Hyundai Santa Fe: Epitome of smart luxury
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 R CRDi GLS 2WD
The gap between what you may classify as regular cars and those from the premium luxury segment seems to be getting really narrow, as “premium crossovers” proliferate the market.
Apart from the badge, the overtly opulent interior appointment, and over-engineered features, if you task a blindfolded driver to drive an SUV from a luxury European marque around a huge airstrip, back to back with the new Hyundai Santa Fe, chances are he’d still identify which is which, but would be pleasantly surprised at the small disparity between the two.
And that may exactly be the whole point, as vehicles like the Santa Fe get comfortably close to what the top tier brands offer.
With a fascia that Stark Enterprises might as well have designed, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe dons some tastefully modernistic aesthetic touches.
Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design principle works out quite well, and churning out impressively handsome nameplates starting with the Santa Fe to the face-lifted Tucson, the compact Kona, down to the subcompact Reina sedan.
And unlike people, automobiles won’t get by with just a great personality and good performance. So once you’ve been snagged by its supermodel looks, prepare to be hooked when you ingress.
It may not be Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz levels, but in terms of looks and feel of the fit and finish, the Hyundai Santa Fe’s burgundy-hued leather-clad interior gets quite close.
The plain and understated interior has been brushed aside to make way for lots of hexagonal touches—from the AC vents to the brushed aluminum framing accents on the center console.
For its class, it does feel decidedly premium, and obviously a step up from the staple Fortuners, Montero Sports and MU-Xs, to the likes of the Mazda CX-9 and Ford Explorer.
Unsurprisingly, all these translate to its ride quality as well. Despite being powered by a 2.2-liter CRDi turbo-diesel engine, it delivers assertive power (200 hp, 441 Nm of torque) with the smoothness associated with premium SUVs equipped with larger engines.
There’s this discernible buffer that dissipates whatever fine vibration is transmitted from the engine, to the driver’s seat and steering wheel, and it makes driving in traffic-riddled areas a lot less of a chore.
Of course, it helps that there’s Apple Carplay and Android Auto as standard amenities for using Waze, accessing your music playlists, making calls, and sending SMS hands-free (via Siri or Google) for that a seamless, near-effortless experience.
The sound quality of the audio system is exceptional as well. No fancy third party branding, but it’s well-balanced, detailed and exceptionally clear.
Oh, and it’s the first time I’ve come across a wireless mobile phone charging base/platform built-in an automobile for Qi-equipped (newer) smartphones. This ride is with the times, indeed!
The remarkable creature comforts nicely overlap onto the domain of the most important occupant of the vehicle, the driver.
With motor-driven power steering with tilt and telescopic adjustment, a seamless shifting via an 8-speed automatic transmission, a multiple drive mode selector that includes comfort, sport and smart settings, driving the new Hyundai Santa Fe is a pleasurable cinch.
Add to that a crisp heads-up display and the all-around view camera, a virtual bird’s eye view of the Santa Fe that enhances both safety and convenience when backing up or maneuvering the vehicle in and out of tight spaces.
An agile yet surefooted handling characteristic complements the Hyundai Santa Fe’s dynamic packaging.
Suspension feel is refined and leaning more on the plush side, without a hint of any wallowy disconnect with the road on abrupt steering maneuvers or sweeping curves.
For a mid-sized SUV, it has lower-slung stance that makes it more like a 7-seat grand tourer than a soft-roader.
The only thing can be faulted is its third-row seat that really feels like token slots designed for pint-sized passengers, although they fold flat via an automatic power tailgate to expand cargo capacity .
At P2.338 million, the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 R CRDi GLS 2WD is priced about 30 to 40 percent lower than its counterparts in the premium luxury segment.
With its looks, amenities and performance, one can experience the premium luxury experience for a significantly smaller investment. It’s practically like getting your cake and eating it too, and having a few slices left to save for another day.
Now, that’s a smart niche that Hyundai’s slotted the new Santa Fe into, and that’s smart luxury, too.