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Hyundai to drop 2WD for new Santa Fe

Gen three:The new Hyundai Santa Fe will be launched next month exclusively with four-cylinder engines and all-wheel-drive.

Next Hyundai Santa Fe to be sold exclusively with AWD and four-cylinder engines

8 Aug 2012

HYUNDAI will buck the trend in the family SUV market by launching its third-generation Santa Fe in Australia next month without a price-leading two-wheel-drive variant.

The company has also revealed that its new large SUV will be powered exclusively by a pair of four-cylinder powertrains, with the newly developed 3.3-litre petrol V6 only a slight chance to join the range further down the track.

It is the first time in five years the company will not be able to offer a 2WD Santa Fe, with all 3.5-litre petrol V6 versions of the soon to be superseded model sold exclusively in front-drive configuration, priced from $36,990 plus on-road costs.

Key seven-seat rivals such as the Ford Territory, Toyota Kluger and Holden Captiva 7 all come with the option of two-wheel drive, cutting both showroom costs and fuel bills for buyers not requiring off-road capability.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia director of marketing Oliver Mann told GoAuto that front-drive was not available from the Korean factory that supplies this market, but would again be looked at in the future.

“It’s not planned at the moment it’s not actually been on the table to us,” he said. “If it were, it is something we would look at. For us the path is clear.”

1 center imageLeft: 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe.

Mr Mann said the current front-drive variant accounted for just five per cent of Santa Fe sales compared to 95 per cent for the AWD, which is powered exclusively by the more in-demand 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine (from $37,990).

He said the lack of a front-drive option would also free up more room for the smaller ix35 range in Hyundai’s SUV portfolio, with the company recently expanding the range to include a higher-specified Elite two-wheel-drive variant alongside the existing Active entry model ($26,990).

The new-generation Santa Fe will be sold exclusively with seven seats (as per the current model), but in a marked departure will come exclusively with a pair of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines.

Unlike the current model, which kicks off with the 3.5-litre petrol V6 engine, the new-generation will open with a 2.4-litre petrol – a 141kW version of the direct-injected unit fitted to the i45 sedan with 148kW/250Nm – matched to six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

Also featuring will be the 145kW 2.2-litre R-Series four-cylinder turbo-diesel carried over from the current model, again matched with six-speed manual and auto transmissions.

According to Australian Design Rule information, both engines will provide a surprisingly large 2500kg towing capacity (2000kg for the auto).

Hyundai has received ADR certification for a 199kW 3.3-litre V6-powered Santa Fe – as sold in the US version and again paired only with AWD – but GoAuto understands it will not be available from launch.

The company has also received ADR certification for a five-seat variant, although Mr Mann said it was unlikely to be considered for showrooms.

Apart from its more curvaceous exterior design, the longer but lower MkIII Santa Fe – which rides on the same 2700mm wheelbase and measures 4690mm long, 1880mm wide and 1680mm high – is also set to get a more spacious and refined cabin, and an even longer standard equipment list.

Based on overseas specification levels, this should extend to seven airbags, 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and Hyundai’s new pedestrian-friendly ‘active bonnet’, while some models will likely include climate-control, satellite-navigation, leather trim and a panoramic sunroof.

Also likely are Hyundai’s new three-mode electric steering and blind-spot monitoring systems.

The factory will produce a stretched-wheelbase version that provides an extra 48mm of second-row legroom and an extra 159 litres of boot space, but this will only be for left-hand drive markets like the US.

Santa Fe sales totalled 2437 to the end of July, almost identical to the same time last year (2439) and putting it some way behind Territory (8879), Kluger (7916) and Captiva 7 (6053).

Meanwhile, Hyundai sister brand Kia today confirmed to GoAuto it will launch its updated Sorento SUV in October, one month after the new Santa Fe on which it is based.

The Kia will continue with the current model’s 2.2-litre diesel and 3.5-litre V6 petrol engines.

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