REVIEW | 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe has matured well

Like a fine wine, this popular Korean SUV keeps getting better with age, writes Bruce Fraser

03 June 2019 - 16:56 By Bruce Fraser
Hyundai's new 2019 Santa Fe.
Hyundai's new 2019 Santa Fe.
Image: Supplied

Over the past 12 months, Hyundai’s push into the SUV segment has been considerable.

The all-new Kona was introduced towards the end of last year, the Creta got a facelift, the ix35 was relaunched as the Tucson (again), and the fourth-generation Santa Fe arrived on our shores. Four vehicles, each with similar SUV/crossover tendencies, but targeting slightly different markets.

The Kona, with some rather quirky features, has positioned itself as a sub-compact crossover SUV and a rival to the Nissan Juke, whereas the Creta is slightly bigger and offers more practicality.

The Tucson, on the other hand, has been around since 2004 and has always firmly planted itself as a family mover. But if it's space you really crave, then perhaps the brand’s flagship Santa Fe is the vehicle you should be looking at.

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Available in three derivatives — Premium automatic (with front-wheel drive); Executive automatic (front-wheel drive); and Elite automatic (all-wheel drive) — it's the Elite model we recently had on test.

It’s hard to believe that the Santa Fe has been available in SA since 2005. Looking back over the years, it has matured like a good Sauvignon Blanc. Long gone is that rather uninspiring front grille and bland rear. Replacing those ungainly features is what Hyundai’s design chief Peter Schreyer refers to as the “brand ’s new design language”.

By that he is referring to a relatively wide stance, cascading grille, full LED headlights, sleek roofline and a choice of three wheel designs.

Step into the cabin of the Santa Fe and the first aspect that impresses is spaciousness. The ambience and quality of Hyundai interiors have come a long way from their early days, and the ability to pack their vehicles with a wide variety of standard features remains.

The rear hatch of the Santa Fe opens and closes automatically.
The rear hatch of the Santa Fe opens and closes automatically.
Image: Supplied

There's not much I can think of that can be added to an impressive list. You get a seven-inch TFT colour display, heated front seats with electrical adjustment, paddle shifts, push-button keyless start, folding mirrors, cruise control, leather seats and climate control. A navigation system is unfortunately not included.

While the huge sunroof does have an aesthetic appeal, it's no match for the harshness of the African sun, so the electrically driven screen normally remains in position.

Under the skin, there is a mixture of the “same old” and new technology. The new eight-speed auto box is smooth-shifting and there are few complaints in that department.

It is a pity though that there is only one engine derivative available - a 2.2-litre CRDi (143kW and 440Nm), which is a carry-over from the previous generation. Sold as a seven-seater, it is for all intents and purposes more a roomy five-seater. Figures supplied by the manufacturer indicate leg room in the second row has increased by 38mm, while headroom in the third row has been improved by 22mm compared to the previous generation.

A couple of the safety features I enjoyed in the Santa Fe — and these are standard on the Elite model — include the rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, which not only warns the driver of approaching vehicles but applies the brakes automatically. The safety exit assist also works well by preventing the rear doors from opening if a vehicle is approaching from behind - ideal for that dreaded school-run when you need eyes in the back of your head.

All derivatives of the Santa Fe also come with a comprehensive list of safety features such as ABS, ESP, hill assist and six airbags. The Elite model benefits from front and rear park assist. It all adds up to a five-star certification in the Euro NCAP crash test. 

The interior the Hyundai Santa Fe is comfortable and well-equipped.
The interior the Hyundai Santa Fe is comfortable and well-equipped.
Image: Supplied

The ride provided by the Santa Fe is perfectly acceptable. Being fitted with an electrically assisted steering system means the rather large vehicle is easy enough to manoeuvre and helps eliminate some of the concerns normally associated with a bulky vehicle.

Our test vehicle also came with the brand’s four-wheel drive system, called the HTRAC, with three available drive settings. It is fairly common technology where torque distribution and braking power of the front and rear wheels are operated independently.

Maybe in future we can put its capabilities to the test in a slightly more challenging environment, but this time around I had to make do with some gravel backroads in the Magaliesburg, where the Santa Fe felt completely comfortable and compliant.

Does the overall feel of the interior match that of rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery and the Audi Q5? Perhaps not, but the saving in the cost of features that are normally add-ons when it comes to its competitors, coupled with that excellent seven-year warranty and five-year service plan, certainly makes the Santa Fe appealing.

Pricing for the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is as follows:

  • Santa Fe R 2.2 Premium automatic: R599,900
  • 2.2 Executive automatic: R659,900
  • 2.2 Elite automatic: R749,900