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STORMING GOD'S OWN COUNTRY.

The previous generation Santa Fe did not set the sales charts alight. We find out if the third generation has

The Santa Fe in its second generation was a pretty good vehicle. It did not achieve the heights of success of some of its competitors because of its rather plain looks, much like those of the previous generation Verna, a snouty face with no character. However, with this generation all that has changed and the SUV now has an imposing presence without being outrightly daunting and sleek dynamic looks all around.

But the transformations are not limited to the exteriors only. The interiors are totally transformed as well and now come loaded with all the features, utilitarian, comfort and otherwise that one can ask for.

Whether it is the cooled glove box big enough for multiple cans, the double 12V power outlets, USB, aux- in and Bluetooth connectivity or all the controls mounted on the steering wheel, the car has them all. The instrument panel is also all new and displays all the car related information as well has options of adjusting various settings, much like one would expect in a premium car. The touch- screen display for the multimedia system also doubles up as a display for the rear view parking camera. The twin- zone climate control system comes with a cluster ioniser which should help in Indian conditions.

The Santa Fe remains a 7- seater with the 40: 20: 40 split and adjustable middle row and two individual seats which fold seamlessly into the floor of the boot making up the third row. The engine is the same as before albeit with additional torque and the gearbox is also the same 6- speed manual. As far as performance goes, the SUV has the legs to outrun any other SUV in its class, both in the short sprint as well as the marathon.

The car seemed to have slightly more body roll than before but otherwise it is dynamically very sorted and extremely easy to drive.

Flex steer weighs up the steering for highway driving and lightens it up considerably for parking in tight spaces. A host of electronic systems ensure that the car maintains poise on the road and act as active safety systems.

On the narrow winding roads of the ghats in Kerala, the SUV was easy to drive and its monocoque chassis does give it the rigidity that some of the other SUVs may lack. While it passes the on- road exam by flying colours we need not get a chance to do some serious off- roading with it though I think it will be capable. I also did spot the central diff lock button on the dash which would distribute torque equally between the front and rear axles. The electronics should be able to do the rest if the ground clearance of 185mm permits.

The Santa Fe has definitely made the move up the ladder even though it was well appointed in its previous generation as well. Now it gets a keyless entry and a pushbutton start, puddle lamps under the outside rear view mirrors, as well as headlamp washers for the HID headlamps and the LED running lights.

While even the seats of the second row are adjustable, it is only the driver's seat that gets 12- way electric adjustment. Even the front passenger has to do without electric assistance and even this seat height cannot be changed. And this is perhaps the only grouse with the otherwise excellent and versatile interiors.

VERDICT

The SUV offers much more than vehicles priced above it and has all the features including some off- road capability thanks to its 4WD system, decent ground clearance and high- end electronic systems. With the Santa Fe it is not the badge you are paying for but the vehicle!

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:1U8NM
Date:Feb 23, 2014
Words:654
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