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Does Hyundai's latest offering Santa Fe have what it takes? Find out

The spanking new, feature-laden Santa Fe is the most expensive car from Hyundai in India yet. Amit Chhangani drives it in Kochi to see whether it has the gear to justify the lofty price tag

The big Santa Fe is meant to be Hyundai’s flagship model, and more than making monetary gains for the brand, it is meant to showcase what the Korean carmaker is capable of with regards to design, engineering and technology. It’s an air-superiority fighter, if you will, under the aegis of which the smaller dogfighters will take the battle to the enemy.

Santa Fe

To look sharp, modern and compact is Santa Fe’s central brief. It features sharply styled front Xenons with LED pilot lamps and full LED tail lamps.

The two-tone, brown-beige dashboard looks good. There is some resemblance with the Elantra sedan’s interior here. Steering wheel boasts of mounted controls for many functions. The audio unit features a touch-screen panel, and the A/C is a dual-zone fully automatic unit
The two-tone, brown-beige dashboard looks good. There is some resemblance with the Elantra sedan’s interior here. Steering wheel boasts of mounted controls for many functions. The audio unit features a touch-screen panel, and the A/C is a dual-zone fully automatic unit 

This, along with a prominent, tight crease in profile, upswept, tapering rear window and a dropping roofline, lends the Santa Fe a dynamic, sporty look, despite its big size — quite a feat, that, for a big SUV.

The six-speed automatic transmission has a mild lag, but doesn’t give you a reason to complain. The transmission in ‘D’ mode has a tendency to shift early, which is fine with the Santa Fe’s torquey diesel engine. The rev needle swings all the way up to redline before upshifting in manual mode
The six-speed automatic transmission has a mild lag, but doesn’t give you a reason to complain. The transmission in ‘D’ mode has a tendency to shift early, which is fine with the Santa Fe’s torquey diesel engine. The rev needle swings all the way up to redline before upshifting in manual mode

The fit and finish all round it top notch and the Santa Fe manages to look appealing from most angles. It’s urbane, it’s contemporary, and yet has the odd elements in places which establish its casual off-road character.

The six-speed automatic transmission has a mild lag, but doesn’t give you a reason to complain. The transmission in ‘D’ mode has a tendency to shift early, which is fine with the Santa Fe’s torquey diesel engine. The rev needle swings all the way up to redline before upshifting in manual mode
The six-speed automatic transmission has a mild lag, but doesn’t give you a reason to complain. The transmission in ‘D’ mode has a tendency to shift early, which is fine with the Santa Fe’s torquey diesel engine. The rev needle swings all the way up to redline before upshifting in manual mode

Under the hood, you get a 2.2- litre CRDi engine. Peak power output is rated at 197PS at 3,800 rpm, and the engine is mated to two gearboxes — a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed auto. While the manual transmission version of the car delivers a peak torque of 420Nm, the AT version offers slightly more twist rated at 436nm. A punchy mid-range performer, the 2.2-CRDi engine isn’t exactly a dope jab for the power addicted, but is a reassuring, confident and relaxed unit — suited perfectly to the SUV body type

We drive the 6-speed AT version with 4 Wheel Drive. The auto transmission is a torque converter unit, and while it’s not as fast as dual clutch transmissions like the DSG, it’s fairly responsive and convenient, with only a wee bit of shift lag. The intelligent AWD on the Santa Fe allows a torque split between the front and rear axles from 100:0 in normal conditions to 50:50 on detecting slip. The Santa Fe also features a 4x4 Lock which fixes the torque split to 50:50. This arrangement, however, works only for speeds below 40 kmph. That said, the Santa Fe is not a hardcore off-roader and discretion should be observed before venturing out into tough terrains with this machine.

The cabin of the Santa Fe feels like a premium place — right from the jazzy instrument binnacle, to the perforated leather seats, the central touch-screen and the soft touch buttons.

The features list is long. There is a central touchscreen audio unit which is compatible with CD/Bluetooth/Aux-in/USB — of course it plays radio too. You get a two zone climate control with individual AC vents for all three rows of seats. Cruise Control, along with safety gear such as Traction Control, Electronic Stability Program, ABS with EBD and six airbags adds significantly to the value quotient.

There are plenty of cubbyholes and push to pop lids inside the cabin. All three rows have plenty of space to store odds and ends. The second row seats slide on rails, and can be moved fore and aft to maximise the kneeroom for the third row, which has manageable space for adults but is meant ideally for short to very short drives. Both middle and last row seats tumble in various ratios to provide a flat-bed luggage.

The ‘Flexi Steering’ on the Santa Fe offers three modes to choose from — Normal, Comfort and Sport, allowing varying levels of stiffness, with the Sport being the stiffest. However, even with all its low-speed convenience, and weighting up with increase in speed, Santa Fe’s steering remains devoid of feedback and engagement with the road. The suspension does a good job of offering great ride quality though. The steering not involving enough, but the big SUV holds its line assuredly around bends, with good grip levels and acceptable body roll.

The Santa Fe is a nicely styled product with a well appointed, quality interior with great flexibility and features. We did miss a big sunroof and auto dimming mirrors though. The engine is punchy, the auto transmission works well, and there is decent off-road equipment on offer too.

The pricing of the Santa Fe is a tad on the optimistic side. Hyundai, however, is probably of the opinion that the customer in the segment will judge their product for its features and value, with no brand prejudice. If that happens, the Santa Fe may actually turn into a success. We wish Hyundai all the luck with this one!

Ex-Delhi Prices
Santa Fe 2WD M/T Rs 26,30,000
Santa Fe 2WD A/T Rs 27,15,000
Santa Fe 4WD A/T Rs 29,25,000
Engine: 4cyls, in-line, 2199cc, common rail turbo diesel
Power: 197PS at 3800rpm
Torque: MT 420Nm / AT 436Nm
gear box: 6-speed manual / 6-speed auto

The speed trio

Indian two-wheelers have never looked so good and globally competent as they did in the recently concluded Auto Expo. Some world-class motorcycle concepts were showcased. Here are our top three picks

The streetfighter was a big surprise from Bajaj. Drawing its power from an engine based roughly on the KTM390 Duke, the CS400 was the most talked about motorcycle at the Auto Expo.

Bajaj Pulsar CS400
Bajaj Pulsar CS400

Featuring some fancy gear such as Ducati-like fully digital instrument console and a hi-tech headlight cluster with a mix of HID and LEDs, the Pulsar CS400 has set the pulse of bike enthusiasts racing.

Hero stunned all with its Hastur performance bike concept at the Expo. It boasts a liquid cooled 620cc parallel twin engine with a patented CSI cylinder head.

Hero Hastur
Hero Hastur

It dishes out an 80 PS of peak power at 9600 rpm, and has a light kerb weight of  160 kg. Zero-100km/h in 3.8 seconds  — the Hastur is probably the most international spec two-wheeler concept ever from an Indian auto-maker

The TVS Draken concept is meant to be a 250cc motorcycle, powered by a liquid cooled 249.2cc engine and mated to a 6-speed transmission.

TVS Draken
TVS Draken

The Draken is supposed to produce 38.50 bhp of power and 23 Nm of torque. It’s a stunning looking streetfighter which if produced, would do a world of good to TVS Motors’ brand image

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