In the league of 7-seat SUVs, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a true leader. With a combination of striking European style, smart practicality and sensibilities, we already knew that Hyundai had a winner in the segment four years ago.

When it came time for a mid life model change, we expected the usual bits and pieces like new bumpers, maybe a garnish and an extra feature here and there. With an overachieving brand like Hyundai, however, we knew that they were going to do much, much more than that with the 2010 Santa Fe

Of course there are the typical subtle changes on the design front. Hyundai fitted a new, gridded grille to replace the old 2-bar, while a newer more modern bumper complements it. New wheel designs, a new pair of side mirrors, roof rails and a revised rear end with more pronounced taillights finish off the 2010 redesign.

In terms of size, the new Santa Fe hasn't grown much over the original 2nd generation model, measuring 4660mm long, 1890mm wide and 1760mm tall with a wheelbase of 2700mm, competing in the midsize SUV class. There is still ample space for 7 adults, arrayed in a 2-3-2 seating arrangement. Both the 3rd and 2nd rows can fold forward for maximum versatility in cargo space. The Santa Fe keeps the swing up tailgate, allowing for easy access to the trunk.

The design changes inside the cabin are more subtle than the exterior, with changes in trimmings and color schemes on the dashboard as well as new seat materials. The most obvious changes inside are in the features, as the Santa Fe gets a new 2-DIN DVD entertainment system with satellite navigation. The audio system gets full iPod integration, a 6.5 inch touchscreen TFT LCD screen and 6 speakers. Other features include the dual front and rear airconditioning system, powered features for the windows, locks and mirrors, dual front airbags, an auto light control system and a steering wheel audio remote system.

Normally, that's where the changes end for most other cars towards the middle of their life cycles, but Hyundai saw fit to transform the Santa Fe with a new range of engines. For gasoline variants, the Santa Fe offers the new Theta-II class of engines, in a 2.4 liter displacement, inline-4 arrangement. For diesels, the Santa Fe still has a 2.2 liter CRDI engine, but thanks to the new variable geometry turbo system called R-eVGT, the new diesel engine is much more powerful at 197 metric horsepower and has more torque at 437 newton meters.

To match the new range of engines, Hyundai has upgraded the old 5-speed automatic with a better 6-speed Shiftronic transmission for improved acceleration and improved fuel economy. Driving the Santa Fe R-eVGT out for the first time,, the extra 40 horsepower is a marked change. It definitely feels a lot more powerful over the old one, which in itself is already pretty potent for its time. The new Santa Fe accelerates from 0-100 km/h in just 9.8 seconds, tops out at 190 km/h, and can do a very sensible 18.1 kilometers per liter on the highway.

Being a crossover, the Santa Fe is based on a car's platform as opposed to conventional SUVs. With MacPherson struts in front and a fully independent multi link in back, the Santa Fe has better road manners, comfort and handling than conventional truck based SUVs. And it shows. Drive it on pockmarked streets and it behaves and feels like a sedan, even though you're riding in something that can carry 7.

With the new features, engines and design, it's easy to expect a higher price tag than the original 2nd generation Santa Fe. But as just over PhP 1.5M for the R-eVGT model, Hyundai has put forth another great package for the 7-seat SUV segment in the new Santa Fe.

It's another winner. Easy.
  • Make:Hyundai
  • Model:Santa Fe R-eVGT 2WD
  • Engine:2.2L DOHC 16valve Inline-4 Turbo Intercooler
  • Max Power:197 PS @ 3800 rpm
  • Max Torque:437 N-m @ 1800-2500 rpm
  • Transmission:6-Speed A/T
  • Price as Tested: