First drive: Hyundai Santa Fe gets going in Philippines

By HONG BOON HOW | 20 June 2019

Located on the Bataan Peninsula, some 100km west of Manila, South East Asia's only nuclear power station in dull battleship grey with an imposing size stands out prominently from the lush greenery surrounding it.

Although the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant was technically operational and completed around the time of the Chernobyl nuclear station meltdown some 30 years ago, the Filipino government never threw the switch on fears of a similar incident happening.

Despite never producing electricity, the nuclear station is still well-maintained and has become one of the many attractions of this rural and quaint part of Luzon island.

Hyundai Sanata Fe - 02

With a network of coarse rural roads and smooth highways, the area seems ideal to test out Hyundai's latest fourth-generation Santa Fe

The new Santa Fe's styling has been extensively reworked and gets a more muscular appearance with bolder wheel arches and a beefier bonnet.

The grille looks larger and has a "cascading" effect that exudes elegance and class.

The LED headlamps are now slimmer and come with L-shaped LED daytime running lights for a futuristic touch.

Hyundai Sanata Fe - 04

Compared with the previous generation model, the new seven-seater Santa Fe is 70mm longer, 10mm wider and has a 65mm longer wheelbase which translates to a bigger vehicle.

Inside, the Santa Fe feels more upmàrket this time with high-quality materials, stylish layout and improved ergonomics.

Although the previous generation Santa Fe is already a roomy vehicle, Hyundai has increased the head and leg room on all three seating rows to increase overall comfort levels.

The roof has been lengthened by 210mm to increase headroom of the third-row seats while the size of the rear quarter windows has been made bigger by 41% to enhance outward visibility.

Hyundai Sanata Fe - 07

Access to the third row has also been made easier with a one-touch button to fold and slide forward the second row.

Meanwhile, the driver-centric dashboard has a tiered-type design with a two-tone colour scheme and soft-touches for an upmarket feel.

The instrument panel is still a combination of analogue gauges mixed with a digital screen but the multi-function electronic display portion is now much bigger at 7.0-inches.

The Centre display is a floating-type TFT LCD type which comes with a reverse camera with active guidelines and around view monitor.

Interestingly, the centre display can be set to show the rearward view permanently even when the SUV is moving forward.

We feel that this option offers a better rearward view as the rear mirror view could be easily obstructed by the heads of passengers at the third row.

The A-pillars are slimmer now and this reduces the blind spot of the driver.

Hyundai Sanata Fe - 08

The leather seats are well-padded and plush, allowing for comfortable seating even on long distance driving.

The second row also comes with two USB ports to charge up mobile devices and tablets.

In addition to the usual standard equipment required for SUVs in this segment, there are airbags, anti-lock braking system and stability control with hill descent control among others.

The Santa Fe can also be equipped with impressive items such as Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Occupant Alert that prevents instances of children or pets being forgotten and left behind in the car and Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) camera and radar system that warns the driver and brake the SUV to avoid hitting the vehicle in front.

Hyundai Sanata Fe - 03

Another innovative feature is the Safe Exit Assist that keeps the rear doors locked if a vehicle is detected from approaching from the Santa Fe's rear.

We were allocated the front-wheel-drive R 2.2 turbodiesel and the 3.5-litre MPI petrol HTRAC all-wheel-drive variants for our 146km drive from Subic to Bataan and back.

With an output of 200PS and a maximum torque of 441Nm from 1,750 to 2,750rpm, the diesel-powered Santa Fe has plenty of low-end grunt.

A gentle tap on the accelerator without the need to rev the engine to the redline will easily send the diesel Sante Fe up and running effortlessly without any noticeable engine lag or harshness.

Even at certain steep stretches on the way to Mount Samat Shrine, the diesel Santa Fe was able to maintain its uphill climb without labouring.

Its well-insulated cabin managed to mute wind and outside noises from intruding and disrupting the interior serenity at high speeds driving.

Hyundai Sanata Fe - 06

While having a planted feel at fast-paced driving, the Santa Fe's firm-oriented suspension setting and large 19-inch alloy wheels do not seem to ruffle ride comfort when on coarse trunk roads.

The drive system comes with modes of Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart.

Select Eco mode and the Santa Fe will deliver its best fuel economy, Normal will return a balance of good fuel economy with performance while Sport will make the throttle more responsive with sporty transmission shifting.

With Smart mode engaged, the drive system will automatically select the mode to suit the current driving style.

If the Sante Fe is driven slowly, the drive mode will change to Eco and moves up to Normal if the SUV is driven faster.

If the driver gets even more heavy footed, the drive system will change the mode to Sport.

The 3.5-litre MPI variant is also a joy to drive as power comes in smoothly and quickly.

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As its maximum output of 280PS and torque of 336Nm arrives much later compared with the diesel Santa Fe, we had to keep the engine running at a higher speed if we want more driving excitement.

The 7-inch digital instrument panel display can aslo be set to show how much power the HTRAC all-wheel sending to each wheel.

Overall, the Santa Fe is a spacious and robust vehicle suited for the tarmac and light off-roading.

Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors is offering the Santa Fe in four variants with introductory prices starting from RM169,888.