When Hyundai went about developing the Santa Fe series II, they obviously had a problem. ‘How do you make NZ’s #1 selling large SUV even better?’ Was the opening gambit from the newly appointed Hyundai Technical Trainer Bevan Redpath ‘Subtlety is the Key’.
The overall look of the popular SUV is the same, as are the core mechanics (engine & transmission) but Bevan’s ‘Subtleties’ begin up front with the Grille it’s now more of a feature. The Xenon round Headlights have more of a shaped modern look as do the accentuated daytime running lamps and fog lights. The wing mirrors now have puddle lamps (no that‘s not to highlight puddles) and the range now has new alloy designs. Changes to the rear are a little harder to spot but include bumper, reflector and Euro sports styling on the exhaust tips – like I said, the changes to the outside seem minimal. You don’t need to take my word for it on any of this, book your own test drive here.
However, it’s what goes on behind the scenes that the Hyundai have really concentrated on. The technology that has been so well received in the Genesis has been adopted by the new Santa Fe. Depending on which model you opt for; the list is quite extensive so I’ll concentrate on the highlights.
The ride quality has been improved as has the NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness), essentially making the SUV quieter and smoother. Blind spot warning has been added to help you avoid those sneaky cars that hide between your rear and side view mirrors. Autonomous emergency braking, should a vehicle suddenly stop in front of you, this clever technology will bring the Santa Fe to a complete stop at speeds under 80kph (slow you down as best it can over 80kph). Advanced Smart Cruise Control will allow you to lock on to the car in front and will speed match it – the Santa Fe will automatically slow/speed up with the car in front. Smart park Assist – yes it will slot you into those parallel park spaces you can’t be bothered to squeeze in to. And last but not least the tailgate will open automatically if you stand near it for about 3 seconds – but strangely won’t close automatically. (Seems like a great idea when you need to get armfuls of groceries into the back without fumbling for the keys but take the same armfuls out and you’ll still need to find a way to close it – Ok I’m nitpicking)
In true ‘Get lost’ Hyundai style, our drive route for the day would take us to Whitford Farm, 2000 acres of what was once bush and flax swamps and is now prime farmland that runs beef cattle and sheep. We were going to let the Santa Fe lose in the wet fields and go to places that cell phone coverage wouldn’t dare to tread. The drive there gave us a good chance to experience the multiple road surfaces that NZ has on offer. Tarmac on the highway and side roads, followed by metal, grass and mud. Potholes, roadworks and tight turns, the majority of this was before we even got to the farm. For quite a large SUV, the Santa Fe handled the trek well and despite it raining and us riding on street rubber we managed to get to the remote part of the property unscathed. My phone registered zero bars, we were off the grid, however the Santa Fe’s Sat Nav didn’t skip a beat; it had us in a field nestled next to the coast without a road or street sign in sight – Good luck ‘getting lost with Hyundai’.
After a BBQ lunch, it was back on the road and a reverse of the same terrain, seems the Santa Fe lost none of its sure footedness during the break. We arrived back at Hyundai’s head office in one piece and I have to say that we put the SUV through way more than most owners would. The technology worked its magic in off road 4WD conditions and the electronics beeped and warned us in all the right places. The old adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ does come into play here but it seems that by taking the best bits out of their Genesis, Hyundai really have created quite a Santa Fe evolution.