The Santa Fe SUV we drove seemed equally comfortable, running errands around town, stretching it out a bit on country roads or poking around on the old one-lane dirt trail out by the lake. Introduced to the American market in 2001, the newly re-designed mid size comes in three trim levels; the GLS, SE, and like our test vehicle, the Limited. And considering it shares its platform with the Sonata sedan, it's no surprise that it exhibits ride qualities more akin to a car, than a truck.
Hyundai's objective for the Santa Fe seems clear: design a vehicle with the capability of carrying a typical family and their stuff...whether that means a quick run to the Mall or a road trip to the campground. And wrap it up in a package that handles well and won't be too painful at the gas pump.
With the exception of the base GLS which comes with a 2.7 liter V6 coupled to either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission, the power train of choice is the 3.3 liter DOHC 24-valve V6 combined with a 5-speed Shiftronic that allows for automatic or sequential shifting. This combination delivers 242 horsepower and 226 foot pounds of torque to either the front wheels or to all four corners if you opt for the all wheel drive version.
The Santa Fe benefits from electronic stability and traction control and braking is provided by power assisted four wheel discs with ABS.
16 inch 5-spoke alloys wheels are standard on the base GLS but both the SE and Limited come with 18 inch, six spoke alloys with 60 series all season tires.
Inside the Limited adds a touch of luxury to the practicality of the other two trim levels. Heated, power, leather seating, premium/MP3 compatible audio system and power sunroof are just some of the features. On the practical side, 60/40 split rear seats and fold flat third row seating combine to offer many ways to utilize the 78 cubic feet of cargo space. All three trim levels come with advanced front, side-impact and side-curtain airbags.
The EPA estimates fuel mileage for the Santa Fe at 19 MPG in the city and 24 on the highway.
MSRP for the base GLS is $20,945 but opting for the "nicely equipped" version All-Wheel-Drive Limited, like our test vehicle would bring the price up to $27,945.