The two cars that seem to be colliding with some frequency nowadays, when people consider which machine to buy in the 30-lakh range, are the updated Skoda Superb & brand new Hyundai Sante Fe. So, we bring them together to see what we would do.
Decisions, and especially purchase decisions, can make the best of us tongue tied and utterly confused. When the task at hand requires narrowing down on one option from many, and especially when the implications of which are a significant lightening of one’s pocket, it can become a difficult process to say the least. Should it be a big, butch SUV or an elegant luxury sedan? Well, that can be a tough one, as I’ve witnessed with many of my friends and acquaintances.
One repeated question triggered this comparison. This is, after all, an actual decision that many are grappling with currently – considering how similarly priced the Superb and the Santa Fe are. In fact,with the versions we tested, the price difference is just 5% – just a lakh of rupees. So, we spent a few days with both cars to see which we would choose – hypothetically of course, since cutting a check for either isn’t an option for me at present.
Looking at purchase trends over the past few years, the clear favourite amongst the two would have to be the Skoda Superb. The first Superb was introduced in India in 2005, and didn’t meet much success for a myriad of reasons. But the second-generation car has been a big seller for the German-owned Czech manufacturer. It’s stately looks, impressive road presence, and high levels of quality, along with first rate engineering, have meant that this generation has been in great demand since it was launched. However, to be honest, the biggest factor for the Superb’s ascendance in India would be the space that it offers – specifically in the rear seat. Keeping in mind that almost all customers in the Superb’s target segment are chauffeur driven, the massive amount of room in the back is a huge advantage. Add to that the levels of refinement, and overall quality, and it almost becomes a no-brainer compared to its regular competition – the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
But, that’s not all. Other than roominess, the Superb does offer quite a high level of driving ability as well. Clearly exhibiting the engineering levels at work, the Superb – despite its size – is a pleasure to drive. It handles very well. The ride is well balanced for our roads, but the stellar aspect is the response from the 2 litre diesel engine, which is of a very high calibre – along with the DSG automatic gearbox that shifts almost instantly.
What this level of all-around ability does for the competition is clearly visible, as none of the Superb’s traditional competitors have any substantive sales figures. But, what if we were to look at a bit more widely across the automotive segments for a competitor? Well, the new Hyundai Santa Fe comes across as a vehicle that does offer many of the qualities of the Superb – and, in its latest generation, is a highly capable vehicle.
To be honest, the Santa Fe’s past in the Indian market hasn’t been too noteworthy.Like the Superb, the first generation didn’t see much acceptance amongst consumers. But, the latest generation is a vehicle of far superior quality – and, as I discovered, ability! The rapidly rising engineering levels at Hyundai, as a global manufacturer, is the driving force behind the success of their latest range of vehicles. So, like in many of its other vehicles, the Santa Fe also gets a massive boost in all areas.
The most significant of which is styling, which now clearly reflects the defined design language of the brand – and gives the new Sante Fe significant presence on the road. The pleasing proportions and large chrome grille make it a very good-looking machine. So, while it might not look as butch or in your face as a Toyota Fortuner, it draws plenty of attention in traffic. The interiors too have been given a massive upgrade, and clearly show the depth of Hyundai’s engineering ability. You now have elegant design, remarkable quality levels, and, as one would expect from a Hyundai vehicle, significant levels of standard equipment.
One of the biggest surprises, though, is how well the Santa Fe drives – given that the last gen car struggled in the driver satisfaction department. The new 2.2 litre CRDi engine is a fantastic unit, and delivers oodles of power with minimal lag. The suspension too has been tuned for good overall balance. So, it feels very stable at high speed – and, at the same time, delivers excellent ride comfort. If there are any shortcomings, they’re in the 6-speed automatic gearbox, which responds quite slowly when compared with the Superb’s dual-clutch automatic. Plus, the electric steering is pretty much lifeless.
So, having driven both cars for a few days, it was time to answer the original question – which one would I choose? To be honest, it is a very, very tough choice to make for various reasons. On one hand, the Superb appeals from an enthusiast’s perspective, because it delivers better driving feel – and the engine and gearbox combo can be quite addictive, especially when you have the chance to push it a little. However, the Santa Fe appeals thanks to its extended seating ability (since it offers seven seats), and for it’s ability to tackle our broken roads far better since it’s an SUV. Then there’s the response from that lovely diesel engine.
To be honest, the choice ultimately boils down to two simple factors. One, the brand – since a Hyundai at this price point is still a relatively new concept for a large section of consumers. And two, despite all of Hyundai’s massive progress, the Superb does sneak ahead in the engineering department – specifically when it comes to gearbox response. So, the Santa Fe is indeed a revolutionary vehicle for Hyundai, but dynamically it still falls that tiny bit short of the Skoda.
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Skoda Superb
Engine: 2,199 cc / 4 cylinders / Turbocharged / 16 valves / DOHC
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic /Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 194 bhp @ 3800 rpm
Torque: 436 nm @ 1800 - 2500 rpm
Price: Rs. 25.9 lakhs (ex-showroom, delhi)
Engine: 1,968 cc / 4 Cylinders / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch Automatic / front-wheel drive
Power: 138 bhp @ 4200 rpm
Torque: 320 nm @ 1750 - 2500 rpm
Price: Rs. 24.8 lakhs (ex-showroom, delhi)