The Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, the latest version of which was launched at the Geneva Motor Show last year, has found its way into Malaysia as a CKD (locally assembled) model, in the guise of the Inokom Santa Fe, sold by Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors Sdn Bhd. Available with a choice of a 2.2 litre diesel engine or a 2.7 litre V6 petrol engine, the Inokom Santa Fe is a medium-sized SUV that is one size larger than the Honda CRV. The diesel model retails at RM160,358, while the petrol model retails at RM158,827 (both prices are On-the-Road without insurance).
The Santa Fe is the flagship of the Hyundai SUV range, and thus it becomes the flagship of the Inokom range here by default. We have just returned from a media drive hosted by Hyundai-Sime Darby Motors, and we had the opportunity to drive the petrol version for one hundred kilometers.
In terms of looks, the Santa Fe is quite decent, and quite conventional, without any garish or outlandish features; quite pleasing to the eye. Targeted at the up-market, young buyer, the interior comes fitted with leather upholstery; I would have expected electric controls for at least the driver’s seat, but unfortunately, they are manual. Interior space is decent though, with plenty of legroom and living space for four or five occupants, plus space for luggage.
On the road, I find the leather-bound steering wheel very nice and comfortable to hold, being just the right size and of the right texture. The ride is on the firm side of comfortable, something I like, because, whilst it gives a pleasant ride on the straights, it also takes the corners very well, and the stabilizer bars must be quire massive, considering that the Santa Fe has very minimal body roll.
Under normal circumstances, drive is to the front wheels, but on demand, drive to the rear wheels engage automatically. The 4WD can be locked permanently via a button control on the centre console. We managed to hit 180 km/h on a downhill stretch before we ran out of safe road, but under normal circumstances, a cruising of between 140 km/h to 160 km/h seems to be the Santa Fe’s comfort zone.
The V6 petrol power unit gives an output of 188PS, and 248 NM of torque, and has enough power to get the Santa Fe going at a reasonable pace, up to a point. The kerb weight is not specified, but I suspect that it is quite a bit over 1.5 tons, and the Santa Fe does not seem to like being pushed hard. The brakes are good enough to stop it in normal driving, but on a short stint along the old road to Bentong, the brakes started to heat up after about five or six corners before which I had to slow down to a safe speed, and I had to slow down and get them cooled off before the reassuring ‘feel came back on again. The brake feel is good as long as you don’t get the temperature up.
The diesel version comes with a five-speed automatic with what seems like a decent set of ratios, but unfortunately, and surprisingly, the petrol version has a four-speed auto. For the sake of common parts, I would have expected the petrol version to have the same gearbox, the only difference being the final gear reduction. I did not get a chance to try out the diesel, but it appears to be the superior machine, at least where specifications are concerned.
Moving on to the suspension, the Santa Fe is four-wheel independent, made up of MacPherson struts in the front, and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. I have no issues with the suspension, and as I mentioned earlier, the set-up is pretty good.
In an overall sense, the Inokom Santa Fe is a good value for money proposition. Although the media brief from the company states that it is targeted at the premium segment, it does fall a little short. If anything, it is more of a bargain purchase for someone who wants more bang for their buck.