The Hyundai Santa Fe is largest SUV in the company's product line. The redesign added 3" to the width and 7" to the length. The additional length was important to the addition of the optional 3rd row of seating for 7-passenger capacity. And it gives the truck lots for room for the passengers and cargo.
Three versions are available, the GLS, SE and Limited. It comes standard with front-wheel drive and lots of other great features, particularly safety. All-Wheel Drive (AWD) is optional, and comes with a locking 50/50 power split. No low-range gears are offered. So while it isn't a real off-road vehicle, the AWD system helps in bad weather.
The build quality is noteworthy given Hyundai's reputation. And they have that great warrantee - 5/60,000 bumper-to-bumper, 10/10,000 for the powertrain, 7/unlimited for corrosion - and free roadside assistance for 5 years.
Pros: Well priced in the class. Santa Fe has a roomy interior for 5 and the optional 3rd row seat allows 7 passengers. We like the simplicity of the controls and dash layout. The build quality is improved over the original product.
Cons: Santa Fe with 3 rows of seats is cramped making getting in and out difficult and uncomfortable for drives over 15 minutes. The V6 engine lacks power making merging into traffic on the highway nerve wracking.
MSRP: $20,945 - $27,945
Invoice: $19,689 - $25,710
Vehicle Price As Tested (including $650 destination charge): $28,040.00
Class: Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle
EPA Mileage (city/highway): 19/24
Tested Mileage (city/highway): 17/21
Where Built: Alabama, USA
Fuel Capacity: 19.8 gallons
Options: Power sunroof, power front-passenger seat, and cargo tray.
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Very little has changed on the Santa Fe from its predecessors. It is still a body-on-frame design that is now 3" wider and 7" longer. It is a nice looking vehicle that is both attractive and practical. It doesn't have the best styling in the class, but it is by-no-means the worst.
Of note is the improvement in the build quality. Hyundais were not known for tight fit and finish until the most recent models. And the improvement is apparent on Santa Fe.
Rear visibility is somewhat hampered by the exterior styling, making backing up more work than necessary. Using the mirrors becomes critical when changing lanes on the highway.
Santa Fe's interior is quiet despite the loud engine. This makes for a pleasant ride around town. However the wind noise is noticeable at highway speeds.
The SUV seats 5, with an optional Touring package that provides a 50/50 split 3rd row bench seat to carry 7 passengers. The larger configuration makes access to the 3rd row quite difficult and it is recommended only for small children, and short trips. Otherwise the head and legroom are excellent.
The interior materials are quite nice when compared to the competition. Fabric seats are standard, and leather is optional, as are heated front seats. The plastic components, handles, knobs and levers all feel solid, not cheap. The dash board layout is convenient, easy to use and read, and nicely lighted. Everything in the interior is soft-touch, and fully powered. It even comes with a remote keyless entry at this price, and all versions come standard with a tilting and telescoping steering wheel. This features makes finding a comfortable seating position easy for almost everyone regardless of size and height.
The 5-passenger configuration provides ample cargo space. That space is nearly eliminated when the 3rd row if seating is employed. That said, that's a problem for all SUVs with 3 rows of seating.
The only engine Santa Fe has is a V6. In the GLS the 2.7 liter engine puts out 185 hp. On the SE and the Limited that we had the engine is a 3.3 liter, Dual Overhead Cam, 24-valve, V6 that generates 242 hp. The 180-hp version of the engine is not recommended as it doesn't provide enough acceleration to merge into high-speed traffic on the highway. And going up steep grades was scary given the loss of power. But the 242 hp version is peppy, fun to drive and eliminates the uneasy feeling one gets with the underpowered version of the engine.
A manual transmission is standard on the GLS, with option for a 4-speed automatic. Both the SE and the Limited come standard with a 5-speed automatic transmission.
Ride and Handling
On the highway Santa Fe is competent and comfortable. But on a dirt road, off-road (which it really isn't designed to handle) or on bad pavement, the ride is bumpy and wobbly. Hitting a big pothole can make the vehicle feel like it will tip over.
Steering is pleasant and accurate. It isn't a sports car, but as a daily driver it is enjoyable. The Limited comes with 18" alloy wheels with P235/60R-18 tires.
Santa Fe Limited comes standard with 6 airbags, two advanced bags in the front, front seat-mounted side-impact bags, and two roof-mounted side curtain airbags. Both an antilock braking system and traction control are standard, which is a good value in a vehicle at this price point. Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and front seat active head restraints are also standard, as is a tire pressure monitoring system.