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Hyundai Santa Fe diesel 2006 review

The top-of-the-line Elite model costs $46,990, which is effectively a $4000 premium for the oil-burner over the continuing 2.7-litre V6 petrol the model launched with. To make that considerable engine premium less noticeable at the entry level, Hyundai has taken what many will see as a regressive step in stripping the SX of the company's safety package.

The five-speed manual comes without ESP, traction control, side airbags or curtain bags -- all standard on the base petrol model. Also missing, but of far less a concern, is the trip computer and foglights, along with a range of other convenience and comfort extras.

While based purely on a marketing strategy, the decision diminishes Hyundai's growing corporate safety reputation at a time when there is a strong community argument that loss-of-control modification systems like ESP should be an industry standard.

That aside, the CRDi has the potential to be a very positive story for Hyundai. Compared with its petrol sibling, the diesel offers significantly more torque and a claimed 30 per cent better fuel economy -- every drop of which will be needed to justify the engine's premium pricing.

Despite the pricing impost, Hyundai is confident the diesel can account for up to 60per cent of Santa Fe business and ramp up sales of the Santa Fe to around 300 a month.

"In reality very few buyers will take the manual car," Hyundai spokesman Richard Powers says. "The real volume will come from the mid-range model with the attraction of the seven seats and the five-speed automatic.

"Some of the diesel sales will come from buyers who were considering the petrol car but we are also expecting a strong conquest result from buyers who, until now, have not been able to find a diesel of this standard at this price in the segment."

The 2.2-litre SOHC 16-valve four-cylinder intercooled turbo-diesel unit in the Santa

Fe is strong, usable and admirably elastic. Producing a reasonable 114kW of power at 4000rpm, the engine's strength is in its

343Nm of torque, which is punching away from 1800rpm through to 2500rpm -- with considerable amounts on tap for several hundred revs either side of that band.

Hyundai claims the little diesel to be one of the most advanced on the market, with the increasingly popular variable-vane geometry air-to-air intercooled turbocharger, which both improves fuel efficiency and reduces lag.

That efficiency equates to a claimed 8.2L/100km combined cycle in the seven-seat auto, although the hero sticker number will be 7.3L/100km from the lighter entry-level manual. The engine is also Euro IV emission compliant. While the five-speed auto makes its debut in the Santa Fe, replacing the ageing four-speed unit currently doing service in the V6, it will also appear in other models before the end of next year. The V6 Santa Fe will pick it up in the second half of next year while the upcoming Lambda will couple the gearbox with its 3.3-litre V6 at launch in February.

Apart from the engine and the new automatic, the standard specification levels in the Santa Fe SLX and Elite are at the same high levels as the petrol models.

The full active safety suite of ESP,

traction control, ABS and EBD are complemented by twin front airbags, side airbags for the driver and front passenger and curtain airbags that run through to the third row of seats in the seven-seater.

On the road the Santa Fe diesel is little different from its petrol sibling in its ride and handling characteristics. It is only when

you ask the car for an effort that the difference becomes apparent.

There is none of the doziness of the V6 nor the indecision of the gearbox. Punch the accelerator and the diesel is ready to go, strong off the line, even more in the mid-range where overtaking in the 80-100km/h band is a breeze.

Off-road ability is assisted by a lockable centre-differential but limited by the absence of a low-range. The strength of the diesel has extended the boundaries considerably, with the CRDi capable of a reasonable confidence in situations the V6 would fear to tread.

A run through soft and semi-packed sand showed that with only a moderate level of caution, the Santa Fe is quite capable of mild adventure experiences.

On the highway the Santa Fe remains a very capable and balanced drive with minimum roll from the all-round coil suspension and well-sorted dampers. Steering is still on the light side but is not unduly disconnected and the car is quite capable of some enthusiastic performance. The interior is a mirror of the petrol model -- spacious and comfortable with good levels of trim and fitment standards. The third row of seats offers a reasonable space for small adults on short journeys, or for children, and folds out of the way to offer a substantial storage area when the Santa Fe does duty as a five-seater.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

SX CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $4,500 – 7,260 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 SX CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
(4X4) 2.7L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $4,100 – 6,710 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 (4X4) Pricing and Specs
SLX CRDi (4x4) 2.2L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $5,500 – 8,580 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 SLX CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs
SLX (4X4) 2.7L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $4,400 – 7,040 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 SLX (4X4) Pricing and Specs
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