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The fourth generation of Hyundai’s globally best-selling SUV has arrived in South Africa. Can it finally charm its way into local consumers’ hearts?

An inspired move to expand its penetration into global markets, Hyundai’s decision to shed the original Hyundai Santa Fe’s ladder-frame underpinnings in favour of an altogether more refined (read: on-road biased) architecture for its third-generation model did little to sway favour in an adventure-inclined South African market all too keen on rugged rivals such as the Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest. Despite its sleek European styling, upmarket interior and favourable reviews (we praised the 2,2 CRDi 4x4 Elite in a March 2013 road test), our market’s penchant for bakkie-based SUVs remained firmly intrenched.

Like many on our team, Hyundai SA stands by its view that the local buyer is missing out on a more refined large-SUV experience by not casting their search-engine net wider. To this end – and arriving on the back of impressive monthly sales of the Tucson – the fourth-generation Santa Fe aims to make inroads into this lucrative local segment.

Built on a newer platform than its Kia Sorento cousin, the freshest Hyundai SUV dates its company cousin further in the styling department. Where the recently updated (third-generation) Kia hides its seven-seat bulk behind conservative lines tending to blend into the traffic, the Santa Fe announces its presence via a bold interpretation of the Cascading Grille/Composite Light design language first seen on the Kona.

Seventy millimetres longer and 10 mm wider, the new Santa Fe also boasts a 65 mm stretch in wheelbase compared with the model it replaces. While corresponding shorter overhangs front and rear help to manage exterior proportions, the real-world benefits of these new dimensions can be found in a cabin offering an increased level of space and comfort, predominantly for rear-seat occupants.

Standard throughout the new three-model range, a 50:50-split third row of seats stows flush in the luggage compartment. Accessed via a logical tip-and-tumble function on the second row, accommodation in the rearmost seats is improved thanks to increased leg- and headroom, as well as more generous views. We noted an increase in the amount to packing space aft of these installed seats (up from 96 litres).

As before, the second row can be adjusted fore and aft in a 60:40-split to boost either legroom or luggage/utility space. With the previous generation praised for its build quality, the fourth iteration raises this bar once more. From comfortable leather-clad seating to nicely weighted switchgear, a wide variety of storage options and many nice-to-touch surfaces, there’s a lot to like about the interior of the new Santa Fe.

A glance below the glossy surface of this entry-level model does reveal some cost-sensitive compromises in terms of specification, however.

At this elevated price point, the absence of keyless entry and a powered driver’s seat is a tad disappointing, especially in the shadow of the more keenly priced and better specced Sorento. On the topic of spec, we’d go so far as to suggest Hyundai’s decision to reserve its most up-to-date safety features (including a system which keeps the rear doors locked should it sense oncoming traffic) exclusively for the most expensive model is a tad short-sighted.

Of the updates that the new generation Santa Fe receives, a full-colour seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display shared with European models is most welcome. While the absence of satellite navigation in even the top specification disappoints, the ability of this system to mirror a mobile phone goes some way towards compensating.

While the aforementioned Elite model features an AWD powertrain, the two lesser derivatives have their 142 kW and 440 N.m of torque delivered from the familiar 2,2-litre turbodiesel to the front wheels via a new A8LR1 eight-speed automatic transmission. Fitted within this Premium model’s 1 808 kg frame, it’s a drivetrain delivering steady punch.

If there is a notable difference between this application and the identical one tested in the Kia Grand Sedona last month, it’s that a likely lighter lick of sound-deadening materials present in the Hyundai allows more engine noise into the cabin. That said, like the Kia, we’d expect the Santa Fe’s consumption to average just below 8,0 L/100 km (our standout 6,6 L/100 km fuel-route figure was recorded in especially favourable conditions).

On-road, the combination of 18-inch alloys and a responsive rack-mounted electric power-steering system makes the Santa Fe feel much sportier and, indeed, planted than its similarly specced Sorento cousin.
CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – It's been seventeen years since the local launch of the first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe. Since then, of course, the needs and desires of the typical SUV buyer have evolved considerably and today the competition is particularly fierce. Now, Hyundai Automotive South Africa is looking to claim a heftier slice of the sales pie, having sold some 5 331 units (with the second-gen model interestingly proving the most popular) since the Santa Fe's local introduction in 2001.

Hyundai SA tells us it did some serious homework on local competitors before introducing this fourth-generation Santa Fe, and after our first drive on local soil, it certainly looks as though this seven-seater Korean SUV has much to offer. Indeed, this base-spec Premium derivative kicks off the range at R599 900 and offers a long list of standard features (but more on that later).

Let's first look at some of the key alterations made over the previous model. The exterior adopts a far bolder design, sharing some key styling elements with its smaller SUV sibling, the recently launched Kona. Indeed, much like the latter, the LED daytime running lights are positioned above the headlamps. At a glance, these narrow light clusters could easily be mistaken for the headlamps, which in this model, are halogen units incorporated into the front bumper, flanking a large new black honeycomb grille. Towards the rear you’ll find a subtle tailgate spoiler, a reversing camera, park distance control and (legitimate) twin-exhaust exits.


