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Future models - Hyundai - Santa Fe

Santa claws back

Familiar territory: current Santa Fe lacks the seven-seat capacity to rival Australia's top-selling medium SUVs.

Next-gen Santa Fe to arrive with smarter looks, seven seats and more performance

11 May 2005

HYUNDAI will mount a serious challenge to the Ford Territory, Mitsubishi Pajeroand Toyota Kluger with its next-generation Santa Fe four-wheel drive wagon.

Codenamed ‘CM’, the second iteration will graduate into the next league in sizeas well as sales segment when it arrives in Australia in about 12 months’ time.

Key to the Santa Fe II’s new-found appeal will be a flexible interior with seven-seat availability.

Today’s Santa Fe is restricted to a five seat-only configuration.

This effectively puts space as well as size between the next Santa Fe and the recently released Tucson small 4WD, which has assumed the role as Hyundai’s Honda CR-V challenger.

At the heart of the new model is the implementation of Hyundai’s new Lambda range of V6 petrol engines.

More likely for Australia is the yet-unseen 3.8-litre version, although the smaller 3.3-litre unit to be first sampled in next month’s NF Sonata mayyet make it as a base engine.

Meanwhile, the 2.4-litre Theta engine from the new NF Sonata bound for some overseas CM markets will not make it here.

However, Hyundai Motor Company of Australia (HMCA) will probably go diesel withthe Santa Fe for the first time.

According to one Hyundai insider, a still-secret CRDi (Common Rail Direct Injection) engine, believed to be 3.8 litres in capacity, is in the pipeline for this model.

Known internally as the ‘S’-series engine, it isn’t apparent whether this turbo-diesel will replace or supplement HMC’s excellent 2.9-litre CRDi engine that debuted locally only last January in the ageing Terracan.

The CM’s styling is the work of Hyundai’s Namyang, South Korea, studio, but withstipulations from the company’s California centre.

A very obvious lift in interior quality and design echoes the strides Hyundai’s stylists have wrought on the chunky, yet much cleaner, exterior.

Gone are the ungainly curves and bulges for a more European-centric visage.

Inside, buyers of more expensive prestige 4WDs are likely to feel more at home in the 2006 Santa Fe, with symmetry and restraint replacing the acres of hard plastics.

Equipment levels are also expected to rise, aiding the greater level of luxury, comfort and refinement earmarked for the model.

Inside the heavily clad prototypes spotted by GoAuto at Hyundai’s Namyang test circuit was a large monitor dominating the upper-centre console, suggesting satellite navigation and perhaps even rear-parking camera and televisionavailability.

It is believed the CM will possibly replace some of the ageing Terracan models in HMCA’s local line-up, even though – like today’s model – it will not feature the latter’s separate chassis construction.

An improved all-wheel drive system is expected to be another of the CM’s highlights. It may even be the permanent full-time all-wheel drive systemof the current part-time set-up.

But Hyundai’s new 4WD will not enjoy smooth sailing. From next year, there will be plenty of new-model action in the lower and medium SUV segment.

From below will come the next-generation Toyota Rav4, Mazda Tribute, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Mitsubishi Outlander, while an all-new Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota Kluger are also in the works.

And there will be rivalry from Holden in the production of the GM Daewoo S3X, which is due to debut at around the same time. That 4WD will also have seven-seater capability.

Santa Fe sales have sagged in recent times, from their first full-year top of 2934 in 2001 to 1914 last year. In the first four months of 2005, 532 found homes.

With all the new 4WD activity coming, a model makeover cannot come soon enough for HMCA.

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