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Does the newly jazzed-up 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport have the spice to keep up with the top guns of the segment?

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Fri 21 Feb 2014, 4:11 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:55 PM

The fashion-forward people that have five-plus member families now have an alternative to the almost van-like mommy-movers to get across town without having to take a second car or hiring a taxicab. It seats seven, is Korean and now has the appeal to flirt with owners of other run-of-the-mill cars that are on the roads today — presenting, the third generation Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.

Named after New Mexico’s capital city (the oldest capital city in the US), the Santa Fe seems to have been designed to take on the mountainous terrain of the area. Hence, the SUV-like silhouette and all-wheel drive infused capabilities. This week, we drive a 2014 model from the rising star of automakers.


A storm-edge motif meets fluidic sculpture design is how Hyundai like to describe the all-new Santa Fe — but that sounds like clichéd advertising prose. What matters is that the Sante Fe has shed its caterpillar past and blossomed into the proverbial butterfly. The peripherals look good on public roads as well it does in front of your home.

By numbers, the new Santa Fe is 4,690 mm long, 1,880 mm wide, excluding the side-view mirrors, and 1,690 mm tall — matching the segment average. And although it looks mid-size, it has been categorised as a compact crossover. The dimensional comparison with its predecessor says that they are within an inch or two of each other; even the 2,700 mm wheel is about the same. Those who are familiar with Hyundai’s styling in recent models will definitely pick out the six-sided signature grille and the three-bar that go with it — all embellished with chrome. The lower apron has a honeycomb grille that has trapezoidal fog lamps integrated into it. The headlamps are 
appreciably sculpted, have a 3D look about them and are stretched back giving it a wrap-around affect.

From the side you get a view of the pillars that have been blacked out, giving the Santa Fe an uninterrupted glasshouse effect. And unlike the territorial or pueblo style homes in Santa Fe with stuccoed flat roofs, the crossover Santa Fe has a more curved and fluid roofline.

The bodylines of the Santa Fe are 
free-flowing. These elements can be seen in nature, especially in the deserts where large rock faces have been carved out by the wind, like in the Grand Canyon. You also have creases on the body panels all over, with a double ridge on the hood and a single body-long crease that incorporates the door handles seamlessly. The stainless steel tipped twin exhausts at the rear come incorporated into the skid plate, something that would prove useful even in light off-roading.

Some of the paints from the 11-variety scheme are fashionable, but tend more towards mature colours like grey, brown maroon, black and white. The flowery 10-spoke alloy pieces score points for size and finish, and can be had in 18 or even 19-inch diameters depending on the model you choose — both are corseted in 235-section tyres.

In essence, the Santa Fe has brought some idiosyncratic and fresh styling to the game — something that the Japanese player can learn from.

A good portion of that visual excitement can be enjoyed from the insides of the Santa Fe’s cabin as well. The designer has painstakingly attempted to maintain the family resemblance by copy-pasting some elements right from the i30 and others. Some of the plastic buttons have a slightly dated look and feel but work in favour of ergonomics. The cabin has also been touched up with satin finish metal trims, to give that up-market feel over siblings and rivals alike.

Depending on the trim, you can have the interior scheme in complete black or dual-tone; we preferred the latter. The Santa Fe comes with a smart key that lets you access the cabin without clicking your key fob and with the blue-lit push-start technology you can easily start up and drive away.

The instrument gauges are blue lit 
and legible; they’ve been given extruded bezels around them to enhance aesthe-tic appeal. Beneath that is a leather-wrapped steering wheel with a multitude of functional buttons for audio and phone functions. The squared off rear-view mirror in combination with the large back window and sizable door 
mirrors up overall visibility from the driver’s seats — not to mention the high seating position, a big boon for shorter drivers. The upholstery is faux-leather, but it provides suppleness with resilience to last the many years of ownership.

You can induce some much-needed fresh air and light via the panoramic sunroof that wins big for the area it covers and consequently, the augmented sense of being in the open air. The rear cabin is not quite Honda Pilot standard, in terms of space, but it will seat three adults abreast in relative comfort. The third row is a happy addition but do note that it serves as space for junior high schoolers and preferably, keep the drives short.


The base model comes with a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder that can get a little winded in a race against time. As an alternative, you could have the more potent 3.3-litre 6-cylinder engine that is appreciably smoother in operation, is more generous with torque and consequently doesn’t bog down when you load it up with people or packages. The six-pot maxes out at a healthy 266 bhp at 6,400 rpm and 318 Nm of torque at 5,300 rpm. These figures aren’t prodigious but they suit the size and mass of the Santa Fe.

Cutting edge technology might not be Hyundai’s forte, but the 6-speed automatic that the motor is coupled to is more than sufficient for your daily driving routines. The 6-speed manual is available in many other parts of the world, but is a no-show for the GCC. So if you’re looking to row your own gears, look elsewhere.

Peppy performance is what you get from the 3.3-litre displacement. Turn on the heat at a traffic signal and it will go from red light to 100 km/h in about 8.5 seconds. If the conditions are right it is capable of sub-8 second runs. More 
importantly, on the highways, the power is on demand when you want to overtake slow traffic and trailers.

The Santa Fe has a pleasantly taut 
suspension set up, which means it negotiates long sweeping turns and quick zig-zags without much body roll as compared to some of the American SUVs which are tuned more towards comforts.

The assistance to the electric power can be altered by a button on the steering wheel. It can go between normal, comfort and sport. Normal suits most conditions, while comfort allows you to steer with a feather touch input. Putting it into sport means that it requires more effort, but it doesn’t necessarily improve road and steering feel. Braking power is applied by ventilated disc brakes all-around with 12.6-inch rotors upfront and 11.9-inch pistons at the rear. There isn’t a 
low-range gearing although lockable 
differential is part of the package. So light off-roading on the beach is A-OK but climbing Big Red is not.

If you are looking to squeeze every buck for more mileage, you need to get the base 4-cylinder engine. On the other hand, the V6 variant is by no way a guzzler but it is no marathoner either. Hyundai claim 9.8l/100km, a respectable and rather optimistic figure. In real-world driving, expect the 11 to 12 l/100km mark. Equate that number with the 64-litre tank and you get 500 kilometres of happy driving.


The Santa Fe provides some luggage space behind the third row with extra room under tray space. But the second and third rows can be folded down flat for a lot more space to stow skis and sofa sets. The child seat fixtures can be easily mountable and are ISO standards certified. Audio files have the opportunity to listen to the orchestrated 8-speaker audio system. It plays mp3 and has USB ports and aux-in conveniently located in the lower centre console. It is not quite theatre sound, but keeps you engaged while on the road.

To ensure that you arrive safely at your destination, you have all the necessary safety features like six airbags, ABS, rear parking sensors and rain sensing wipers. Stepping up the safety quotient are 
features like safety power windows, hill hold, cruise control electronic parking brake and a rear camera.

As standard comes a 4.3-inch infotainment screen, but higher grades have the 8-inch variety. Along with it comes a useable touch-screen navigation system.

The feature listing also includes seat ventilation/heating and memory package available on the top-spec model while Bluetooth is standard throughout the range. To keep the cabin within livable temperatures, you have a dual zone air-conditioner. They work well in their capacity but the opinions on the maintenance and reliability of these Korean units are a bit mish-mashy.


The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is a fashionable-looking and practical crossover SUV that is a good buy for both the empty nester and newly married types. The Korean manufacturer has recently upped its game by adding more desirability to their already value-for-money proposition. It must be a decent vehicle; after all, we made it through a whole Hyundai review without mentioning the warranty — which, by the way, cover five years and 100,000 kilometres.

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