For more than a decade now the Hyundai Santa Fe, a five-passenger compact SUV, has delivered a dependable, versatile ride. True to form, the 2012 Santa Fe, like other Hyundai models, offers many standard features and great overall value. The Santa Fe comes available in three trims: A well-equipped GLS, a sporty SE trim, and a more upscale Limited model. Two engines are available to choose from. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder produces 175 horsepower, and the more powerful 3.5-liter V-6, which delivers 276 hp.
When the Santa Fe was first introduced for the 2001 model year, it was Hyundai's first ever SUV. While that was something for Hyundai to celebrate, the vehicle itself had lumpy styling, and engines that were heavy and inefficient, a combination that was quickly surpassed by competitors like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4. A new Santa Fe didn't arrive until six years later, but the transformation was stunning, and it reflected the company's keener understanding of the American market. The larger SUV offers fresh, attractive looks, a cool interior, excellent build quality, and two competitively powerful engines with much more modern transmissions.
Bodystyle: Crossover SUV
Engines: 2.4-liter inline-4, 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Models: GLS, SE, Limited
The Santa Fe receives mostly cosmetic upgrades for the 2012 model year. The exterior gains a new front grille and two new color options: Venetian Red and Cabo Bronze. The interior gets a leather shift knob, and Downhill Brake Control is now standard. The GLS model has low rolling-resistance tires and standard 17-inch wheels.
The Santa Fe is a modern-looking, attractive crossover with standard 17-inch alloy wheels and tinted glass. The SE and limited models have 18-inch alloy wheels and crossbars on the roof rack. Chrome accented door handles are an option. In addition to a new grille, the midsize SUV gets two new colors: Venetian Red and Cabo Bronze.
The Santa Fe easily offers more cargo room than some competitors with a total of 78 cubic feet. While the interior doesn't have the same modern feel of Hyundai's Tucson, it's competitive in the class. Premium options include a touch-screen navigation system with rearview camera, and XM Traffic. Leather and cloth seats have been refined, while Bluetooth and steering wheel audio controls are standard on all three models.
Performance & Handling
The Santa Fe offers a solid, though not memorable ride. Performance-minded drivers should opt for the 3.5-liter V-6, which offers plenty of power. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is neither especially fast nor powerful, but will get you around sufficiently, in addition to providing greater fuel economy.
During testing of a Santa Fe GLS with the 3.5-liter engine, the crossover recorded a 0-to-60 mph time of 7.4 seconds and a quarter mile time of 15.7 seconds at 90.1 mph, not bad for a 3870-pound vehicle. The Santa Fe Limited with the 2.4-liter was predictably slower (10.6-second 0-to-60 mph and 17.7-second quarter mile). Both engines -- each of which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission -- are solid in the mpg department, with combined ratings in the low 20s. The Santa Fe isn't a great handler, but its overall ride is more than acceptable for a vehicle of this type.
Extensive safety equipment is standard on the Hyundai Santa Fe. Disc brakes with ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, six airbags -- including rollover sensors for the side curtains -- and stability control.
EPA Fuel Economy
2.4-liter four-cylinder: 19-20 mpg city/26-28 mpg highway
3.5-liter V-6: 20 mpg city/25-26 mpg highway
- Comfortable ride quality
- Good mileage
- Plenty of power
- Excellent value
You Won't Like
- Average handling
Only two rows of seating
Cool, stylish, and loaded with value
If You Like This Vehicle
- Toyota RAV4
- Ford Edge
- Nissan Murano