Hyundai Santa Fe Overview
There was a time when the only reasons to favor a Santa Fe over its competition were its low price, lengthy standard features list and Hyundai's generous warranty. Introduced for the 2001 model year, the first-generation model was affordable but failed to perform to the levels of its competition in most other areas. Thankfully, the all-new second-generation Hyundai Santa Fe is a big step up in terms of styling and performance. Highlighted by its contemporary appearance and upscale and roomy interior design, the current model is one of the better values in the $20,000-$30,000 price bracket of the midsize crossover SUV class.
It takes only one glance at the Hyundai Santa Fe to see that Hyundai has made a strong effort to move upmarket. The midsize SUV comes in three trim levels -- GLS, SE and Limited. The base GLS model is powered by a 2.7-liter V6, which makes a respectable 185 horsepower with the help of variable valve timing. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is available as an option. The base drive configuration is front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional across all trim levels.
For many consumers, the SE trim is going to be appealing because of its more potent 3.3-liter V6. The 242-hp engine is available exclusively with a five-speed automatic transmission. The Limited trim is equipped with the same Hyundai Santa Fe Accessories and adds a sunroof, leather seats, a power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 605-watt Infinity sound system with 10 speakers. A rear-seat entertainment system with wireless headphones is optional. All trim levels are well stocked with standard convenience and safety features, though, and come with a generous powertrain warranty.
Inside the Santa Fe, there is definitely a contemporary feel and a higher level of comfort than with some other similarly priced SUVs. The dash lights, gauges and displays glow blue, and the center stack controls are positioned neatly. An optional third-row seat, which bumps the vehicle's passenger capacity from five to seven, is optional but only suitable for children. One of the fastest growing vehicle segments is midsize crossover SUVs, and it's easy to see why. These vehicles offer the style and functionality of a traditional SUV while providing the sporty ride quality, handling and fuel economy of a car.
In our Hyundai Santa Fe reviews, we've found it to be an engaging SUV to drive. It's not as athletic as some competing crossover SUVs, but it is a solid-performing and practical SUV for city driving. The larger V6 engine is smooth and has plenty of power. Hyundai has clearly tuned the Santa Fe for family friendliness, so it's not exactly a thrill ride. Despite its hefty weight, the Santa Fe is easy to control and handles admirably. Complaints typically mention its average handling and braking capabilities. SE and Limited models are let down by an overly firm ride quality (due to their 18-inch wheels) and sluggish transmission downshifts.
The present (second) generation Hyundai Santa Fe was introduced for 2007. Since then, only minor changes have occurred. The optional Infinity sound system and sunroof were made standard on the Limited for '08, while the following year saw a standard USB/iPod audio jack added to every Santa Fe. A towing prep package was also made standard. In road tests, we found that the original Hyundai Santa Fe handled well in most situations, both on pavement and during light-duty off-roading. However, the interior was still a work in progress, as the switchgear looked and felt cheap and plasticky.