2001 Santa Fe New Car Test Drive
The questioner, an airport shuttle driver, had just spied the 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe parked outside the hotel's entrance. 'That's a Hyundai?' He was favorably impressed. Even without an up-close-and-personal examination, he allowed as how he'd take a close look at the Santa Fe if he were in shopping mode.
We were in Southern California, where automotive observation has achieved post-graduate degree status. On a lengthy drive the following day, everyday folk echoed the shuttle driver's reaction. From blue-haired teens to elderly blue hairs, the response was the same: 'What's that?' 'A Hyundai.' Finnbar O'Neill, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America, said the Santa Fe recorded a 'very high gawk factor' whenever he drove one on Los Angeles freeways. These initial reactions give hope for Hyundai officials as the company launches its first sport-utility in the world's toughest automotive market.
While we didn't gawk, we liked what we saw. And for the most part, we liked how the Santa Fe drove, both on and off paved roads.
The 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in three versions. The base GL model ($16,499), the GLS ($19,299) and the LX ($20,499).
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is available on the base GL model fitted with a five-speed manual transmission with front-wheel drive. A four-speed automatic is optional for $800.
All other models come with a 2.7-liter V6 with a four-speed automatic. They range from $18,299 to $21,999. All V6 models are available with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
ABS is optional across the line.
Standard features include cloth seating, power-assisted steering, power door locks and windows, tilt steering wheel, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers, illuminated glove box, air conditioning, carpeted passenger and cargo areas, three power outlets (two front, one rear), digital clock in overhead console, rear seat heating and air conditioning ducts, eight-way manually adjustable driver's seat, and reclining rear seatbacks.
In addition to ABS, optional on the base GL are a six-speaker AM/FM/CD and AM/FM/CD tape cassette stereo, power door locks and heated outside rearview mirrors, rear limited slip differential and first aid kit (comprising sunscreen, poison ivy balm, bandages and thermal blanket).
With GLS you get four-wheel disc brakes, the four-speed 'Shiftronic' automatic transmission with manual shift override, foglamps, the six-speaker AM/FM/CD and cassette stereo, power door locks and heated outside mirrors, first aid kit, under-cargo floor storage bin and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
GLS options include full-time four-wheel drive, traction control, limited slip differential and power driver's seat.
No surprise, but the LX is the plush entry, although to get the best you still have to check a few option boxes. Traction control, for instance, and ABS. Also Hyundai's full-time 4WD system. And automatic climate control. And the power-adjustable driver's seat and heated front seats. But you do get leather seating surfaces (which aren't offered even as options on the GL or GLS), auto-dimming inside rear view mirror and limited slip rear axle (when your order the optional full-time 4WD) for no extra cost.
All Hyundais boast one of the best warranty/service coverages in the business - powertrain: 10-years/100,000 miles; bumper-to-bumper: five-years/60,000 miles; corrosion: five-years/60,000 miles; and 24-hour roadside assistance: five-years/unlimited mileage.