2009 Santa Fe New Car Test Drive
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a practical-size vehicle for prowling the suburban savanna. It's the larger of Hyundai's two compact SUV's, large enough for three-row seating, which the smaller Tucson is not.
Technically, both vehicles are crossovers, meaning they are built like cars, using unibody construction, instead of the body-on-frame technique of a traditional truck. That could prove to be a disadvantage in, say, the Paris-to-Dakar rally; or while outmaneuvering an unwanted military incursion. But in most ways it's better for everyday driving. Compared to a truck-based SUV, a car-based crossover is generally lighter, smoother riding, and more responsive. Crossovers also tend to use less gas than truck-based SUVs. Still, with the right options, the Santa Fe can tow up to 3500 pounds.
The 2008 Santa Fe looks fresh, shapely and attractive. Completely redesigned for 2007, it shed the quirky lumpiness of the pre-2007 models. It's a little bigger than previously, and comes in five- and seven-passenger versions. Yet it retains Hyundai's value quotient. Underway, the Santa Fe handles well on winding, paved roads.
For 2008, a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system is now standard on the top-rung Santa Fe Limited. So is a power sunroof. And a new navigation system is optional.
More important, the Santa Fe delivers on safety, with six airbags and standard anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, stability control, and traction control. It has earned the Federal government's top five-star crash test rating for front and side impacts, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Pick, an award given to only 21 new vehicles. The Santa Fe is assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, at a plant that has been certified to the International Automotive Task Force's (IATF) most rigid quality management standard. More than half of the Hyundais sold in the U.S. are now manufactured here.
Hyundai is on a roll. Its vehicles are proving to have the reliability and quality people expect from Japanese cars. The Santa Fe could be a true alternative to the Toyota Highlander and other higher-priced crossovers.
The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in three trim levels: GLS, SE, and Limited. All-wheel drive is offered as an option ($1,700) on all three. All come with seating for five. SE and Limited offer seating for seven as part of various option packages.
The GLS ($21,150) is powered by a 185-hp 2.7-liter V6 engine. it comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual control is optional ($1,300). The GLS is well equipped with air conditioning, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 112-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, XM Satellite Radio, rocker panel moldings, power side mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a roof rack with rails. The Popular Equipment Package ($595) adds premium cloth seats, steering wheel audio controls, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, driver seat lumbar support, and trip computer. The Premium Equipment Package ($2,100) includes all of the above, plus a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, heated front seats, and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The SE ($24,150) has a more powerful, 242-hp 3.3-liter V6; five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic; and 18-inch alloy wheels. In addition to the equipment found on the GLS, the SE adds premium-level cloth upholstery, electrochromic auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, front fog lights, leather wrapped steering wheel (with audio controls) and shift knob, windshield wiper deicer, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, driver seat lumbar support. trip computer, and a chrome molding around the grille. The Premium Package for SE ($1,850) adds a power driver seat with power lumbar support, a power tilt/slide glass sunroof, heated front seats and HomeLink. The Touring Package ($1,500) upgrades to seven-passenger seating, with a fold-flat third-row seat and third-row auxiliary climate control, plus trailering equipment that includes a transmission cooler, heavy-duty radiator, and trailer pre-wiring. Thus equipped, the Santa Fe can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
The Limited ($28,100) comes with leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, power driver seat with power lumbar support, dual-zone automatic climate control with outside temperature display, and HomeLink. A chrome grille and exterior door handles, as well as a body-color hatch spoiler, distinguish the Limited. For 2008, a power tilt-and-slide glass sunroof is now standard as well, along with a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system with CD changer and 10 speakers. The Limited Touring Package ($3,150) adds seven-passenger seating, third-row auxiliary climate control, a rear seat entertainment system with an eight inch LCD monitor and 115-volt power outlet, and the trailering equipment described above. The Touring Package with Navigation ($3,350) adds an LG navigation system to the Limited Touring Package. The navigation system ($1,750) and rear-seat entertainment system ($1,750) are also available as stand-alone options.
All Santa Fe models come with Hyundai's bumper-to-bumper warranty of five years/60,000 miles, plus a powertrain warranty of 10 years/100,000 miles.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags (for torso protection), side curtain airbags (for head protection) and active front head restraints. Active safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, electronic stability control, traction control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.