SUV Showdown

The delectable Honda CR-V 2.4 4WD
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Asian manufacturers continue to make inroads into the cut-throat mid-size SUV market, with the delectable Honda CR-V 2.4 4WD and the Hyundai Santa Fé AWD Elite vying for top spot: we put them head-to-head.

After driving the Honda for a week, one can easily fall for its supreme AWD system that keeps you going in the preferred direction on winter’s slippery roads. The design is certainly a notch up on the frumpy model that preceded the 2013 edition. The interior is well decked out with some sensible touches and accessible gear lever in the middle of the dashboard.

With a thoroughbred 2.4 litre Honda power plant, she’s certainly not sort of power and takes off in sports mode, with the rev limiter getting a full workout at 8000 RPM. The most noticeable thing about the CRV is the feeling of privacy that you get divining this vehicle. It’s a complete non-header-turner. Possibly because the previous car that I tested was a blood red 650i Gran Coupe BMW, which turns more heads than David Beckham walking topless down your main street.

Upon entering the Santa Fé for the first time, grasping the steering wheel all that I could think was: ‘I’d prefer to still be in CRV’. The steering wheel felt too chunky, and the interior appeared a touch lower quality than the CRV.

However, the more kilometres that you put on the Santa Fé, the more she came to life. By the third day, the steering suddenly made sense, the turbo diesel was running on mere fumes, something that the petrol fiend Range Rovers could learn from.

The Santa Fé was starting to feel like a proper SUV, not some show-pony pretender to the CRV crown as best SUV at an affordable price. The South Korean offering certain turns more heads with some trendy styling, and is definitely better off-road.

After taking the Santa Fé to my local off-road track, she railed though the obstacles with Land Rover ease. The CRV is no slouch off-road but one gets the feeling that it’s lower clearance will catch-up on a serious 4x4 trail.

Then we get to the pricing. Honda has a trick up the sleeve here, as the Japanese Government keeps making the Yen weaker to encourage exports, giving car companies the ability to drop prices to compete with the likes to Hyundai. You can pick-up a new entry level 2 litre petrol CRV for a dash over R300k, which is really good value. The top of the range diesel CRV with all the bells comes in at just over R500k, which is only a couple of grand less than the beefier Santa Fé Elite.

The pricing makes this a very difficult decision. On the one hand the CRV comes with a better name and longer service history in South Africa through Honda, while with the Santa Fé Elite you get more car for your buck thou the nameplate is still developing and thus would lose more during re-sale.

You really would not go wrong with either car, and via split decision I’d be tempted to go for the Honda, just on pure name value alone as the Santa Fé is an impressive offering that certainly takes you by surprise signalling that Hyundai mean business going forward.

Did you know?

  • The Honda CR-V has been manufactured by Honda since 1995 and was loosely derived from the Honda Civic. There are discrepancies as to what 'CR-V' actually stands for, from ‘Compact Recreational Vehicle’ to ‘Comfortable Runabout Vehicle’.
  • Named after the city of Santa Fé  New Mexico, it was introduced for the 2001 model year as Hyundai's first SUV. The Santé Fe was so popular that at times, they had trouble supplying the demand as it quickly became Hyundai's best seller in the United States.

Gregory Simpson








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