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With fluctuating fuel prices putting pressure on larger vehicles and off-roaders, the diesel engine option in a model line-up is becoming increasingly important. The latest generation of diesel engines that have come onto the scene have little in common with the older style designs that probably weren't turbocharged, were noisy and in most cases only available with a manual transmission, as automatics struggled with the higher torque loads at lower engine revolutions.
The second generation Santa Fe was launched in mid 2006, powered by a 2.7 litre V6 with 138kW and 248Nm of torque. Enter the latest Santa Fe CRDI - a high tech 2.2 litre diesel with an aluminium 16 valve SOHC cylinder head, common rail fuel injection and an intercooled variable vane turbocharger. Coupled to this engine is an all new driver adaptive five-speed automatic.
The SLX auto as tested is priced at $43,490; it's the mid specked version in the diesel line-up, with the base SX starting at $36,990 for a manual and $39,490 for the automatic. Top of the range is the Elite priced at $46,990 and it's only available as a five seater. In the recreational 4WD class amongst a sea of petrol engined competition it's amongst the highest priced but its one of the few that offers a diesel engine.
Features include airconditioning with outlets for second row and separate AC for third row seats, power steering with tilt and reach, cruise control, power windows with driver's one touch down function, six speaker MP3/CD player, Electronic Stability Program, Traction control, front fog lamps, alloy wheels and a full size spare.
Interior storage solutions are all throughout this well designed space. Glove box size is deep enough for a street directory, the centre console has a cooling vent in the base to keep things cool and the lid has a shallow top shelf for smaller items. Useful sized door pockets are in each door and in the centre of the roof a sunglass holder and a flip down courtesy mirror to keep an eye on your cargo is provided. With the third row seats folded flat there is a reasonable amount of space. Fold down the second row and there is 1.8 metres of cargo length.
All seating positions have grab handles and their own ventilation outlets and the second row has its own adjustable fan control.
Front seat comfort is up there with the class leaders although some additional bolstering on the seat back rest wouldn't go astray. Second row passengers won't complain either - the position and adjustable backrest is fine for adults on an extended trip. Once seated in the third row the footwell space is deep enough so as not to force your knees upwards through your chest. Head room is tight though.
Having the versatility of seven seats is a plus in this market, although the Santa Fe's third row seating is best suited to small children and teenagers, as the climb in through the rear doors requires a fair degree of dexterity and flexibility. Forward vision is excellent and vision when reversing posed no problem. The foot operated park brake is a bit at odds with the rest of the well designed interior, and the fuel filler switch is in an unusual position in the lower part of the driver's door - not that you have to refill all that often.
Buyers of the SLX diesel receive the full compliment of active and passive safety features-six airbags, with the side curtain airbags extending to the third row of seats. Electronic stability control, traction control, and head rests on all seats. The base SX diesel misses out on some of the features of the SLX namely electronic stability Program [ESP] traction control, and side curtain and thorax airbags an important difference when considering model choice.
Build quality is first class both inside and out. Compound body shut lines were tight and the whole vehicle felt taut and rock solid. Inside the trim used on the seat faces seemed to be up a notch over the first generation, and importantly the colour and fabric look durable the plastic trim inside is also less hard edged and old school in texture.
Instruments look a little bland - at night they are lit up with an easy on the eye blue hue. Despite the bland look they are easy to read day or night. Switch gear for heating and audio have an improved feel and the blue backlighting carries through to these minor dials creating a classy look at night.
Keyless entry with alarm, central locking including the tailgate and an engine immobiliser are standard across the range. NRMA Insurance give the Santa Fe a security rating of 62/120 which is average for this class.
The official ADR fuel figure is 8.2 litres per 100km, and a CO2 emission figure of 218 gm per km, both class leading figures. On test we averaged 8.4 litres per 100km in a mix of city and country driving.
345Nm of torque available from between 1800 and 2500 rpm is the basis for the effortless get up and go that is available right off the mark. Once up and running the acceleration up through to signposted speeds is a little more languid and pressing the pedal to the floor doesn't create that much more acceleration, its easier just to let the engine torque do its job. It's also thankfully quiet in its operation when revved hard. Like the petrol engined Santa Fe, which had an excellent shifting four speed auto box auto, the new five speed automatic matched to diesel s characteristics perfectly.
Those expecting a soft ride will be surprised with the new Santa Fe, as it's firmed up compared to the first generation, and like the current crop of SUVs its feels taut and more car like. It's still comfortable across most surfaces and off-road it felt quite composed.
Coil springs in all corners and gas dampers are nicely matched to the Santa Fe's mass, and on test it proved to be a competent performer. Power characteristics combine to make it an effortless performer out on the highway. Steering is direct although light, and when pushed hard into a corner it demands attention, but overall it's as good as anything in its class.
Braking duties are carried out by 298mm ventilated front discs, on the rear they are 302 mm solid discs. The front callipers are dual spot and the Santa Fe features ABS braking with electronic brake force distribution. On test there were no surprises with stopping distances under 26 metres. During repeated stops they performed without fuss, and the pedal maintained consistent feel in all situations.
The Santa Fe passed the passenger test with flying colours - that is that no passenger realised that the Santa Fe was powered by a diesel engine until told. When accelerating hard it's still quiet and dropping back a couple of gears when overtaking is a seamless task without any harshness transmitted back through to the driver or passengers.
With fluctuating fuel prices making buyers more cautious in this market segment, a diesel alternative is a necessary option to have in your armoury. For sales success it has to be an effective alternative to the petrol equivalent. The diesel Santa Fe feels punchier off the mark compared to the 2.7 litre V6 and delivers appreciable fuel savings long term. If towing is going to be regular prospect then the diesel is an even better choice. The Santa Fe diesel is a class leading example of the latest from this Korean manufacturer.
Test vehicle supplied by Hyundai Australia.
|Model||Santa Fe SLX Diesel|
|Price of vehicle tested||$46,990|
Flexible seating options
Park brake location slightly awkward
|Country of manufacture||Korea|
SX (manual): $36,990
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||2.1 L|
|Induction||Direct injection turbocharged|
|Claimed max power (kW)||114 kW @ 4000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||342 Nm @ 1800-2500 rpm|
|Wheel size||17 x 7 "|
|Spare tyre type||Full size alloy|
|Type||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Turns to lock||3.2 m|
|Turning circle (measured)||11.2 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||2140 mm|
|Fuel capacity||75 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||1941 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||62|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||4.9 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||8.1 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||9.6 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||13.9 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||7.6 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||9.2 L/100km|
|Average on test||8.4 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||25 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||66.4 dB(A)|