Hyundai Santa Fe 2.4L: The Power Not to Surprise

23rd August 2017 BY
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Looks mean, but its pretty family friendly!

It would be easy to call the Hyundai Santa Fe a boring vehicle that gets you and your family from Point A to Point B without throwing up any surprises – negative or positive. Isn’t that the quintessential definition of boring?

However, we prefer to look at the Santa Fe a little differently. It is dependable without being flashy, with just the right level of power delivered by the “Theta” 2.4-liter inline-four engine that creates an effortless flow of power, torque and surprising fuel efficiency.

Between the power, the steering and the smooth six-speed automatic gearbox, the Santa Fe takes its cues from the driver’s needs. From the slow and careful to the quick and adventurous, the car has an appropriate response for every driving style. Again, with no surprises.

Perhaps the only gripe we can offer here is that in Eco mode, you may experience some lag during downshifts. But switch to Normal driving mode and the lag disappears, with a minimal increase in the fuel consumption.

But the real value of the Santa Fe shines through when you juxtapose the lean good looks of the vehicle with its ability to seat seven human bodies and still deliver steady driving pleasure and excellent comfort.

The FWD advantage

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Drab-chich is the new shabby-chic?

Unlike its all-wheel drive (AWD) 3.3-liter counterpart, the smaller-engine Santa Fe model drives only the front wheels. While there is no compromise on the car’s ability to bash urban streets with élan, you will need to keep it on tarmac to be able to remain safely in motion. Don’t let the SUV looks fool you into adventuring onto sand or mud. The result would be the same as taking a FWD sedan on to soft surfaces – you’re going to get stuck – only worse, because the Santa Fe is significantly heavier.

On the other hand, the 2.4-liter engine ensures a much longer period between gas fill-ups, providing a great level of fuel efficiency. We clocked more than 500 kilometers on a full tank and still didn’t feel the need to pull into a gas station.

The Santa Fe is rated as a seven-seater and is rather a large vehicle, but you will be hard put to comfortably seat more than a nuclear family of four to six, including two to four kids, but with a huge luggage space with the third row of seats folded down. However, the option of the third row places the Santa Fe way in front of most of its competitors in the 2.4L SUV segment. We doff our hat to the fact that Hyundai has managed to squeeze the level of torque necessary to drive such a large vehicle from a relatively small engine, in spite of the Santa Fe being heavier than its competition.

This is definitely a good-looking car all around. We especially liked the lean raked lines and chrome highlights. The designers have raised the bar of SUV modeling to take it beyond the “box-on-wheels” motif. Seen from the outside, the Santa Fe gives the impression of a powerful, hard-charging off-roader.  Its profile – with all the edges and butch thrusts – belies the power under the hood.

Safety and comfort

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Redefining the back-seat driving experience

Rear parking sensors, air bags and cruise control keep the car safe from dings, the passengers safe from injury, and the driver safe from speeding tickets and stress. One thing we had an issue with is the relatively flattened shape of the backs of the front bucket seats. A little more pronounced wings jutting at the sides would have made them much more comfortable on long drives. However, this was a little ameliorated by the superb suspension, with two or four adults in the car.

And if you want us to continue grousing a little more, we were totally underwhelmed by the quality of the sound system, which seemed to flatten out the highs and lows of our classic rock – making it sound almost like (horrors!) pop – no matter how we set the frequency equalizer.

Spoilt as we are by the rock-solid phone connectivity and the slick and seamless human-machine interface of American and European cars, the Santa Fe’s mid-console gizmo left us a little frustrated and sometimes amused. Connecting our Android phone via Bluetooth took a few more clicks on various buttons than it should have. And then streaming our music was an exasperating experience. The system would insist on restarting a song if it was turned off mid-way through; and the display would be stuck at one song’s information even 10 songs into a playlist. None of this has happened – with the same phone – on the Chevy MyLink or the Jeep Uconnect.

Clearly, Hyundai has spent quite a bit of effort in providing a great mechanical experience. The Santa Fe is easy on the eyes, spacious and quite a pleasure to drive. We wish the Koreans would pay a little more attention to the “soft skills” of the car as well.

SpaciousFront seats could be better
Excellent driving experienceHard-to-use music system
Good suspensionLack of four wheel drive
Great fuel efficiency
Looks good too!

 The 2.4L SUV shootout

 Hyundai Santa FeHonda CR-VToyota RAV-4Ford Escape
Weight (kg)1,7501,6181,6141,588
Engine2.4L I4 FWD2.4L I4 FWD2.5L I4 FWD2.5L I4 FWD
Power (bhp)174184177168
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
0-100 kph (sec.)
Top Speed (kph)190200200180


Further Reading

Hyundai Arabia

Drive Arabia

Edmunds Safety Review


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