IN automotive circles the 1:1 ratio is a major achievement — be it horsepower to weight, or front-to-rear distribution. For the Hyundai Santa Fe it comes close, offering the same in terms of haulage capacity. For just a little over $7 million, depending on which trim one goes for, it's possible to get a seven-seat Sport Utility Vehicle. At roughly a million dollars a passenger, this places the Santa Fe in the very good bargain category.
However, value per passenger isn't the only trick up the Hyundai's sleeve. While styling is similar to the smaller Tucson, it retains the taut muscular lines that give it a rakish, slimmed, hip athletic look. In all, a handsome machine that does turn a head or two as it offers an upscale Euro-appeal from certain angles.
The familial connection with the Tucson continues on the inside. Despite the increase in interior space, the driver isn't immediately aware; all the controls have been kept within easy reach from the pleasant leather-wrapped steering wheel to the touch screen-operated infotainment system. Not that there is ever the need to reach as most data is mirrored in a smaller TFT screen in the centre of the binnacle and accompanying buttons that offer operation from the steering wheel itself. Seats are available in cloth or leather depending on the Santa Fe's trim level.
Occupant convenience is at a high priority all the way to the rear, with USB charging ports, plenty of powered features, and climate control to name a few. The third row folds out of the trunk floor giving full-sized adults some temporary space for short journeys, but as with most seven-seat SUVs, the rear-most seats are best left for small children and teenagers. One must also remember with them in use storage space drops significantly. Noise refinement is good with some wind noise at speed, yet it's able to keep engine noise completely at bay.
Beyond its seven-passenger abilities, the Santa Fe is pretty good on the road. The best option is the turbo diesel four-wheel-drive combination. The low-end torque and the higher fuel efficiency goes great in what is a large vehicle designed to haul passengers and their luggage. Acceleration is no problem, especially in SPORT mode where it makes things a bit more aggressive. However, in ECO mode, there's still enough get-up-and- go to handle the randomness of traffic flow. MANUAL mode requires some long-term familiarity as the transmission still has some control over the shift points. Opt for the highest trim and paddle shifters appear behind the steering wheel; otherwise, it's plus and minus in the normal position. The Santa Fe is more than competent in the handling department due to the four-wheel drive and the perception that it is smaller than it is. Grip is a constant and keen drivers can dive in and out of most traffic gaps.
The turbo diesel, four-wheel-drive combo works just as well off-road. While the tyres are a bit more road-focused, activating the differential lock allows the Santa Fe to make short work of the more than average off-road obstacles. It is only at these low-speed moments that the true girth of the vehicle makes itself known requiring one to pay full attention to the parking sensor alerts and the back-up camera.
There's little doubt that Jamaicans love their SUVs. its ability to hold seven puts the Hyundai Santa Fe in a rarified, but very tough category. Add in its price point, turbo diesel engine and four-wheel drive and it floats to near the top as many of its rivals tend to be pick-up based making them unable to compete with its level of refinement and convenience.