Shootout – Toyota Fortuner vs Hyundai Santa Fe vs SsangYong Rexton
The new Hyundai Santa Fe is capable enough to get all its key rivals in a complete tizzy
Just recently you got a healthy promotion in your company with tempting perquisites or you are high on your business profits and all set to buy a premium SUV with a twinkling smile on your face. What would you buy? Cracking your knuckles eh? Well, the premium SUV segment in India is such that it leaves your mind muddled to a great extent. Many buyers say that the Hyundai Santa Fe is an expensive proposition but did you actually go over with a fine-tooth comb? Most people end up buying the Toyota Fortuner, which is the segment leader but does it really justify the moolah it takes? The Mahindra SsangYong Rexton has a mysterious name for some but did you dwell on the product itself? We put these three SUVs head to head in a shootout to make your decisions easy and clear all the myths.
Motor Quest: The Hyundai Santa Fe was first introduced in 2000 globally and is in its third generation currently. The Toyota Fortuner is in its first generation that was introduced in 2005 and is based on the Toyota Hilux pickup truck platform. The SsangYong Rexton was introduced in 2001 based on the Mercedes M-Class and is now in its second generation.
Styling – The trio have separate identities boasting their own design language. The Santa Fe is sculpted in the traditional Hyundai Fluidic design theme that makes it look sharp, confident and aggressive. The key design elements for its smart avatar are the razor-edged headlamps, violent chrome grille up front, diamond cut alloys on the side with a sporty roofline and the alien world tail lights. The Toyota Fortuner looks like a big brawny man with tattooed arms. The styling is simple yet butch. It has a chunky symmetric face with a hood-scoop, pronounced wheel arches along the tall stance and a shiny rear profile with a wraparound windshield.
The SsangYong Rexton on the other hand has got soft styling that hides its massive dimensions. Can you believe that its 50 mm longer and 60 mm wider than the Toyota Fortuner? There is no doubt that the Rexton has got some nice styling cues such as the huge headlamps, angular bumpers, massive side profile and a clean rear. However, the Rexton starts looking old and quite bland when it meets its rivals. So the winner of the styling department is undoubtedly the Hyundai Santa Fe followed by the Fortuner. The Santa Fe looks terrific from every angle, has a fresh styling and most importantly, gathers tremendous attention on our roads. The Fortuner has been around since five years and we all are familiar with the same design now.
Interiors – Get inside the Toyota Fortuner and you’ll wonder that you are familiar with this dashboard while doing airport trips. No, this is not your regular Toyota Innova cab, look deep into the details and you’ll realise that it’s the Toyota Fortuner. That’s right, the Fortuner shares many components with the Innova, which is almost half the price of the former and it’s not a cool thing at this price point. You get the same steering wheel, touch screen multimedia system and AC controls. The dashboard design theme is similar and the colour tones used are more or less the same. Even in terms of space, the Innova is superior to the Fortuner. The SUV lacks under-thigh support and the third row of seats are relatively less spacious.
There is no doubt that both the Fortuner and Rexton look outdated in front of the Santa Fe
Well, enough of Fortuner Innova comparison, let’s get back to other SUVs. Just because the Fortuner shares its components with the cheaper Innova, we give it the lowest rating in terms of interior styling compared to the other two SUVs. The Santa Fe’s cabin is just unbeatable when it comes to styling, quality, features and comfort. The colour tones are tastefully done with smooth lines flowing on the dashboard that makes it a good break from the mundane simple dashboard of the rest. The steering of the Santa Fe feels chunky to hold and the cabin is ergonomically rich. Remove the logo of Hyundai and a layman can easily mistake it as a premium German car, such is the quality, fit and finish. The Rexton and Fortuner have similar quality levels and even the durability of the plastics feel at par. Now in terms of space the Rexton has an upper hand because it has the longest wheelbase and is the widest of the lot. The Fortuner comes in second that has adequate space followed by the Santa Fe, which has good space till the second row but third row of seats are quite impractical. Fortuner has the best third row seating though.
Now the commanding driving position of a SUV in the Fortuner is unbeatable because the Rexton has a slightly low position followed by the Santa Fe, which is further low. However, in terms of comfort and support, the Santa Fe takes the cake because of the well bolstered seats with precise cushioning for good back, under-thigh and neck support. The second row of seats are extremely flexible too. The Rexton and Fortuner lack quite a bit of under thigh support and are not that flexible. We all know that Hyundai goes wild with the amount of features it offers and it’s the undisputed leader, be it any segment. So the Hyundai easily wins this department followed by the Rexton, which is well-equipped too and then the Fortuner, which is spartan when it comes to features.
All the three SUVs get automatic headlamps. Rain sensing wipers are available with the Santa Fe and Rexton but not offered with rhw Fortuner. Three of them get electrically adjustable driver’s seat but Santa Fe gets the most flexible 12-way adjustable followed by 8-way adjustable Rexton and then comes the 6-way adjustable Fortuner’s seat. All of them feature a touch screen audio system with Bluetooth, MP3/USB, AUX connectivity with 6-speakers. The Santa Fe has the best audio quality followed by the Rexton and then comes the Fortuner. Hyundai and Toyota offer a rear view camera, while the Rexton comes only with parking sensors. Unique features on the Rexton are Navigation system and sunroof. The Santa Fe comes with cooled glove box with illumination, rear curtains, 40:20:40 split folding second row, auto folding ORVMs, smart key with push button start, power windows with pinch function, puddle lamps, cornering headlamps, Flex Steering and much more.
