Outdoor enthusiasts rejoice as autumn quietly settles in, sweeping away the scorching summer heat. The transition to autumn has been slow this year, with the lingering warmth refusing to yield. It seems that our precious fall season is becoming shorter; Maybe that’s why this season has become even more precious.
For those who embrace the outdoor life, autumn is a season of excitement, free from the bothersome insects and fatigue of summer. The sight of landscapes adorned in warm hues and the gentle breeze are among the reasons to relish this time of year. Among the hallmark outdoor activities, camping stands out as a favorite choice. Venturing away from the city into the embrace of nature is a path to rejuvenation for many. However, traditional camping can be quite a challenge, requiring various equipment and gear to create a comfortable home away from home. This is why ‘car camping’ has gained popularity recently, offering a lighter, more accessible way to enjoy the great outdoors.
This year’s autumn expedition into the world of car camping is accompanied by Hyundai’s latest creation, the All-New Santa Fe. Car camping is, in essence, the act of transforming your car into a home on wheels. It demands a comfortable space where you can store your essentials and relax. Moreover, to navigate gravel roads, sandy paths, and dense forest trails, a high ground clearance is essential. The All-New Santa Fe checks all these boxes, offering a robust exterior, generous space, and a range of convenient features that serve as a perfect guide leading you away from the city and into the heart of nature. The All-New Santa Fe’s ability to straddle the line between urban and natural environments will undoubtedly help you fully immerse yourself in the ambiance of autumn.
On an early morning when the dew still remained, we loaded our essentials into the spacious trunk and set out on the road. Perhaps because it was a rare sight at the time, the All-New Santa Fe immediately drew attention as we hit the road. Its robust and sturdy design garnered considerable acclaim upon its release. It’s worth noting that the concept behind the All-New Santa Fe focuses on the essence of an SUV, a return to nature. With its sharp styling, muscular fenders, and clean character lines, it has been reborn as a powerful SUV.
But that’s not all. The design of the All-New Santa Fe is a source of delight at every turn. In particular, a new design approach is prominently showcased at the front, with the “H” shape etched into the lights and bumper, a clever reinterpretation of Hyundai’s emblem that emphasizes the brand’s identity. In the test drive, the Creamy White Pearl exterior color paired with the Black Ink further accentuates the striking H-shaped design.
The All-New Santa Fe was meticulously crafted using a ‘Back to Front’ approach, focusing on the rear of the vehicle, which is crucial for outdoor utility. In this process, designers even carefully considered the position and size of the gas lifter for the tailgate to maximize cargo space. As a result, ample cargo space is achieved, offering users the opportunity to enjoy wide views from the inside and use the tailgate as shelter. Loading bulky items like bicycles is so much easier.
Consideration for outdoor enthusiasts extends to the vehicle’s side. Those who enjoy outdoor activities often equip their vehicles with roof carriers or rooftop tents. However, these accessories typically lack easy access points. To address this, the All-New Santa Fe features a hidden-type assist handle on the C-pillar. By stepping on the tire and grabbing the assist handle, accessing the roof becomes remarkably convenient.
Rushing past the envious gazes, we headed to our estination - the tranquil Mogokbambeol Recreation Area in Hongcheon, Gangwon-do, a two-hour drive from Seoul. While the distance might have once seemed quite substantial, the All-New Santa Fe, now in its fifth generation, laden with an array of cutting-edge technologies, made the journey an effortless delight. Hyundai’s Lane Following Assist 2 (LFA2), a first for the All-New Santa Fe, autonomously kept our vehicle centered on the road not only on regular streets but also in various environments, including highway on-ramps and off-ramps.
The Relaxation Comfort Seats offer a welcome respite from fatigue during long journeys. Additionally, the Ergo Motion Seats, which allow you to adjust the air cushions at regular intervals, ensure a more comfortable experience. The All-New Santa Fe also comes equipped with advanced features for passengers, including a Digital Center Mirror, a Panoramic Curved Display, Built-In CAM 2, Dual Wireless Charging System, UV-C Sterilization Multitray, and wireless software updates, leaving no stone unturned in providing convenience to passengers.
As we left the congested city behind and drove for about an hour, the scenery outside the car window has changed completely. The All-New Santa Fe seemed to relish the changed landscape, and the journey became invigorating. Despite its large SUV build, it handled more like a low-slung sedan. This remarkable driving experience can be attributed to the platform. The All-New Santa Fe is built on Hyundai Motor Group’s 3rd-generation platform. This platform has been used extensively across multiple vehicle models, showing remarkable advancements in low center of gravity, weight reduction, and noise isolation, approaching perfection.