Now with the body measuring some 70 mm longer and 10 mm wider, along with a wheelbase increase of 65 mm, it's clear Hyundai made improving interior space a priority. Step inside and front passengers are greeted by large, manually adjustable seats offering both sturdy support and high levels of comfort. The quilted-and-stitched leather upholstery is a neat addition, providing this base model's interior with a welcome premium ambience (alongside the well-padded, ash-coloured rooflining similar to that found on the interior of the trendy Peugeot 3008).

The multi-function leather-wrapped tiller is a pleasure to grip and the uncluttered analogue instrument cluster is easily legible. Having driven both the entry-level Premium and the range-topping Elite variants on the launch, I preferred the analogue arrangement in the Premium as opposed to the half-digital, half-analogue set-up in the flagship.


While hardly any brittle plastics are found on often-handled areas of the cabin, if you look hard enough you'll find a few scratchy bits. That said, the facia is topped by a soft-touch slush-moulded surface (with matching stitched pinstripes), while a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system identical to that found in the Tucson is mounted centrally. While the system does not offer built-in navigation, it does provide both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality as alternatives. Dual-zone climate control and an air-conditioned glove box are standard in the cabin, too.


An impressive claimed legroom measurement of 1 001 mm is quoted for second-row passengers. For reference, the burly Nissan Patrol was measured to offer 808 mm of second-row legroom in our road-test earlier in 2018. There are two rear-sited USB charging ports back there too, aiding in the avoidance of increasingly common arguments between passengers jostling to charge their devices.

Move past the second row, and you’ll find a set of extra perches folded flat into the boot floor (all Santa Fe models now come with seven seats). These chairs are suitable enough for adults over short distances, and at 179 cm I managed to squeeze myself in with relative ease, discovering sufficient head- and knee-room. Some 130 litres of packing space is offered with the third row up and a handy 516 litres with the seats neatly stowed.


Underneath the revised body shell rests the same 2,2-litre turbodiesel mill that did service in the previous generation. Generating 142 kW at 3 800 r/min and 440 N.m between 1 750 and 2 750 r/min, the familiar engine is now mated to a new eight-speed automatic torque-converter (developed and manufactured in-house by Hyundai), adding two extra cogs over the outgoing model. With the standard cruise control set to the national speed limit and the tachometer registering just under 2 000 r/min, the engine handily settles into its peak torque band in top gear. The gearbox is smooth in its operation and is calibrated to use the available torque rather than kicking down to a lower gear when opening the throttle to overtake. Send your right foot into the carpet, however, and the gearbox reacts quickly enough, even if it lacks the response of the transmission used in, say, the BMW X3.


The Santa Fe is an effortless cruiser and now with added underfloor insulation, it’s suitably refined even over rutted gravel surfaces. Indeed, the underpinnings and suspension set-up deliver a well-cushioned and controlled ride, despite the dual-tone 18-inch alloys being shod in low-profile Continental ContiSport Contact5 rubber (the latter coped admirably on sinkplaat and rock-ridden sections of our route).


But it's on the blacktop where the Santa Fe excels, with NVH levels well suppressed out on the open road. The electric power steering should get a special mention here, since the systems used in many Korean cars are over-assisted and inert. But the new model's steering is well weighted and provides an appreciated degree of feedback even in comfort mode, giving the driver a fair idea as to what the front wheels are doing.


With a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating to its name, Hyundai claims the new Santa Fe boasts a 15,4 percent increase in torsional rigidity compared with the old vehicle. ABS with EBD, ESC and other safety initialisms come standard, along with six airbags. For further peace of mind, a class-leading seven-year/ 200 000 km warranty and a five-year/ 90 000 km service plan ship standard.


At R599 900, this model offers decent value for money, but faces strong competition from both unibody rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Kia Sorento and Land Rover Discovery Sport; and bakkie-based models like the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest (not to mention flagship versions of smaller five-seater rivals such as the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5).

On first impressions, though, this Santa Fe certainly lives up to its Premium nomenclature, offering a great deal of standard specification despite its positioning as the entry-level derivative. It deserves to sell well on local shores and should help Hyundai SA grab an even broader slice of the seemingly ever-growing crossover sales pie.

Full Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 7
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Hill descent control downhill brake control: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 821 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 235/60 R18
  • Reartyres: 235/60 R18
  • Length: 4770 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1647-1890 mm
  • Height: 1705 mm
  • Wheel base: 2765 mm
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1805 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 64l
  • Fuel consumption average: 7.8 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 200g/km
  • Power maximum: 142 kW
  • Power maximum total: 142 kW
  • Power peak revs: 3800 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 84.2 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 440 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1750-2750 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 440 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 244 Nm/ton
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 2199 cc
  • Engine size: 2.2l
  • enginedetailshort: 2.2TD
  • Engine + detail: 2.2 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 5 vehicle / 7 drivetrain
  • Warranty distance (km): 150000 vehicle / 200000 drivetrain km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 5
  • Service plan time (distance): 90000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 5
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Brand: Hyundai
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 26572261
  • MMVariant: SANTE-FE R2.2 PREMIUM A/T (7 SEAT)
  • MMintrodat: 2018-09-26
  • Introdate: 2018-11-15
  • DuoportarecordID: HyunSant4e1

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