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Named after the city of Santa Fe in New Mexico, the Santa Fe SUV was introduced to the world in 2001 and was a hit with American buyers. Since then, Hyundai has more or less kept the same formula, by trying to provide the most bang for the consumer's buck with third generation model.

For the present model, the character lines throughout the body have become sharper and the vehicle's overall appearance seems slimmer than previous generations.

 

The seating
The ruby red SantaFe seats the driver in an elevated position which is also complemented with a ground clearance of more than 7.3 inches. In addition, there are multiple options to ensure the driver is comfortable, such as adjusting the angle of the steering as well as the reach. As for the seat, the multi-directional controls which are located at the bottom of the broad-base seat, this is also something larger persons are going to appreciate.

The only drawback is that the leather seats are a bit on the firm side and they will have to be broken in over time. Nonetheless, the seats coupled with suspensions that adequately absorb our uneven terrain, contribute to an overall comfortable ride.

There were times when the suspension felt a bit floaty while driving through Golden Grove, St Ann, but not to the point where it was unbearable. As for cornering, the vehicle managed to have very little to no body roll, which was impressive given its ride height.

The Driving experience
Equipped with a 2.2-Liter turbo-diesel engine, which gives it more than enough power for any terrain, it was hard to temper my accelerator foot. From the get go, the peppiness was the most impressionable thing about driving the Santa Fe. The Koreans have done an excellent job tuning the engine in such a way that there is no noticeable turbo lag, which means that when you press the pedal, the vehicle responds with rapid acceleration.

Coupled with the fact that there is very little road noise, it was hard for me to judge how fast I was going without looking at the speedometer. To address this issue I had to use the gauge-cluster display option for a digital read out of my speed, which helped me avoid getting a ticket.

On the dashboard to the lower right of the steering wheel is the drive mode button, which allows you to switch from three modes: eco, auto and sport. Eco restricts the engine's power to burn fuel more efficiently, which is ideal for round-town driving, especially in traffic. In fact, in this mode this vehicle might be able to burn the same as a compact car because it has a diesel engine.

On my two-way journey from Kingston to Runaway Bay, St Ann, I only used quarter tank of petrol while carrying two adult passengers and using the a/c continuously. This was very impressive especially because most of the time I was driving in Sport mode.

When is Sport mode the steering stiffens and the vehicle operates at a much higher RPM, allowing the accelerator to be more responsive. It's clear that Hyundai placed a lot of importance on performance when tuning this engine, given that this is by far the most fun mode and gave me confidence to overtake whenever needed.

The interior
The design of the interior doesn't seem to be consistent with that of the exterior which is sleek and sharp. Instead, it appears out of sync with multiple buttons, materials and Hyundai's trademark centre console. The good thing is, it's loaded with every option from dual-climate control to park assist. Perhaps the most intuitive layout in the cabin, is the infotainment system which is a five-inch LCD touchscreen that has all the relevant options accessible to the sides of the screen as hard buttons. These include: radio, media, phone, clock, scan and set up. Once any of these is selected, it takes you to a secondary screen, which gives more information.

Additionally, I was able to pair my phone via Bluetooth with the infotainment system quite intuitively as well as play music from my jumpdrive, which was connected to the vehicle's USB port.

As for the sound, the 12 speakers come perfectly tuned with a great balance between bass and treble. Furthermore, there is the option to boost the bass or treble as well as select surround sound, which gives the audio a theatre effect.

An option I found most useful is the fact that you can direct the sound to any area in the vehicle. Which means, if you are the only person awake while driving, you can have the music play in your area only.

It's also nice to know that back-seat passengers were not neglected as it pertains to creature comforts. Firstly, the rear doors open to almost 90 degrees, which allows persons to enter easily. Once inside, the seat can be reclined at a greater angle than most competitors. This will be appreciated by most passengers, especially on long journeys when they want to take a nap.

There are also a/c vents for the second-row passengers which are unconventionally placed in the B pillar column instead of the centre console. This placement seems to be far more effective as it's closer to the passenger, who can adjust the flow of the air but not the temperature.

The third row of passengers were not neglected either. For them, the a/c vents are located on the side panel above the cup holders. Of course, these two seats are more suited for children rather than adults and is a great option for those with a big family. Keep in mind that once the seats are being used, the trade off is cargo space, which may be reduced to only accommodating two mid-size suitcases.

I like
Acceleration is very responsive
Due to the diesel engine, it's easily one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles in its class
Large A/C vents in the centre of the dashboard

Gripes
Due to a high belt line, you won't be able to rest your hand on the door when driving The concept of the interiour design is a bit dated

Info
Competitors: Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer,
Engine: 2.2L turbo diesel
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
Price: $ 7.9m

Vehicle provided courtesy of Magna Motors Dealership Ltd, 630-1511 / 577-3607 for comments or suggestions email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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