Published on July 25th, 2019 | by Amirul Mukminin


Hyundai Santa Fe Tested in the Philippines: Sharp Looks and Much More

The past few years have seen SUVs becoming the vehicle of choice for many customers and frankly it is not hard to understand the appeal that this type of vehicle has. For starters, they generally look muscular while the higher ride and bigger tyres give the perception that they are robust and built to take a lot of beating, which is a plus especially in this part of the world.

While it is not as big as the American market, the Asean SUV market is still hotly contested by a number of big brands from all over the world. Hyundai is one of said brands competing in the segment, offering the Tucson and the Santa Fe in the Malaysian market under Hyundai-Sime Darby Motor as the official distributor.

We had the opportunity to sample the latter months before its arrival in Malaysia. The location was Subic Bay, which is on the west coast of the island of Luzon in the Philippines. It is a left hand driving country but the combination of different types of roads with lush green hills as the backdrop somewhat made the place felt a little bit like home.

Now in its fourth generation, the Santa Fe (codenamed TM) has a lot to do to entice the SUV-buying crowd. This begins with design and in that department, Hyundai seems to have achieved the aim in taking the Santa Fe’s already keen look up a notch thanks to its new design language.

The sharp daytime running lights, the main headlamps underneath as well as the new Cascading grille all contribute to giving the Santa Fe a handsome face, while cool graphics in the tail lights add a touch of opulence to the overall design.

If the exterior catches your attention, the interior will show how far the company has progressed. The Santa Fe will definitely give its competitors a run for their money with its well-crafted dashboard and extensive use of high quality materials throughout the cabin. A few design details such as the diamond pattern on the passenger dashboard tray and speaker covers do help in giving the car a more premium feel.

Completing the stunning interior design is a host of new equipment to make driving a more enjoyable experience. For instance, the driver now gets to look at a seven-inch digital instrument panel that comes with Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart display modes. This instrument panel is not fully digital as the display is flanked by a pair of analogue gauges.

A floating-type screen measuring seven-inch positioned right on top of the centre air-conditioning vents provides access to the infotainment system, which now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is not the smoothest but it works and the layouts are simple enough. What it needs is better graphics to match the modern interior.

Those who have driven a three-row SUV might be used to their rear view mirror being blocked by the rear passengers. The Santa Fe easily solves this problem with its Rear View Monitor function which uses a rear camera to display the rear view when the vehicle is moving forward. This function doesn’t eliminate the use of the rear view mirror but it helps greatly in improving visibility.

The changes in the cabin go beyond aesthetics as the SUV also offers a bigger cabin space especially for the second- and third-row passengers thanks to its wheelbase which has grown by 65 mm. Not only that, getting to the third row seating can be done quite effortlessly through a one-touch button on the second-row seat. Adults could fit in the back but it won’t be long before he or she starts feeling confined.

We managed to drive two variants, namely the 2.2 CRDI turbodiesel and the top-ranging 3.5-liter MPI petrol. With 193 PS and 440 Nm of torque channelled to the wheels via an eight speed automatic transmission, the former displays a surefooted performance expected from a diesel mill. You don’t really have to work the accelerator pedal to get this one going, as plenty of torque is already available from 1,750 rpm.

Obviously the 3.5 MPI will not be offered in Malaysia but a short stint in that variant did provide a glimpse of how a naturally-aspirated V6 engine could benefit the Santa Fe. With 280 PS and 336 Nm of torque on tap, the SUV shows steady acceleration from start until it gets to a considerable speed. Though it is not as punchy as its diesel counterpart, the mill makes up with generous mid-range torque and the willingness to be pushed hard.

Instead of the old six-speed automatic transmission in the 2.4 Theta II variant (we didn’t get the chance to sample this), the 3.5 MPI gets a new eight speed automatic transmission to handle the output. It does so competently, shifting from one cog to another without much fuss.

Like the diesel, this variant comes with Hyundai’s HTRAC all-wheel drive system which manages the distribution of the output to all four wheels according to the drive mode selected. For instance, Sport splits the output 50:50 front-rear for better road hugging capability, while Comfort makes it front-biased. The driver gets to see how the torque is distributed through on the instrument panel.

For an SUV weighing almost two tonnes, the Santa Fe has the capability to carry its hefty body from one bend to another with minimal drama, with some help from HTRAC and the electric-assisted steering of course. Thinner A-pillars also helps in improving visibility, thus giving this writer added confidence to go a little faster while tackling a corner.

But what’s more impressive is the ride quality. The chassis is firm but surprisingly it doesn’t feel that way when the vehicle is driven bumpy and uneven road surfaces, which are not unusual on this island. Not only that, plush seats and a fairly quiet cabin make the Santa Fe a comfortable place to be in for all passengers. This is definitely a big plus especially on a long drive.

The Hyundai Santa Fe might not be the first name to cross your mind when you think of an SUV but if you are in the market for one, the Santa Fe is worth a look. The model is now available in Malaysia in 2.4 petrol and 2.2 diesel forms. Read more about it here.

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 CRDI Specifications
Engine: Inline four cylinder, turbodiesel
Transmission: 8-speed semi-automatic
Displacement: 2,199 cc
Power: 200 PS @ 3,800 rpm
Torque: 441 Nm @ 1,750 -2,750 rpm
0-100km/h: –
Top Speed; –
Selling Price: from RM191,888

Hyundai Santa Fe 3.5 MPI Specifications
Engine: naturally aspirated, V6 petrol
Transmission: 8-speed semi-automatic
Displacement: 3,470 cc
Power: 280 PS @ 6,300 rpm
Torque: 336 Nm @ 5,000 rpm
0-100km/h: –
Top Speed; –
Selling Price: –

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