The fourth-generation Santa Fe by Hyundai has had a makeover that impresses on all counts

SINGAPORE (Mar 11): While sport utility vehicles are becoming more luxurious and comfortable inside, they are also getting bigger. The current trend is to pack as many seats into the car as possible to appeal to those with big families. This has created a niche for seven-seater SUVs. Of course, this does not mean you can easily get seven adults in the car and treat it like a minibus. The back-row seats are normally designed with children in mind and, at times, are simply folded down to create more boot space.

Not one to miss a trick, Hyundai caters to large and extended families with the Santa Fe. In fact, this seven-seater from the Korean carmaker was first launched in 2001 before SUVs really took off. From those humble beginnings, new generations were launched every five to six years and now the fourth generation has arrived. I was fortunate enough to meet one hardcore Hyundai Santa Fe owner in his late 60s who has stuck with the model for almost two decades and owned all four generations. He loves the huge cabin for ferrying his grandchildren around as well as the ample boot space for his tools and equipment.

With its level of tech and equipment, the Santa Fe is equally impressive inside


Hyundai Santa Fe 2.4 GLS
$167,999 including COE
Engine: 2,359cc four-cylinder in-line 16-valve
Power/torque: 182bhp/238Nm
Fuel consumption: 9.8l/100km
0 to 100kph: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 195kph


There is a handful of seven-seaters on our roads, including Audi (Q7), BMW (X5), Land Rover (Discovery) and Volvo (XC90). These are all big cars and you will not miss them on the roads and in the parking lot. It is no surprise then that the Santa Fe is also a big car in appearance. The challenge for car designers is to make SUVs look less tank-like and more sleek and sporty. So, the fourth-generation Santa Fe has had a slight redesign to smooth out its shape and make it more pleasing on the eye. The third generation was not exactly an ugly duckling and had a pretty sleek outline, but the redesign further improves this latest edition.

A newly designed grille takes centre stage at the front of the car, which gently tapers off with athletic curves starting from the front bumpers all the way to the rear. This gives it an athletic look that means business. One of the joys of driving big SUVs is that people more frequently give way to you when changing lanes in traffic jams. And when the car looks as menacing as the Santa Fe, you acquire even more road presence. There are a few variants on offer and I test-drove the 2.4l petrol engine, which is powerful enough to move the Santa Fe’s big frame smoothly along the tarmac.

Having recently test-driven the smaller Hyundai Tucson, I was really impressed by the level of technology inside a mid-market car with a modest price tag. The Santa Fe is equally impressive inside with its level of tech and equipment. The centrepiece is the seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system, which would not look out of place in a much pricier German luxury car. Also on the list of smart tech is Bluetooth connectivity and electric seats with memory and ventilation functions.

This new Santa Fe is packed with safety technology as well. Along with must-haves such as the blind spot warning and reversing sensors, it has a couple of features I have seen nowhere else. There is a smart sensor that prevents the rear doors from opening if the car detects oncoming traffic. This is an intelligent safety lock that could be very welcome to parents with young children. It actually activated itself when my son was in the back seat and I had parked in a busy car park.

If that wasn’t smart enough, the Santa Fe also has a feature that sounds off the alarm if movements in the car are made once you’ve locked the car. This is designed for forgetful parents who may have walked off without taking the baby or a family pet with them. You may laugh, but in this day and age when we are glued to our phones and so easily distracted, it could come in useful. All this cutting-edge technology has not pushed up the price tag of the Santa Fe, which comes in at a very value-for-money $167,999.

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast

This article appeared in Issue 872 (Mar 11) of The Edge Singapore.

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