This car is unfortunately a prime example of what happens when you really try to make something look appealing, but you don’t feel like building the appealing looking bits out of equally appealing quality stuff. The problem is, this makes it luring, like a venus fly trap, which looks just like any other amazing green plant to the fly that lands on it, until you actually land on it. And when you do actually sit inside the Santa Fe, it actually will hurt you, much like the venus fly trap. That’s because while the boffins at Hyundai have managed to design a visually appealing interior, the production managers decided that in order to keep the price so low, they would have to make all of the panels out of plastic that is harder than Fred Flintstone’s bed material.
Open the door, which quite luringly has a very solid “I’m trying to be German” sound to it. Then knock the door panel with your hand and see what type of sound that makes. But the rock solid plastic (at least it has a fake leather print on it) does not stop on the entire door panel. It continues, to the centre console by the gearbox, and even more offensively, the dashboard and steering wheel. Yes, the steering wheel too was carved out of rock, perhaps by the North Koreans in labor camps for the South. This is all very sad, because in order to refresh the Santa Fe for 2011, Hyundai decided to use beautifully finished wood around the gear shift, on the centre console across the dashboard and around the radio, and onto very tasteful door strips. But all this tasteful wood, and even the fake aluminium inserts, which I can accept on a budget SUV, have to be glued on to this horrific plastic.
There is something interesting however about the Santa Fe. Despite all of this horrific plastic, it actually still reveals that Hyundai is making progress, and it is all trickling down somehow. Because unlike Chevrolet, which I experienced recently by sitting in an HHR, Hyundai has at least paid attention to making most of the bits of the car that you will touch almost all the time, of at least decent or better quality. Even though the centre armrest storage may as well be a hollow carved out rock, it’s topped with soft touch fake leather where you rest your arm. The grab pocket on the door panel is also covered in the same stuff. The sound of the buttons on the radio and steering wheel are well dampened and not hard clicks, with the soft feel that only comes when someone pays attention to that kind of quality. Interior lighting is well done for a cheap compact SUV as well The gauges, although surrounded by hard plastic entirely, at least have nice bezels and aluminium finishes. All of this goes to show that Hyundai is really trying.
If you translate “Santa Fe” from Spanish into English, it literally means “Holy faith”. So have faith in Hyundai, because they will eventually deliver the same quality that is appearing on their upper class models all around one day. But for now, Hyundai is still building its faith on a foundation of rock hard plastic.