Thursday 25 December 2014

Be good, for goodness sake: Santa Fe is coming to town!

Published 16/12/2012 | 06:00

I really don't think they had Christmas in mind when Hyundai named this the Santa Fe. Nonetheless, this Christmas Present version is a much different package than the ones of Christmas Past.

Thank God they stuck with the name because I am convinced people are confused by the increasing use of numbers in the names of cars – and not just Hyundai. Do you know what the i20 is? The i30? I do – because it is my business. But I am willing to bet the recognition factor among the general public isn't nearly so high.

For the record: the Santa Fe is a mid-size SUV/crossover. It is, in reality, a substantially larger motor than mid-size denotes. So much so that it can accommodate three rows of seats.

Alright, the final row is for small children, but you still get an idea of how roomy it is. And when we folded down those tiny-tot seats, there was a lot of room (yes, you've guessed it, more bags of turf from the cousin to the brother).

Thankfully, they've kept everything fairly straightforward. There is just the one 2.2-litre diesel engine. Take my word for it, though: this is not as frugal as they claim, with four-wheel drive, but it was a decent performer through the gears and cruising on the motorway it was a real improvement. The two-wheel-drive versions will do most people.

And the driver's seat was brilliant for my constant companion Mr Backache.

They've also kept instrumentation simple and packed in plenty of comfort, techno equipment and all that. The cabin is decently surrounded and bedecked with reasonable quality plastics and surfaces.

My test version (Executive) had leather seats and inserts. I wasn't mad about those cream/light brown inserts but, other than that, found it spacious and comfortable all round.

This used to be among the best-value SUVs on the road. Indeed it helped a lot to establish modern Hyundai here.

Correction: it used to be the best-priced. It is moving into a different territory, one where value counts and where, with its top-spec versions, it is not afraid to mention BMW and Audi targets. A bit to go, but faint heart never won fair buyer.

For those more at home with the entry-level offerings, I have to say this has a lot going for it. There are a few things I can specifically say rivals do better. But it looks as good as anything else, with the accepted quota of curve and lines.

More importantly, however, it packs in a decent quota of equipment. Which, in large measure, justifies the price.

I wouldn't rate it as 'car-like' as the Honda CR-V, because while it soaked up bumps well, it was a bit spongy on bends and corners. Nor as all-round appealing or gutsy as, say, the Audi Q5 or BMW X3 at the top end of the market. But it is a lot of car with a sturdiness that mixes well with its huge cabin. And, some reservations about handling aside, it was a big comfortable drive.

It also has the marque's Triple Care plan which includes a five-year unlimited-mileage warranty and five-year's roadside assistance – a huge plus in this day and age.

And that should get you through a good few Christmas futures without worrying too much.

Indo Motoring

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