‘Its unconvincing and perhaps anonymous looks put me off’, was the reply I received from a Toyota Fortuner owner when I asked him why he did not choose the Hyundai Santa Fe instead. He may have been right, the Santa Fe failed to impress many potential buyers with its, frankly put, bland looks. At the time, the Toyota Fortuner had released its 4X2 Automatic version as well, and had tried to replicate the brute force Toyota attempt to add to all their SUV’s. The Chevrolet Captiva had announced a more American-looking version that had won over some of the Fortuner’s market, and the Pajero Sport (I personally despise its walrus-like looks) had carved out a small market share as well. Well, enough was enough, Hyundai had to react. And boy did they do so.
While many fans of the Santa Fe, like myself, would argue that the Santa Fe was the driver’s car in its segment, and possess the best off-road capabilities, the fact of the matter remains that it was a Hyundai car costing nearly Rs. 25 lakh, and seemed to have little road presence. Changing that it would seem, will make it a real winner. Hyundai responded by introducing the international version of the Santa Fe in India at the 2014 Auto-Expo, where the Santa Fe gained many plaudits. The break down of the chhanges has been given below:
1. THE LOOKS
Hyundai have made the new car longer and slightly narrower, adding more legspace, but compromising a little bit on last-row comfort. The biggest change is the all new grille, which is a wide hexagonal shaped block that mixes well with the narrower headlamps and bolder fog lamps to give the Santa Fe very menacing looks. It’s safe to say the ‘anonymous looks’ have gone.
2. THE ENGINE
The previously used 2.2L Diesel is carried over from the previous version. It still remains the most powerful engine in its class with 194BHP and 436Nm of torque. It goes to show how advanced the previous version was.
3. THE DRIVING DYNAMICS
While the same engine is carried over, the new car is 125 kg lighter which means it can hit 100km/h in 9.8 seconds. The off-roading ability was good in the previous version as well, but is now made better with chunkier 18-inch alloys absorbing more bumps, and the manual override to switch to full-time 4-wheel-drive being a lot easier as well. This makes it a clear winner in this segment.
4. THE GEARBOX
While the Fortuner is still sticking to its 5M (5 Speed Manual) and 4A (4 Speed Auto) gearbox, the Santa Fe has a 6 Gear transmission for both variants, manual and automatic. That does mean that it gets its power down a lot easier, starting as low as 1800 RPM, and also gives better fuel efficiency, 13 km/l to be precise. However, the lack of paddle-shifters does show on such an exquisite car. That would have enhanced the user-friendliness of the car and made it more fun to drive. (Point to be noted Hyundai.)
5. THE PRICE
One area where the Santa FE does tend to lose out is the price. With all the new features, the bolder design, and changes in the 4WD system, you will have to spend an additional 3-4 lakh. This does take the price of the top model beyond the Rs. 30 lakh mark. But given that you do get more for your money than you would if you were to buy a sedan for the same price.
I’ve always liked the Santa Fe. But for me, driving dynamics tend to speak more than looks. The new model however, has put the Santa Fe right up their with the Toyota Fortuner. Hyundai has prepped the stage for their SUV to rule the segment. To summarize, it looks better, drives better, doesn’t complain when it goes off road, and has a better gearbox than most in its class. It maybe a little pricier, but it does make up where the rivals fall short. Chrome detailing inside and outside also increase its visual appeal.
For a car fanatic like me, it does represent what is good about this segment- power, looks, off-roading- all at half the price of a Land Rover.
*Credits: Topgear Magazine India