I am continually impressed by how quickly Korean manufacturers have ascended the learning curve. The Hyundai Santa Fe is a prime example. Here is a top-notch mid-size SUV with solid features, a good ride, a great warranty (that I understand is not costing as much as had originally been feared), and a ton of attributes that make other manufacturers mouths water.
At this same stage in their manufacturing lives, the Japanese companies still werent creating cars that would appeal to large numbers of American buyers, even though they did eventually
Our base GLS tester was equipped with the smaller of two engine possibilities, the 2.7-liter double overhead cam V6 rated at 185 horsepower. While I didnt feel this was a powerhouse, I thought it had adequate acceleration and would be to the engine of choice for the majority of Santa Fe customers. Theres a 242-hp 3.3-liter V6 available if you feel that you really need the speed.
The engine in our test vehicle drove the front wheels through a 4-speed automatic transmission. A manual transmission is available with the 2.7 liter engine. The 3.3 liter engine that is standard on the Santa Fe SE and Limited models is only available with a 5 speed automatic. All-wheel drive is available as an option with either engine and might have been necessary if it had snowed during our test, but weve been blessed with spring-like weather lately and snow wasnt on the horizon.
The combination of engine and transmission was quite good on our GLS. There wasnt too much power with the 2.7, nor did we need the added advantage of AWD, yet the Santa Fe functioned excellently as a good-size STATION WAGON with a maximum of 79 cubic feet of storage. Yes, I used the dreaded term, but thats what the vehicle is, a tall wagon that doesnt even pretend to be a sport utility. But then, I think wagons are great.
With the rear seat up, storage is very good at 34.2 cubic feet, and includes a covered compartment under the floor with an adjustable tray that I found great for hiding purchases from the mall. With the back seat folded down, maximum cargo volume stretches to 79.4 cu. ft.
Our test vehicle had the 5 passenger layout, but a third row was available as an option. Upscale models could also be equipped with leather upholstery.
Handling on our test car was decent considering that the Santa Fe has a fairly tall aspect ratio and 16 inch tires. We were able to drive the Santa Fe reasonably hard around corners without the fear of tipping over. On the highway and rural roads, the ride quality was about standard for a small SUV. Some people may opt for a softer ride, but unlike some SUVs, no one would consider the Santa Fe truck-like. I am sure that the more upscale SE and limited with the 18 inch wheel and tire combination and larger engine would handle even better
The seats were comfortable front and back. We noted that even with a child seat installed in the rear, there was good front-seat travel. The LATCH system is located on the back of the rear seat. There was also decent rear seat legroom and the center passenger in the rear had an almost-flat floor to deal with, so knees wouldnt have to be tucked up under chins.
I liked the features of the Santa Fe like extendable visors to give just that much more sun protection for the front passengers. There were two overhead sunglass holders up front as well, recognizing the fact that there is often more than one person in the vehicle.
The rear hatch has a handle located on the right of the door that makes it so much easier to lift. Theres a covered cubby on top of the dash thats practical for small objects. Besides two cupholders in the center console, there are cupholders in the door that are great for water bottles. Theres also a nice drawer and cubby in the rear of the center console for the rear passengers.
Overall, the solidity of the Santa Fe is what will impress you in the first -mile of driving it. I think youll like it if youre in the market for a small wagon and the quality, not to mention Hyundai's reputation for building dependable, reliable vehicles backed by a good warranty, make the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe a safe bet.