edge” marking the next evolution of Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture theme. Storm Edge is sharper and more confident than Fluidic Sculpture, yet its intrinsic elegance makes the new Santa Fe one of the best-looking SUVs in the world.
This is not to say that the Santa Fe is impressive only because of its futuristic elegance. Hyundai Motor has succeeded in matching style with good performance and driveability. Powered by an eerily quiet 2.2-liter twin cam, common rail direct injection (CRDi) diesel engine with eVGT (electronic Variable Geometry Turbocharger) mated to a 6-speed Hi-matic transmission, max output is rated at 194.30 hp/3800 rpm and torque peaks at 436 Nm/1800-2500 rpm.
Handling. For a turbo engine, the Santa Fe accelerates smoothly and for a midsize SUV, it handles well. The handling is neutral and balanced, the ride is comfortable and firm, not bouncy on uneven surfaces, there is a good, solid feel like a European vehicle with no interior rattling and no NVH (noise, vibration, harshness). Although the Santa Fe is not the flattest cornering crossover in its class, body lean around corners is never irritating. The 16-valve CRDi eVGT powerplant delivers steady response and tackles high elevations with no perception of lag or surge, thanks also to Hill Start Assist Control.
The Santa Fe is not a serious offroader, but the Traction Control System and Electronic Stability Program work well should you lose grip on a slippery road. Thanks to Downhill Brake Control, descending several thousand feet is surefooted and produces no brake fade. The large brakes (ventilated discs in front, solid discs at the rear) stop the Santa Fe for the shortest braking distance in its class. A MacPherson strut front suspension with an H-shaped subframe reduces NVH and improves front end stiffness while a multilink
arrangement brings up the rear.
The 2013 Santa Fe’s interior looks richer and more upmarket than the preceding model’s with upscale instrumentation under a curved binnacle, soft-touch surfaces and satin-chrome details. The premium GLS R-eVGT 4WD model (P2.228 million) I test-drove has leather seats, a panoramic glass roof, 19-inch alloy wheels and HID headlamps as standard equipment.
Spacious. The Santa Fe’s cabin is perhaps the most spacious in its class with three rows of seats: front bolster seats with electric 2-way lumber support for driver, a second row that folds 40/20/40 and slides or reclines to increase legroom and a third row, designed to accommodate children only, that splits/folds 50/50. The large, rectangular trunk offers enough room for four golf bags and luggage via its 527-liter capacity with all seats in place that expands to 1632 liters when the second- and third-row seats are folded. A cargo bin under the floor is handy for storing smaller items. Ample door and front seatback pockets, cup holders, 12-volt power sockets, a deep center console and glove box complete the interior picture.
The Flex Steer button on the steering wheel allows you to calibrate the electric power steering to Comfort, Normal or Sport in accordance with road, traffic and weather conditions as well as your mood, although there is basis to note that the steering is inconsistently weighted Other welcome conveniences are the Push Start System, an active ECO that lights up when you drive efficiently, electric-folding outside mirrors that fold automatically when you turn off the ignition, a cool box, cruise and remote audio controls on the steering wheel, a 7-inch TFT LCD color screen with reverse camera, audio and climate control displays and trip computer (trip distance, distance to empty, average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption, average speed, outside temperature), radio/CD with MP3, Bluetooth, USB, Aux input, four speakers and two tweeters, a dual air con system with cluster ionizer.
Safety. In other markets, the Santa Fe is sold with seven SRS airbags but here, to keep its price competitive (P1.368 million for the 2.4-liter 2WD petrol and P1.558 million for the 2.2-liter 2WD diesel), the number of airbags has been cut to two front ones. All variants are equipped with ABS with EBD, Electronic Stability Program, Smart Key (proximity key) locking system, cornering lamp, rear assist parking system, pretensioner, height-adjusted, load-limited 3-point ELR seatbelts, engine immobilizer and high mount stop lamp.
Bottom line, the third-generation Santa Fe is an impressive improvement over the outgoing model in terms of futuristic, elegant Storm Edge styling in and out, solid build quality, driveability and performance, on-road refinement, generous, flexible passenger and cargo space plus a splendid array of upscale, state-of-the-art amenities and conveniences. It could offer more linear acceleration and/or more steering and suspension feedback, but these shortcomings are overshadowed by its numerous attractive qualities.