Hyundai has moved its $80k flagship Santa Fe a little further into the luxury space for the 2015 model year.
Powertrain and performance: 2.2-litre turbo diesel four, 145kW/436Nm, 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 7.3 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4690mm long, 1690mm high, luggage capacity 516 litres, fuel tank 64 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Accomplished diesel engine, new features such as self-parking and automated tailgate, nicely packaged.
We don’t like: High price, fussy cabin styling, large wheels mean opportunity cost in ride.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? There’s a lot of speculation at the moment about whether people will accept the concept of a premium-price luxury sedan from a mainstream Korean carmaker: Hyundai’s forthcoming Genesis, which will be launched early next year.
It’s a complex market, but it’s unlikely that price will be the main issue. Case in point: Hyundai already has an $80k vehicle that’s very well accepted, in the form of the flagship Santa Fe Elite Limited.
The Elite is already well specified, but the Elite Limited is aimed at private buyers who insist on having the last word in equipment. So it gains larger 19-inch wheels, lane-departure warning, a panoramic glass roof, gas-discharge headlights with washers, LED rear lights, auto-dipping side mirrors and self-levelling rear suspension.
There are also some upgrades for the 2015 model year, including adaptive headlights, an automated parking system and power tailgate that operates in a novel way; more about that a bit later.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? There’s no petrol option for the Santa Fe Elite Limited: it comes as standard with Hyundai’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel powerplant and it’s a good fit for a seven-seat crossover such as this.
The power delivery is relaxed and despite the relatively small capacity there’s plenty of torque to propel people, cargo and whatever you choose to hook on the back. That’s very much Hyundai’s marketing thing at the moment, of course: you might have seen those advertisements asking: “what would you tow?” It’s rated for two tonnes.
Part of the new-year upgrade is a modified front suspension package, developed by Hyundai Australia and intended to sharpen up the big fella’s handling. The Santa Fe is no slouch on the road but still not exactly sporty, whatever the three-mode electric power steering button might suggest.
The ride is well-controlled and of course the self-levelling rear takes care of any weight distribution issues when you’re got a load on board. However, the chassis can be a bit brittle in urban running, especially with the Limited running on those 19-inch wheels.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Santa Fe’s occasional seven-seat capability is one of its main selling points and that aspect of the cabin is well executed. Our test car had a thick rubber lining in the boot, highlighting how the Hyundai can serve as a five-seater with a massively large and practical load space.
It’s the work of a moment to raise the third-row seating and make the car a pseudo-people mover. They really are occasional seats, with not much visibility through the tiny quarter windows at the rear. But it’s nicely packaged regardless: the second row slides for access and can be repositioned to improve third-row legroom – at the expense of the middle row, of course.
You do lose a little luggage space with the seven-seat configuration: the Limited has 60 litres less cargo volume than a five-seat Santa Fe.
The cabin styling is a little fussy, as the larger Hyundai models tend to be. But the controls are simple and the large colour sat-nav screen is clear and intuitive to operate. The Suna traffic feature also did great work during our test-time in Auckland, warning of congestion and roadworks.
Self-parking is a new feature and one that works brilliantly. There’s a large button on the centre console that actives the system, which automatically looks for a suitable space. Once found, the driver operates the gears and throttle while the parking system steers the car. It’s quick and easy, although it only works for parallel parking, unlike some rival systems that can slot the car into a side-by-side space.
The Limited’s real party trick is the automatic powered tailgate. Not a unique feature in itself, but it operates in a novel way. Simply walk to the back of the car and as long as you have the keys with you, the fifth door will open automatically within three seconds. No need to press a button or wave your foot under the bumper.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? There’s obviously merit in having a seven-seat crossover vehicle in this price range. After all, Toyota has followed Hyundai with the $80k Highlander ZR, a top-spec model aimed at private buyers and absolutely loaded with equipment.
The Santa Fe Elite Limited scores on its diesel powertrain (the Highlander is petrol only) and thoughtful packaging. For those who must have the best, new features like self-parking and that automated tailgate will certainly add to the appeal. It’s an impressively complete, if relatively expensive, package.
A final note: you’ll be hard pressed to pick the 2015 Santa Fe Elite Limited from the previous model, but look closely and you’ll notice that the signature Hyundai hexagonal grille has a new satin-chrome finish. It’s all in the detail.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: No
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes front and rear/Ventilated front only
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Yes front and rear with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes with keyless operation
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
- Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 40/20/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
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