The powertrain options include a 2.5-liter turbo gasoline engine and a 1.6-liter turbo hybrid. In this test drive, we had the 2.5-liter turbo gasoline engine, which delivers a remarkable 281 horsepower (PS) and a maximum torque of 43.0 kgf·m. The engine’s nearly 300 horsepower effortlessly moved the vehicle in any situation, and the 8-speed DCT transmission swiftly shifted gears. The engine, transmission, and chassis seemed to work as a harmonious unit, delivering a smooth driving experience in any condition.
After driving for a while, we started to see road signs indicating our destination. Soon, we arrived at the preselected location: the Mogokbambeol Recreation Area in Hongcheon, Gangwon-do. As we prepared for car camping against the backdrop of flowing rivers and the unfolding mountain scenery, we took a moment to admire the panoramic beauty. Choosing a car camping spot requires some careful considerations. First and foremost, it must be a location suitable for both camping and cooking. Camping activities are strictly prohibited in areas designated as national natural reserves, such as water resource protection areas. Checking the terrain is also essential. When camping near a river, it’s advisable to maintain a safe distance from the riverbank, especially in case of rain, as rivers can rise suddenly. For camping in hilly areas, select a location with stable ground to avoid landslides and other hazards. Confirming if the area is a habitat for wildlife is equally crucial.
Car camping is all about making your car a cozy haven, so the size and layout of the interior space are paramount. As known, the All-New Santa Fe offers an exceptionally comfortable car camping experience due to its ample passenger and cargo space. Notably, the wheelbase, which determines interior space, has increased by 50mm compared to the previous model, and even with the third row of seats up, the cargo space is a generous 725 liters (according to VDA standards for the 5-passenger model) . This makes it easy to load all the necessary gear for car camping. The All-New Santa Fe’s thoughtful design even extends to the third-row seats. Typically, the third row is considered “emergency seating,” but that’s not the case with the All-New Santa Fe. The seat height has been raised by 30mm compared to the previous model, and headroom has increased by a substantial 69mm. Additionally, reclining functionality and climate control are provided, ensuring comfort during long journeys.
We started unloading the cargo, one item at a time, and began to make the floor of the car perfectly flat. This is the first step in preparing for car camping, as it involves folding down the seats to create a comfortable bed. People usually exert a lot of effort in making the surface as flat as possible. However, there are cases where the seats don’t fold down completely flat or there are awkward gaps. To address this, some camping enthusiasts have their seats professionally modified, which can be costly.
But if your car camping partner is the All-New Santa Fe, you won’t need to worry about such constraints. The second-row seats in this vehicle fold down completely flat, and with the added power-folding feature, you can effortlessly fold the seats with the push of a button. After a smooth leveling process, you can lay out an air mattress and bedding on the flat surface and arrange lighting to your liking, creating a personalized space that rivals a hotel room. What’s more, one of the standout features of the All-New Santa Fe during car camping is the freedom of movement inside. Typically, unless it’s a large SUV, you’d find it challenging to sit comfortably without bending your back. However, the All-New Santa Fe, with its impressive height of 887mm from the floor to the ceiling, allows adults to sit comfortably without bending their backs.
After completing the indoor setup, we installed a canopy outside and placed tables and chairs underneath. We neatly arranged the simple food we had prepared. Looking at the setup, we had created a cozy and splendid relaxation space. With these preparations for car camping completed, all that was left was to enjoy. For a moment, we forgot our bustling daily routines and spent time under the canopy with the All-New Santa Fe as our companion. The gently flowing river, the freely soaring birds in the sky, and the refreshing autumn breeze provided solace for both body and mind. After savoring a moment in nature, we moved indoors and lay down on the soft mattress. The visible scenery, the scent of autumn, and the sound of the river brought back memories of a spacious porch at our grandmother’s house from childhood. The spacious glass roof and the enlarged third-row quarter glass transformed into a wonderful frame that captured the beauty of nature.
The value of the All-New Santa Fe shines anytime, anywhere. With a trustworthy body and powertrain, thoughtful features for passengers, outdoor activity-friendly layout, and a variety of functions. Everything was harmonious. It felt like going on a trip with a close friend who understands your heart. Traveling with the All-New Santa Fe made us think that it doesn’t have to be autumn; it could be any season. We recommend embarking on car camping with the All-New Santa Fe, a companion that can accompany you anytime, anywhere, and promise you a perfect day, regardless of the season.
by Heo Inhak
Filmed by Yongsik Woo
Photography by Dae-il Choi, Bum-seok Kim
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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