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First drive: Territory beware - Santa Fe grows up

Kluger fighter: Santa Fe features seven-seat and (upcoming) diesel options.

Hyundai's all-new Santa Fe strikes a happy medium between Tucson and Terracan

19 May 2006

HYUNDAI is set to rock the Ford Territory and Toyota Kluger with its CM-series Santa Fe.

Released this week, the second-generation SUV has grown in size markedly – from a larger compact SUV into a fully-fledged mid-sized 4WD wagon – and has also taken big strides in comfort and refinement.

Other gains include seven-seater versions and an upcoming 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel option to the standard 2.7-litre V6 petrol powerplant.

Safety advances include standard stability control (ESP) and dual front, side and curtain airbags, while a manual gearbox – missing in the Ford and Toyota – is made available.

Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution (that actuate larger four-wheel disc brakes) and traction control are also included.

Capping these improvements is very keen pricing, as the South Korean also takes aim at compatriot SUVs from Kia (Sorento), Ssangyong (Rexton) and Holden (upcoming Captiva), as well models like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Outback, Jeep Cherokee and Nissan Murano.

Fitted with a part-time on-demand 4WD system, the transverse-mounted, front-wheel drive-based Santa Fe II range starts at $35,990 for the base V6 manual five-seater (auto adds $2000), stretching to $39,990 for the seven-seater auto version and $42,990 for the Elite auto.

At $37,990, the Santa Fe auto is $6000 and $4000 respectively below the base Territory TX AWD and Kluger CV – although both of these utilise full-time all-wheel drive.

Add the third row ($2000) and the Hyundai undercuts the equivalent Toyota and Ford by $4000 and $5600 respectively.

By comparison the outgoing Santa Fe’s single-model V6 automatic cost $33,990.

And at these prices neither rival (nor old model) includes ESP, side and curtain airbags, alloy wheels (except the old Santa Fe), leather-wrapped steering wheel and integrated roof racks (that help keep the Hyundai’s drag coefficient down to 0.37 from 0.39 before), among other goodies.

Pricing and other specification details for the turbo-diesel will be announced by September, following the government’s mandatory introduction of the Euro IV compliant diesel that the CRDi requires.

Like its competition (and 2000-2006 SM Santa Fe predecessor), the Hyundai SUV uses unibody rather than the heavier ladder-frame construction, for better and easier on-road dynamics and greater fuel efficiency.

Dimensionally the 4.675 metre long CM Santa Fe is up on all counts, being 175mm longer, 45mm wider and 55mm taller than the old model.

The platform, which Hyundai says is purpose built for SUV applications, rather than passenger-car based such as Ford’s Falcon-derived Territory) is also new, and features a revamped version of the old vehicle’s all-independent suspension (McPherson struts and anti-roll bar at the front and a multi-link and anti-roll bar set-up behind).

It is encompassed by an 2700mm (80mm-longer than before) wheelbase, boasting 15mm-wider front and 20mm-wider rear tracks (eclipsing the Kluger’s as well as the Territory’s rear track), while the Hyundai also trumps these rivals with its 203mm ground clearance (Ford: 179mm, Toyota: 184mm).

Despite all this Hyundai says the Santa Fe II’s turning circle has shrunk to 10.9 metres, half a metre less than the Territory and Kluger.

The engine is a carryover version of Hyundai’s proven 2.7-litre alloy Delta V6, now called the Mu unit and fitted with its CVVT variable-valve timing device, for greater output efficiency.

Power is now rated at 138kW at 6000rpm (previously 132kW) while torque inches up to 248Nm at 4000rpm (previously 247Nm). It delivers drive through an uprated four-speed sequential-shift automatic or a new, slick five-speed manual gearbox – a first for the V6.

The coming 2.2-litre CRDi turbo-diesel is a common-rail four-cylinder unit offering 335Nm of torque between 1800rpm and 2500rpm, and 110kW of power at 4000rpm, and driving through a five-speed automatic or five-speed manual gearbox – although the company hasn’t divulged exactly which transmission will make it.

