I recently had the illustrious privilege of attending the South African launch of the very impressive new Hyundai Santa Fe. The event, where a select group of motor journalists were allowed to experience the vehicle first-hand, took place along the country’s beautiful and luxurious West Coast – a rendezvous I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Arriving at the Cape Town International Airport in the early hours of the morning, a very impressive sight awaited the energized motor enthusiasts; seventeen Santa Fe’s parked neatly alongside each other. You could not help but gawk in awe of the vehicle’s magnificence, evident by the stares from just about every onlooker who passed by.
The new Santa Fe has been beefed up quite a bit in comparison to the previous model. As with all new Hyundai vehicles, the Santa Fe also benefits from Hyundai’s new fluidic sculpture design language. Lines are crisp, strong and lend to a more muscular look. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that this is the best looking Hyundai out there – whereas previous versions of the Santa Fe were destined to disappear into boredom, the latest model is really made to stand out and to stand proud amongst the fierce competition. It wasn’t hard to tell that the Hyundai representatives were very proud to call this the new flag-ship vehicle.
From the airport, the convoy of stylish vehicles journeyed to the gorgeous, traditional fishing town, Paternoster, about 90mins drive down the West Coast. Not surprisingly, the Santa Fe started to impress early on in our trip. Endowed with a frugal, yet very powerful 2.2l diesel engine, the Santa Fe’s kicks out a very healthy [email protected] and [email protected] of torque. Paired with a smooth 6-speed automatic gearbox, the drive train impressed just about everyone. Overtaking becomes a cinch with so much torque at your disposal. And with improved sound damping in the vehicle, you have to keep an eye on the speedometer.
Once we arrived at our destination, the glamorous Shelley Point Hotel, we were given a presentation on the new Santa Fe and the overall status of Hyundai globally. Judging from what we saw, I can tell you that Hyundai’s got a healthy heartbeat.
Peter Schreyer, the man responsible for KIA’s dramatic rise, due to his impressive design work we now see everywhere on our roads, has been appointed as the overall head of design over both Kia and Hyundai. And considering what he’s been doing for KIA, this can only lead to many good things.
The Santa Fe, being the flagship vehicle for Hyundai South Africa, has been packed with innovative and luxury features, that easily rivals its German counterparts. With the base model starting at R434 900 up to R499 900 for the Elite 7-seater version, the Santa Fe is also well positioned price wise.
After the presentation and an awesome lunch along the beach front, the convoy of Santa Fe’s tackled the rough West Coast sand. The Santa Fe, although not having a low range, has a diff lock to spread the traction between front and back to a perfect 50:50 split. So, with the lack of a low range, the Santa Fe will never kill Landies over crazy 4×4 terrains, but it deemed itself a very capable off-road vehicle. It traversed some crazy sandy parts and overall composed itself very well in slippery and tricky off-road bits.
I couldn’t think of a better way to wash off after traversing the sandy landscapes than experiencing the great hospitality of the West Coast. On the way back from our sandy adventures, we stopped off at a local coffee shop and were treated to some coffee and sweets.
After the coffee break, we travelled across a bumpy dirt road and the Santa Fe impressed mightily. Even after pushing the vehicle beyond legal limits on a tarred road it never felt out of control and the suspension soaked up the uneven terrain in a very impressive way. The traction control also helped a bit and, overall, the engineers did an amazing job in keeping the vehicle composed no matter the terrain it tackles.
Later in the evening, after getting back to our destination, we were treated to a wonderful 3-course meal, and a line-up of South African rock legends, including Mel Botes, Piet Botha, Valiant Swart, Albert Frost, Ghappie and a session with guitar genius Mauritz Lotz.
It was indeed a sad affair when we parked our vehicles back at the airport and parted with the keys the following morning. My first impression of this very impressive vehicle is definitely very positive. Hyundai has sculpted a beautiful vehicle. Properly kitted it out, the Santa Fe is aimed at a premium market, where it hopes to take away some of the market share of the German trio. And from what I’ve experienced, this is the right vehicle to do it.
I am looking forward to spending some proper time in the vehicle. But as far as first impressions go, this one is most impressive.