The latest variant to come out of the Hyundai stable has the looks and performance of a Korean powerhouse. Although its chassis is not exactly “all new”, the 2013 Sta Fe has distinct features amplified by smooth, almost effortless driving – both on and off the road.
Stepping back to admire the craftsmanship of this third-generation SUV, this latest version is classier and sharper looking than the previous model. It’s a good thing design engineers threw away the rear door latch from the earlier model which looked like a design flaw. I had the opportunity to drive this metal beast up and down the hills of Tanay, Rizal up to Infanta, Quezon Province for a tuna fish run at the Dahican Port. With my family in tow, we visited my friend Ronnie Combalizer, a businessman who owns a small fleet of fishing vessels.
I found it difficult to find a fault in the Sta. Fe’s interior. In terms of ergonomics, features and styling cues, the dashboard layout is among the best in its class. The fit and feel is no longer Korean but more European as evidenced by the soft-touch, steering mounted controls, tight alignment of trim panels, and the abundance of leather. The wood and metal trims of the 4x2 and the faux carbon highlights of the 4x4 version have a premium look and feel. Hyundai broke the bank with this one and definitely did not scrimp on the budget.
Space is not an issue and the supple seats of this SUV provide good lumbar support, which is an important feature when driving for long hours like the five-hour road trip I did. The rigid body of the Sta. Fe makes it feel robust, allowing it to absorb the bumps and ruts of the gravel portion of the Infanta-Antipolo Highway. The McPherson strut front end and the Multi-Link rear suspension did its job well in adjusting to the road conditions.
Powered by an athletic DOHC 2.2 liter CRDi engine, the sheer performance of this diesel unit makes one wonder why Hyundai even bothered to offer a thirsty gasoline version of the Sta Fe. In a country where fuel prices are as volatile as the North Koreans, diesel powered vehicles are the way to go. Equipped with a variable geometry turbo, this 2.2 liter power plant produces a vigorous 436Nm of torque between the 1800 rpm and 2500rpm range and can sprint from 0 to 60 kph in under six seconds. For a vehicle of its size and heft, this Korean macho machine is amazingly agile and sips fuel like a small hatchback.
With a retail price of P1.7 million for the 4X2 version and a pricey P2.2 million for the top-flight version, the Sta. Fe is a satisfying drive. This Korean contender is at par with its counterparts, be they Japanese, Americans or Europeans.