Performance – Despite being the lowest in capacity, the Hyundai Santa Fe boasts the strongest performance figures with the 2.2-litre CRDi diesel engine producing 197 PS of power and 436 Nm (420 Nm in the manual variant) of torque. The irony is that the Toyota Fortuner has the biggest engine capacity of 3.0-litre that produces 171 PS of power and 360 Nm of torque (343 Nm manual variant), which is the lowest amongst the three. The Rexton’s Mercedes sourced diesel engine is the only 5-cylinder unit amongst the 4-cylinder oil burners. It produces 186 PS of power and 402 Nm of torque (164 PS, 340 Nm in the manual variant). This clears one of the biggest myths that higher capacity doesn’t always mean that the engine is more powerful.
The Santa Fe’s powertrain is by far the most superior, it has very impressive performance and gearbox
The Hyundai Santa Fe surprises you with its lip smacking linear acceleration right from the word go, 1800 RPM to be precise. The Santa Fe is the fastest of the lot weighing the least and having tremendous power. The 2.2-litre engine is tractable having good drivability with the least amount of turbolag. You won’t feel out of power in the entire rev range of the Santa Fe, while power in the other two SUVs come at different spots and it’s not linear. NVH in the Santa Fe are impressive while the Fortuner has average NVH levels. The Rexton generates substantial engine noise along with wind noise at high speeds that makes it poor in terms of NVH compared to the other two.
The Toyota Fortuner and SsangYong Rexton are mated to 5-speed manual and automatic transmissions, while the Santa Fe comes with 6-speed manual and automatic transmission. Consequently, the Santa Fe is the most refined transmission to use and the quickest amongst the trio. Also, the Santa Fe is the most fuel efficient claiming 14.74 km/l followed by Toyota Fortuner at 13 km/l and then SsangYong Rexton at 12.4 km/l. People hardly take their premium SUVs out for off-roading but if you do then the Fortuner is the pick of the lot. The Santa Fe is quite capable but it has got limited ground clearance. Even the Rexton has good off-road ability but the wheelbase is quite long, suspension is soft and the bulky dimensions don’t match the Fortuner’s relatively short overhangs off the road.
Driving Dynamics – You must have noticed that Hyundai cars don’t really get much appreciation in this department compared to rivals but in this case the Santa Fe outpaces the Fortuner and Rexton quite easily. In terms of handling, the Santa Fe just turns its face as you command with eagerness and minimal (car like) body roll. While the other two have pronounced body roll and feel top heavy. Coming to the steering feedback, the Santa Fe shines again, being the most communicative of them all with an additional option of choosing the weight of the steering with the Flex Steer feature. The Fortuner’s steering has average feedback while the Rexton’s steering is on the lighter side.
The Santa Fe has a good balance of ride and handling but if you are seeking for a plush ride, it’s the Rexton that offers a comfortable ride quality with its soft suspension setup and high profile tyres. The Santa Fe also offers a pliant ride but big potholes unsettle the SUV. The Fortuner is the worst riding SUV here with a stiff and bouncy feeling. The Fortuner is essentially a pickup truck internationally that has been transformed to an SUV for many markets so the ride quality isn’t what you expect from a Toyota in this segment. Again, the Santa Fe has sharp braking performance and with its rigid and well controlled structure, it has no nosedive whereas the other two have substantial nose dive but decent braking.
Safety – The Hyundai Santa Fe is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition in terms of safety as it gets a full five star crash test rating from EuroNCAP with 96 percent adult safety, 89 percent child, 71 percent pedestrian and 86 percent Safety Assist safety rating. The Fortuner and Rexton haven’t been subjected to NCAP tests yet. The Santa Fe comes with safety equipment like 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, electronic stability control, hill start assist, downhill brake control, rollover sensor and more. The Rexton comes second with electronic stability program, hill descent control, ABS, EBD and 4 airbags. The Toyota Fortuner gets minimal safety equipment with dual airbags, ABS, EBD and vehicle stability control being the only thing offered.
Verdict – The Toyota Fortuner looks masculine, has premium interiors and the commanding position is the best amongst the three. However the comfort and safety features are basic, the massive 3.0-litre engine is the least powerful of the three and even in the dynamics department it loses out because of its unpleasant ride quality. So the Fortuner comes last but only just as the Rexton has the edge on the equipment department and price. The SsangYong Rexton is a capable SUV having substantial size, comfortable and well-equipped cabin and pliant ride quality but styling is aged, interiors look basic and the engine is generations old. They say, all that glitters is not gold but not in the Hyundai Santa Fe’s case. The Santa Fe actually glitters in almost every department, it looks spectacular, has a loaded interior with great attention to detail and quality, engine has the punch and the dynamics are well balanced. So, we have to pay the price to get some gold, similarly, the Santa Fe is on the expensive side but it’s a cut above the rest.
The Toyota Fortuner is the least equipped of the trio and despite the big engine, it produces the least output figures. The SsangYong Rexton is quite spacious and has a well equipped cabin but it doesn’t look macho. The Hyundai Santa Fe really puts the rest of the SUVs in the shade with its polished design and impressive overall performance.
Further Reading –