At 10.6 litres per 100km (10.4 for the manual), Hyundai says the revised 2.7 V6 Santa Fe leads its medium petrol SUV rivals in both the ADR 81/01 fuel consumption average and carbon dioxide emissions (260g per kilometre).

1 center imageBy way of contrast, in European tests, the 2.2 CRD turbo-diesel Santa Fe averages between 7.3L/100km (five-seater manual) and 8.3L/100 (seven-seater automatic).

The South Korean SUV also has a higher standard braked-trailer tow capacity, 2000kg versus Territory’s 1600kg and Kluger’s 1500kg.

Using electronics to determine traction loss, the Santa Fe’s 4WD system switches from front to all-wheel drive, determining which of the four wheels has the best grip.

The driver can also select a dash-mounted dial for 50/50 front/rear drive up to 30km/h for more demanding 4WD situations, and can rely on Hyundai’s TCB Tight Corner Breaking function to aid turns on hard grippy surfaces.

Anti-whiplash active front head restraints, anti-submarining front seats, lap-sash seatbelts for all occupants, cruise control, pollen-filtering air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking with alarm, a trip computer, CD/MP3/radio audio with steering-wheel sited controls, a trip computer, a cargo blind on five-seat models and 17-inch alloy wheels are standard.

Other MC attractions include face-level ventilation for all outboard occupants, an air-conditioned cool box, a second ‘parents’ interior rear-view mirror, sun-visor extenders, over 30 storage areas and a kerbside centre seat portion that folds forward without the need for headrest removal or front-seat movement when the third row needs accessing.

The Elite upgrade nets you a sunroof, larger wheels and tyres, leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, electric front seats, auto-on headlights, a compass, CD stacker and ritzier trim inside and out.

Cargo volume, rated at 969 litres, can be extended by almost 2.3 times to 2213 litres by folding seat rows two (which also split folds) and three – both of which conveniently split-fold for passenger/parcel permutation options.

A new flatter-design rear suspension set-up helps here, as do three child-restraint anchorage points located behind the second-row seats – so they don’t foul luggage or third-row leg space.

Designed at Hyundai’s Californian studio, the CM’s creators benchmarked the Lexus RX, Volvo XC90 and Honda MDX, to find "... a more exciting and upscale look." To aid this noise and vibration quelling measures were instigated, including a beefed-up rear suspension subframe and quieter body mountings.

Plus the body is strengthened by use of a heavily ribbed floor pan pressing, tubular cross-bracing within the firewall, central vertical bracing, reinforced windscreen pillars, side sills and side-impact door beams, to help create a stronger safety-cell cage.

Hyundai says that its in-house crash-testing regime achieves an equivalent to a US NHTSA five-star frontal and side-impact test rating for front and rear occupants.

Hyundai expects big things from its larger Santa Fe, particularly as it has calculated that demand for third-row seating can make up around 40 per cent of a vehicle’s sales split.

It is forecasting between 380 and 400 sales per month, with the diesel adding significantly more when it arrives.

In the second quarter of next year the Santa Fe 3.3-litre V6 will be released, powered by a variation of the NF Sonata’s 173kW/304Nm Lambda V6 powerplant, and fitted with a five-speed automatic gearbox.

"Its elevated performance and luxury has the measure of SUVs costing twice as much," is how Hyundai’s sales and marketing manager Theo van Doore describes it.

A Santa Fe "City" – a lighter, front-wheel drive version pitched at the bottom end of the CM range – is also being "looked at" according to HMCA.

The company has been surprised by the sales success of the similarly themed Tucson City, launched late last year as a four-cylinder engined model slotting underneath the V6 versions of Hyundai’s compact SUV contender.

It currently accounts for around 60 per cent of all Tucson sales.

Aiding the Santa Fe’s chances is the fact that its noticeable move away from the smaller Tucson in size should decrease any sales cannibalisation opportunities or consumer confusion.

The CM Santa Fe also creates a distinct three-tiered SUV hierarchy in Hyundai’s line-up – making a fresher and more refined alternative to the far more off-road biased Terracan seven-seater.

2006 Santa Fe pricing:
Five-seater $35,990
Five-seater (a) $37,990
Seven-seater (a) $39,990
Elite seven-seater (a) $42,990

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