Even after many years, Hyundai keeps on going

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

Straight up I have to admit I've long been a fan of Hyundai motor cars.

I bought an Elantra way back in 1995 and until today it has given me excellent service.

Twelve years on, over 300000km on the clock, and the car just keeps on going.

And over all those years never once has the engine been opened up, the clutch replaced or a new exhaust fitted.

Sure the body is pretty rough but what do you expect driving around Gauteng where drivers tend to treat the roads as practice laps for a Formula 1 season.

Bringing myself up to speed with more modern trends from this Korean giant, I recently spent a bit of time behind the wheel of the Hyundai Santa Fe.

The vehicle comes in two derivatives - a 4x2 manual and a 4x4 automatic - both diesel.

The Santa Fe is basically the "Big Brother" to the very popular and successful Tucson. On test we had the 4x2 manual.

Make no mistake this vehicle is big. It seats seven people comfortably - mind you that's if you don't have too much luggage, otherwise fold down the two back seats and it opens up to an impressive 969 litres of storage space.

When buying a Hyundai you are always guaranteed a range of goodies as standard features and the Santa Fe is no exception.

Air bags, dual air conditioning, radio-CD with 6 speakers, cruise control, leather seats and so on come with both vehicles.

Driving around town is a pleasure. The steering is light yet responsive and the 2,2 litre diesel engine surprisingly gutsy.

Plant your foot in second or third gear and straight away you feel the nose of the vehicle lifting as the turbo kicks in.

For a large vehicle it is surprisingly quick out of the starting blocks and has a claimed 0-100km/ph of 11.3 seconds. Top speed is 180 km/ph

The vehicle also comes standard with 17 inch wheels, so, even when you decide to do a little off-road venturing, there is plenty of grip in the lower gears.

Two large exhaust pipes, either side of the vehicle, definitely add a bit of muscle to the SUV's already impressive body.

A nice touch with the Santa Fe is the illuminous blue lighting on the instrument panel. Everything stands out nice and clear whether at night or during the day.

Two sunglass holders, situated in the roof lining just about the front two seats, proved handy and individual controls in the back seats for the air conditioning a definite bonus.

On the downside? Well not much. The wood grain finish looks a little out of place and the interior door handles are slightly light. Having continually had problems with door handles in my old Elantra, I would ask the question how long these chrome ones will last.

Overall this was a very comfortable vehicle to drive - plenty of space, a responsive engine that is surprisingly quite for a diesel, and loads of space for those weekends away.

Now, I wonder how much I can get as a trade-in for my old skorokoro on a new Santa Fe!

The 4x2 sells for R339900 and the 4x4 automatic R364900.

Both come with a 3 year/100000km factory warranty and a 3 year/60000 full maintenance plan. Service intervals, as is the case with most diesel vehicles, is every 10000kms.

To view a video and picture gallery of the Santa Fe log on to www.sowetan.co.za