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First Drive: Hyundai Santa Fe (2019)


Hyundai has always had a very hard time shaking off the shackles of its humble, budget beginnings, but the time has come to recognise the undeniable quality that the Korean manufacture is producing year in, year out.

The new Santa Fe is a prime example, combining a sublime interior with a silky driving experience to create something that seems far more German than Asian. The price point reflects that, as well, moving the Santa Fe into uncertain waters between the value-for-money Fortuner and more premium options like the VW Touareg.

For the consumer looking for a spacious, comfortable and well-built family car, it’s good value against ladder-frame competitors like the Fortuner, Pajero Sport and Everest. I have to say that off-road ability aside, it’s the pick of the bunch.

Styling follows Hyundai’s new ‘sensual sporty’ design language, creating a car with sharp lines and a bold new grille that catches the eye. The headlamps are similar to those found on the new Kona, so there’s definitely a common thread through the range.

The Santa Fe is offered in three variants, all powered by a 2.2L, 142kW CRDi engine mated to an in-house 8-speed automatic gearbox that blows competing transmissions out of the water. The Premium model is FWD and lacks the chrome finishes and power tailgate of the pricier options, but still delivers a premium interior and a flawless drive. The Executive model steps up the flashiness with puddle lamps, a smart power tailgate and blind spot indicators.

The Elite rounds things off with a panoramic sunroof and 19” wheels, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect on the dashboard and instrument cluster, which features a 7” TFT colour display that shows drive mode, navigation and media, among other things.

The Elite is also the only one to feature Hyundai’s HTRAC AWD system, which is a luxury most won’t use anyway. Truth be told, with the lowest ground clearance in its class, the Santa Fe isn’t going to get very far on tougher terrain, although the rear multi-link suspension is quite good on chunky gravel, and should chew its way through moderate sand and mud.

As you’d expect, the Santa Fe is loaded with safety features like Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist, which automatically applies the brakes if a car is coming across when you’re reversing, and Safety Exit Assist, which locks doors if a car is detected from behind.

All models come with Hyundai’s 7-year/200 000km warranty and a 5-year/90 000km service plan.


Premium: R599 900

Executive: R659 900

Elite: R749 900