Hyundai Santa Fe 2015 road test review | Time to harden up
LAID back and a destination where the cosmopolitan stand alongside tree-hugging hippies, Byron Bay isn't typically a place to go hardcore.
Hyundai's new Santa Fe SR managed to look the goods when unveiled last week in the pristine coastal township.
This is the first SUV to wear Hyundai's fledgling SR badge, following in the tyre prints of the Veloster, i30 and Accent models.
Changes are primarily skin deep, although product planner Andrew Tuitahi points out that the changes mean the "Santa Fe SR looks, corners and stops harder".
Prices are yet to be announced before its arrival early next year, but the SR will be the hero of the MY15 range which has just been released. The line-up has been tweaked with revised pricing, which has seen the base model stay at $38,490 while mid- and top-spec variants have risen slightly.
The MY15 Santa Fe has received a "rolling technical change" rather than a mid-life facelift, and only Hyundai trainspotters will pick the difference.
Three trim levels - Active, Elite and Highlander - have been retained. We spent our time in the top-shelf Highlander variant, which accounts for nearly half of all Santa Fe sales.
It's spacious, with seven seats, and offers excellent head, leg and shoulder room in the front two rows. Like the majority of seven- seaters, the rear two pews are best left to kids due to confined leg room and the nimble body required when climbing into the back (but they do get their own air vents).
The colour 17.7cm touch-screen deserves plaudits for ease of use, and the Santa Fe's operations are simple and straightforward.
Highlander models have electric seat adjustment, while the driver has tilt and reach adjustment of the steering wheel.
Hard wearing areas have plastic finishes, which is actually handy for families due to its ease of cleanliness, as are the leather-clad pews.
On the road
Not much was wrong with the Santa Fe previously, but Hyundai tweaks its models for Australian conditions and MY15 variants have new front wheel bearings, redesigned front knuckles, and changes to various suspension bushes. The electric power steering also has a faster 32-bit processor.
Would most drivers notice the difference? Probably not. It's stiffer than the old model, more responsive when you rip into a corner and less prone to understeer, which is handy information at the family barbecue but most would never get close to testing the SUV's boundaries. Still, that makes it a safer car and it feels confident on gravel and bitumen.
We only drove the diesel variant, but it's the obvious choice with its burly and near instant throttle response.
Engineers overhauled the Santa Fe brakes to feature Brembo four-piston monobloc front callipers and two-piston rears. They pull the anchors on matte-black 19-inch alloys shod with Michelin Latitude Tour tyres.
Combined with H&R performance springs, it results in stopping distance reduced by 8% from 60kmh, and an SUV which corners harder and feels remarkably more nimble.
There are no diesel engine enhancements, and it won't get a dual exhaust system (which we saw this week) because it means dropping the full-size spare, but that won't worry the target audience - which is mums and dads who primarily want the faster looks.
What do you get?
Standard kit is still seven airbags, stability control and a host of associated safety technology, hill descent and ascent control, full-size spare, 10.9cm touch-screen, cruise control, auto lights, 17-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming and a reversing camera with parking sensors.
Elites now get an automatic tailgate, while the Highlanders have lane departure warning system and automatic parallel parking functionality added to the previous complimentary kit of 19-inch alloys, a panoramic glass roof, Xenon headlights, LED rear lights, auto-dimming side mirrors, electric adjustment for the front seats, and heated front and second-row seats.
The SR will get a sports body kit, Brembo brakes, H&R performance springs and Oz Racing wheels with Michelin tyres.
Hauling the family is a pleasure in the Santa Fe. There is a great nook in front of the gear shifter, perfect for phones and other gear, which is close to a USB port and auxiliary jack, along with two 12 volt plugs.
Other storage boons are a deep centre console, pockets in the doors able to cope with bottles, a sunglasses holder, a pair of cup holders in the console, along with another two which pop out from the fold down arm rest in the rear.
Dropping the rear seats is easy, with a handle in the back, and the middle row also has a 40/20/40 folding function. With all seven seats upright there is minimal boot space, but there is ample flexibility for a range of equipment or furniture.
External massaging includes a darker chrome grille along with daytime running lights and cornering lights across the range.
Yet the obvious stand-out is the SR, with its body kit, groovy alloys and red Brembo brake callipers.
Starting with good cars, Hyundai just keeps making them better with incremental improvements. The Santa Fe remains an attractive seven-seat SUV with excellent specification levels.
Adding another string to the bow is the SR with ticks the most important boxes for buyers in this genre: it looks sporty and fast.
What matters most
What we liked: SR body kit and alloys, internal flexibility and comfort, easy to drive, automatic tailgate.
What we'd like to see: Lower beltline to improve outward vision for littlies in the back.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with one year roadside assist. Servicing intervals are annual or every 15,000km. Lifetime capped- price servicing is available, starting from $379 for the diesel and $310 for the petrol.
Model: Hyundai Santa Fe.
Details: Mid-size, all-wheel, seven-seat drive sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 141kW @ 6300rpm and peak torque of 242Nm @ 4250rpm; 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating 145kW @ 3800rpm and 421Nm @ 1800-2500rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 9.0 litres/100km (petrol, auto and manual); 6.6L/100km (manual diesel); 7.3L/100km (auto diesel).
CO2: 209g/km (petrol models); 174g/km (diesel manual); 192g/km (diesel auto).
Towing capacity: 2500kg (m), 2000 (a), tow ball rating 100kg.
Bottom line: Petrol - Active (m) $38,490, Active (a) $40,990. Diesel - Active (m) $41,490, Active (a) $43,990, Elite (a) $48,490, Highlander (a) $53,240.