As manufacturers constantly change their vehicle line-ups in pursuit of outdoing one another, the offering of seven-seater cars have become more prominent over time.
Some of these vehicles come out standard with the third row, some give the owner the option of having them up or folding them down, while others give one the option to have them fitted additionally to the rear.
But mostly in all of these cases, the third row is almost always a bit of an afterthought, something tagged on at the expense of proper legroom, comfortable seats or a decent view from the side windows in order to present the manufacturer with a better sales pitch.
But then one doesn’t get the exception from the rule, like the new Hyundai Santa Fe.
The outgoing model also featured the third row which can be neatly folded away to enlarge its boot space, but this time around the Koreans have perfected the concept.
Not only has the passengers’ visibility in the third row been increased by a mammoth 41% – enlarging the rear quarter window – but the practical headroom has increased by 23mm to 889mm and the space behind the third headrest has swelled by a gigantic 127mm to 183mm.
Third row passengers also have the added benefit of a 100mm wide armrest, ingress and egress handles to help them in boarding or getting out, while the second row can be moved forward and fold automatically with a simple electronic switch located on the seat next to the headrest.
With the third row fully engaged, the space left for luggage in the boot isn’t shabby at all, in fact, measured at five litres more than the outgoing model at 130 litres, while the actual cargo length has increased by 60mm to 428mm.
The space is enough for four to five generously packed grocery bags. And a very handy thing the crafty Koreans thought of is a stowage space under the bottom carpet for the removable rolling boot cover once one does engage the third row.
There is of course much, much more to the new Santa Fe than the clever seating arrangement.
Almost the only thing that didn’t change from the previous generation is the very solid R2.2 e-VGT diesel engine which produces 142kW at 3 800rpm and 440Nm of torque. But for the new edition, the engine has been paired with a fantastic eight speed auto gearbox.
In the new gearbox, the first gear is arranged to give better acceleration, while the eighth gear improves fuel efficiency.
And I can attest to that: at the launch, I achieved an acceptable 7.2 litres per 100km/h over a distance which included quite high speeds out on the open.
And one of the things most noticeable during those speeds is the low noise in the cabin.
The Elite model, which features HTRAC all-wheel drive, handled the dirt exceptionally well, while even the two-wheel drive Premium performed well over the gravel at a high speed.
At the end of the day, the new Santa Fe is as safe a house with a five-star Euro NCAP rating to boot and a host of safety functions, a long list of creature comforts and it is as spacious as it is luxurious.
As clever as the seating options are, occupants will also hugely appreciated the two USB charging ports from the second row, the rear door manual side curtains, the power tailgate which is speed and height adjustable, and the awesome electronic child safety lock located.
And since parents not only drive around children, but adults as well, they will understand the effort of getting out of the car to open the rear doors for adults when the manual child locks are engaged.
The Santa Fe, especially the Elite, is competing with some pretty big names in this segment, but little things like these will go a long way in swinging opinions its way.
- Electronic child lock in driver’s door.
- Fuel consumption very competitive for such a big car.
- The manual shift option on the right side of the gear level isn’t the most comfortable.
- The Santa Fe has some big ammo to take to a tough gun fight.
- R2.2 Premium R599 900
- R2.2 Executive R659 900
- R2.2 Elite AT HTRAC R749 900
All Santa Fe models are sold with a five-year/ 90 000km service plan, a five-year/150 000km manufacturer warranty, an additional two-year/50 000km warranty on powertrain and fiveyear/150 000km roadside assistance