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Trial by travel

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

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Road trips around the country have always been the default vacation plans for Filipinos, and it is this quintessential element of growing up Filipino that Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. (HARI) Philippine distributor of Hyundai, wants to share with the rest of the ASEAN region.

Serving as the host to the all-new Hyundai Santa Fe Regional Test Drive, HARI brought in journalists from local publications, as well as those from neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore. Set on the roads and sights around the Subic and Bataan area, there couldn’t be a more pleasant mix of highway, winding roads and steep climbs with which to sample the new vehicle. The was no shortage of scenic vistas with which to capture the vehicles either.

Now on its fourth generation, the most distinctive change in the new Santa Fe is the separated headlight design; leaving daytime running lights and moving the LED projector lamps with dynamic bending lower on the façade. They flank the new cascading grille, which is a trademark of Hyundai’s new family identity. The rest of the body features a more muscular and taut shape, punctuated by diamond-cut 19-inch alloy wheels.

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Inside, the cabin features an appealing blend of luxurious materials and technology. Brown leather swathes the seats, dashboard, and door panels with aluminum accents. The vehicle easily seats seven, but cleverly hides that last two seats beneath a flat cargo area.

As for technology, the Santa Fe is packed with features like a heads-up display, wireless cellphone charging, driving modes with varying steering resistance, as well as an entertainment system compatible with Android Auto and Apple Carplay.

Moving this vehicle forward is Hyundai’s reputably powerful 2.2-liter CRDi diesel engine that produces  200-PS at 3,800 rpm and maximum torque of 441 Nm at 1,740-2,750 rpm. The engine is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels.

Keeping it aloft over bumps is a revised suspension system that returns better body roll control, while still retaining the comfortable ride the Santa Fe has become known for.

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Specs aside, the real test of the new Santa Fe was yet to come. To get a proper feel for the vehicle, the event entailed a drive to Bataan’s most scenic locations. The contingent set off from Segara Villas in Subic, out on to the SCTEx and into Pilar, Bataan to pay a visit to the Mt. Samat Shrine.

The drive there served as the perfect opportunity to sample the Santa Fe’s effortless power, easily maintaining a cruise on the highway thanks to the built-in cruise control, while the HUD displayed the speed on the windshield and kept the driver’s eyes on the road where they should be.

From the highway, it was a short drive through Bataan’s towns before the steep and winding roads leading up to the shrine. This gave us a chance to fiddle with the drive modes and finding its sport mode, illuminating the dial in red, shifting more aggressively, and quickening steering response to be the perfect fit.

Once at the Dambana ng Kagitingan monument at the peak, we took the obligatory photos before heading to the next stop, the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.

The 14-hectare resort town is famous for its collection of relocated, restored colonial houses and buildings, providing a wholly enveloping atmosphere to practically travel back in time and relive the colonial era. Perhaps the only anachronism was the Santa Fe itself. Nonetheless, it was a time machine we well appreciated, thanks to its ability to cruise through the rough road leading to the resort and capably muting the bumps on the cobblestone streets of the area thanks to its supple suspension.

After touring the historic homes and snapping a few photos, it was time again to move on to our last stop in Napot Point, home of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Constructed in 1976, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant is the Philippines’ only attempt at building a nuclear power plant. It was originally considered as a solution to the 1973 oil crisis, but never went into operation due to safety concerns in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl situation.

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Though there was little to see, stopping by here allowed us to take the scenic back entrance into Subic, serving as a fitting end to the 146-km drive. Even the twisty roads lined with trees on either side couldn’t disturb the other media delegates already soundly asleep at the back of the car.

The night before, Yong Suk Lee, director of Hyundai Motor Company Regional Headquarters said that, “The fourth-generation Santa Fe will continue to impress customers with its premium design, spacious interior, and advanced technology.” That it has with its distinctive new look, adaptive drive, and comfortable ride. Having impressed the Philippine and foreign media even with such a short road trip, it should no doubt delight Filipino familiars on longer ones.

The all-new Hyundai Santa Fe is now available in authorized Hyundai dealerships nationwide with a suggested retail price of P2,338,000.

By Iñigo S. Roces

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