I must have been good this year to be rewarded with the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite Ltd just before Christmas. Was it pure coincidence that this suitably festive model should come my way at this time of year? Who knows, but it left me wondering if this latest incarnation might possibly offer enough to tempt Santa into considering alternative modes of transport.
From the outside this medium sized SUV certainly looks attractive, clean, purposeful and a touch more modern compared to say a Ford Territory. The Hyundai certainly follows the latest established SUV design trend, with a higher more rounded front sweeping upwards and backwards to a square rear end with twin tail pipes. Its a great look but not unlike some sleigh designs I’ve seen, and would therefore be easy on the eye for Mr Claus.
Combined with the slippery’ish shape, the smooth and torquey 180kW 3.3-litre V6 is certainly going to provide enough power to enable swift progress through the 5-speed auto with sports shift. All very necessary when making frequent deliveries, compared to say just 9BRP (Brake Reindeer Power). Although this particular model comes with 2WD, which may struggle a bit on the white stuff, a 4WD version is available for those wanting more traction and control. As a bonus, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is now standard on all Hyundais, providing yet further safety. The ride is comfortable and the suspension does an excellent job of ironing out all the bumps and imperfections— a prerequisite for handling lots of fragile goods, and particularly good for tiled roofs.
As an average sized person, similar in height but not in girth to the aforementioned individual, it’s a very slight climb up into the cabin. Once in place you will find the soft reindeer hide clad seats (okay it’s leather really) very comfortable and well-proportioned, with both driver and passenger seats being 10-way electronically adjustable. Almost immediately you become aware of the questionable faux wood effect trim adorning the doors and dash. It might suit individuals accustomed to piloting wooden vehicles but to the rest of us it should probably be dropped.
Once under way there is very little noise intrusion into the cabin, making it very easy to talk to Mrs Claus and up to five little helpers, or play your festive tunes on the 6-disc in-dash MP3 CD player with no less than seven speakers. Seats six and seven come courtesy of a cleverly hidden third row which folds out from the flat boot floor to provide extra seating when required. Occupant safety is high on the list, with no less than 6 airbags (including full length curtain airbags) as well as driver and front passenger active head restraints, seatbelt load limiters and dual pretensioners for front seat passengers.
All of the instruments and controls are all well laid out, proving no problems on the usability front, even for gents with fat fingers. Other neat features include a chilled storage compartment in the centre armrest, additional power outlets, dual climate controls, an interior rear view mirror to keep an eye on the contents of second and third rows, a foot-controlled parking brake and even a safety pack (including reflective vest) for any emergencies.
In summary, it’s a pretty and nicely featured SUV that does without some of the fripperies and over indulgent features of others. It’s well designed both outside and in, not too thirsty (11l/100km for 2WD), is very capacious, quite nippy and safe. So I reckon if the big man was ever to trade in his sleigh it would be for this aptly named alternative, though sadly it doesn’t come in red.
Price: from $52,990
What we like:
- Chilled storage compartment
- Safety Pack – fire extinguisher, reflective jacket and first aid kit
- Minimal cabin noise
What we don’t like:
- Faux wood trim
- Compass set into the mirror is odd
- Thats it
- No really!
Words Phil Clark, photos Darren Cottingham