IN a perfect world, a family sport utility vehicle (SUV) is safe, practical, spacious and is good value for money.
But the truth is, we are living in a flawed world and we cannot have energy, money and time all at the same time. Such is usually the case with products, as they can be compromised.
As for the new Hyundai Santa Fe, how close can it get to being the perfect family SUV? This Santa Fe is the 2.4 MPI Premium, one of the four trims launched earlier this year.
There were two engine options offered - the 2.4-litre MPI petrol engine and the 2.2-litre CRDI turbo diesel engine, each with Executive and Premium guises.
The 2.4-litre engine is good for 172hp at 6,000rpm and 225Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. Prices for the Santa Fe range from RM169,888 for the 2.4 MPI Executive to RM211,888 for the 2.2 CRDI Premium.
The petrol models are equipped with a six-speed automatic with front-wheel drive while the turbo diesel ones are somewhat heavier duty, fitted with an eight-speed automatic with Hyundai’s Active On-Demand 4WD (HTRAC).
The styling of the new Hyundai Santa Fe can be a little unconventional from certain points, particularly the outrageous front fascia. But I kind of like it.
I like how the LED daytime-running lights (DRL) are separated with the main headlights, the former being at the top section of the front fascia and the latter is positioned where the fog lights are usually positioned.
When I saw the DRLs, I initially thought they were going to double as the headlights.
Not only are the main LED headlights positioned on the lower cluster, even the high beams are from the same section, sitting just above the main beam. Further down sits the turn/signal lights. It sounded kind of busy but trust me, it is not.
Oh, and this whole front fascia design is almost similar to that on the Kona, Hyundai’s smaller SUV that is also available as a hybrid and electric vehicle (EV).
On to the side and the rear, the design got more and more conventional but is still fresh.
The Premium model rolls on 19-inch wheels, and the tail lights are also LED units.
There is really nothing to complain about in relation to the cockpit of the Santa. It is solidly built, felt plush enough as a D-segment SUV and is decently-equipped.
The floating-type seven-inch touchscreen head unit supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto across the range, which is highly handy considering you will most likely be carrying the whole family in the car.
The seats can be had in either black or burgundy leather upholstery (this car gets the black one) and it was really comfortable yet supportive.
Both front seats are also electrically-powered, and there’s a kind of “boss button” on the side of the front passenger seat for the second row passenger to move it forward, similarly found on large and premium sedans.
I am not sure if an SUV like the Santa Fe needs it, but it’s there.
Now onto the key part, second- and third-row practicality.
The second row seats are of 40:20:40 split and the third row is 50:50. All seats get individual three-point seatbelts, of course. There is no individual seatbelt reminder but the Rear Occupant Alert (ROA) will alert the owner when he/she is about to lock the car from the outside when there’s still someone inside the car (Premium variant only). A nice touch.
USB ports? Two at the front and two at the second row, but none in the third row.
Getting in and out of the third row seats was okay. The rear doors have large openings but the access by folding the second row seats could be better.
The third row seats do not feel claustrophobic at all even though the side windows are not the biggest compared to its rivals such as the Kia Sorento and Mazda CX-8.
Safety wise, the Santa Fe is equipped with six airbags, downhill brake control, hill-start assist control, vehicle stability management, blind spot collision warning and rear cross traffic collision warning on top of the usual kits.
Manoeuvring the Santa Fe around congested area took time to get used to because of the size.
However, visibility out of the car was quite good and once you are acquainted with the dimensions, driving is a breeze.
On the move, the Hyundai Santa Fe was buttery smooth and behaved as such due to the linear 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated engine, smooth transmission and the fact that it weighed more than 1,700kg.
It could get up to serious speed but it was expectedly not quick.
Even so, once you got the momentum, the Santa Fe hugged high-speed corners excellently.
The Continental ContiSportContact tyres were quiet and provided a decent amount of grip.
As with other recent Hyundai models, the steering could be pretty numb and had an inconsistent feel along the turns.
On the bright side, it made driving the Santa Fe on long distance trips a more pleasant experience for the driver.
In terms of fuel consumption, it was not excellent but at nine to 12km per litre, it was not bad.
Of course, the fuel expenditure will become worthy when you haul everyone for a road trip.
The Santa Fe to me is a crucial model for Hyundai, at least in Malaysia. This is because it has more values from the package that it offers.
Yes, the Toyota Harrier and the Mazda CX-8 as well as CX-9 are fine drives, but the Santa Fe is just as comfortable and practical, and more importantly way more affordable.
Its mechanical twin, the Kia Sorento, has a solid and more traditional look while the Santa Fe will appeal to those who dare to be different.