Hyundai's top-selling models in New Zealand are both SUVs
A nugget of information emerged at Hyundai New Zealand’s recent conference which clearly illustrates the changing Kiwi automotive landscape.
Among the data from Hyundai New Zealand boss Andy Sinclair was a projection that a rising SUV sales curve will edge above the declining line for traditional passenger cars sometime in 2016.
The broad range of SUVs — from compact urban runabouts with slightly raised ride heights, to full-size heavyweights with serious off-road ability — has been the biggest single segment of the Kiwi market for some time.
The imminent “crossover” of graph lines that will see SUVs outselling all other passenger vehicle categories combined confirms what we are seeing on the roads and in the car parks.
It’s actually been a familiar situation at Hyundai for some time with the Korean marque being one of the perpetrators of the move to SUVs thanks to the success of its ix35 and Santa Fe models. The SUV duo have been Hyundai’s top-selling models in recent years and together they already outsell all other Hyundai passenger car models.
The occasion for talking about the SUV phenomenon was Hyundai’s final 2015 new product launch — a Series II upgrade for its Santa Fe. It’s a mild makeover for New Zealand’s top-selling large SUV with some detail exterior changes, enhancements to driving refinement and some new safety and driver assist technologies for the top-of-the-range Elite Limited which have transferred directly from the Genesis luxury sedan.
The upgrades are accompanied by price increases of between $1500 and $3000 — depending on grade — and there are eight models in the Santa Fe Series II family.
The Santa Fe continues to showcase its primary strengths of notable build quality and premium materials along with the muscular R Series diesel engine providing the backbone to the model range.
There are three engine choices with all-wheel-drive for the 2.4-litre direct injection petrol and 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder versions along with a single 3.3-litre V6 front-wheel-drive model offered in seven-seat Elite specification. All models have a six-speed automatic transmission.
A $58,990 starting point secures a 2.4-litre five-seat model while a new $81,990 price-tag applies to the flagship Elite Limited seven-seater with the 2.2-litre R Series diesel engine.
There’s a $6000 premium for the 2.2 R Series diesel with 147kW output and 440Nm of torque compared to the 138kW and 241Nm 2.4-litre petrol models of equal specification.
In terms of visual changes the front end of the Santa Fe Series II gets a freshened hexagonal grille design along with a revised bumper and headlights plus repositioned daytime running lights.
There are new alloy wheel styles, new door mirrors and detail changes at the rear include a restyled bumper and tailgate with new reflectors and redesigned exhaust tips.
At base grade the Santa Fe Series II has 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth trim, single-zone air conditioning, roof rails, Active Eco drive mode and a safety roster that includes seven airbags, a reversing camera and reverse sensors, leather steering wheel and the three-mode Flex-Steer system which adjusts the level of power steering assistance.
Elite grade is an $8500 step up from the standard specification with a move to 18-inch alloy wheels and the addition of leather trim, push-button engine start and electric park brake, Lane Departure Warning, rain sensor wipers and dusk-sensing headlights, dual-zone air conditioning, an electro-chromatic mirror, rear privacy glass, satellite navigation with Suna traffic updates, premium audio, power front seats and heated front and second row seats.
The scope of the Series II upgrades is greatest for the top-of-the range Elite Limited where Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking and Smart Cruise Control have been introduced.
The lavishly appointed Elite Limited versions have 19-inch alloy wheels, self-levelling rear suspension, HID Xenon headlights with LED tail lamps, Smart Park Assist, a panorama sunroof and rear window shades plus a powered tailgate with hands-free operation.
The Series II upgrades offer incremental gains as Hyundai seeks ongoing success for the Santa Fe while the new active safety and driver assist content in the flagship model makes it an even more convincing alternative to the SUVs from premium Euro brands.
In 2015 the Santa Fe holds a small sales lead over the Toyota Highlander in the large SUV segment.
However Hyundai points out that when rental cars are removed from the equation, the Highlander only ranks fourth with the Holden Captiva and Subaru Outback moving to number two and three respectively.