Hyundai has proved time and again that it’s no prisoner of its past. The enormous progress the South Korean carmaker has made in terms of design, build quality and engineering over the past decade is testimony to the fact that it took home valuable lessons from its previous mistakes.
And it seems it’s also learning from the mistakes of rivals, especially Nissan, when it comes to positioning its cars.
While the Japanese carmaker seems to have tied itself into a knot with its eight SUVs and their overlapping prices and specs, Hyundai has gone the opposite way by streamlining its utility vehicle line-up further.
The Vera Cruz, which had been on life support for a few years, has been euthanised and its position in the family has been taken over by the Grand Santa Fe, a longer wheelbase, seven-seater version of the regular Santa Fe.
By doing that, Hyundai has covered the entire large crossover/SUV market with just one nameplate, leaving the Tucson to take care of the entry-level crossover segment.
Apart from subtle styling changes to the front,
a longer wheelbase and larger rear quarter-windows, there isn’t much that separates Grand Santa Fe from the five-seater, which already had fairly attractive looks.
Longer overall by a good 225mm and boasting a 100mm longer wheelbase, it’s a proper seven-seater that can actually accommodate two adults in the third row.
All seats including the power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support are supportive and comfortable.
The full-length panoramic sunroof adds to the sense of roominess in the cabin. Meanwhile the extra glass area in the rear quarter makes it less claustrophobic for third-row passengers, who get their own climate control switches as well.
And as you’d expect, the Grand Santa Fe can carry considerably more cargo than its shorter sibling with a remarkable 634 litres of space when the third-row seats are folded flat.
Further cargo space can be freed up by folding the 40:20:40 split second-row seats, making it one of the most functional SUVs in this price range.
While the five-seater Santa Fe is offered with two engine options including a base 2.4-litre four-pot, the Grand Santa Fe is available only with a 3.3-litre V6. Making 270bhp and 318Nm, it is one of the smoother V6 engines on the market today.
Mated to a six-speed automatic here, it’s more powerful and refined than Hyundai’s 3.0-litre V6 that powers the Azera in our market.
However, I found the Grand’s ride surprisingly not as comfortable or smooth as the shorter model’s.
Having taken the Santa Fe off-road at its launch in Oman a couple of years ago, I know the suspension set-up and Hyundai’s Active Cornering Control all-wheel-drive system are capable of handling light off-road duties.
Although Hyundai claims the Santa Fe is “rugged but always ready for an urban landscape”, it would be wiser if you limit its use to the “urban landscape”.
Also, despite the steering having three different modes — Comfort, Normal and Sport — switching between these does not bring about any perceivable difference in its response, which is kind of detached.
But the inherent lightness of the steering makes it a breeze to park and manoeuvre in tight spots.
Standard features include the now customary Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary jacks as well as safety features like ESP, Brake Assist, traction control, stability management and seven airbags.
While these features are standard fare in most
SUVs in this segment, where the Santa Fe wins hands down is in its price.
With an unbelievably low starting price of Dh89,900 and the feature-packed top-spec variant costing just Dh122,900, the Grand Santa Fe is a truly compelling alternative to more established but pricier seven-seat rivals like the Ford Explorer and the Nissan Pathfinder.
This story first appeared on wheels in August 2014