The competent Santa Fe compact sport-utility is an even greater value for 2005 with its extensive list of standard convenience, safety, and trim features. The styling has been revised for 2005 with a new grille, refined body cladding, new tail lights, and a new rear bumper. Santa Fe looks ready for the outdoors, and its tall seating position and generous cargo capacity add to its utility.
The Santa Fe drives well on and off paved roads with decent handling and good brakes. The 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V6 engines both deliver good acceleration, particularly in front-wheel-drive models. The four-wheel-drive system available with the 2.7-liter engine works well for light off-road duty. A new electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system available with the 3.5-liter engine provides solid footing for more challenging off-road and bad weather conditions. The 3.5-liter engine comes with a five-speed automatic transmission, an unexpected level of refinement for this class.
Side-impact air bags are standard. GLS and LX versions come with a 218-watt Monsoon stereo. Best of all, the Santa Fe is backed by Hyundai's long and comprehensive warranty, making it one of the most attractive small SUV's on the market. They say you get what you pay for, but with the Hyundai Santa Fe it seems like you get a little more.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is available in two trim levels: GLS and LX. Both levels come standard with front-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is available on both models ($1500).
Santa Fe GLS ($21,499) is powered by a 2.7-liter V6 engine, coupled to a four-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual shift control. GLS comes standard with a long list of features, including air conditioning, tinted privacy glass, power windows and door locks, outside power-adjustable heated mirrors, cruise control, keyless entry system with alarm, roof rack side rails, new-for-2005 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, rear intermittent wiper with washer, contrasting bodyside cladding and bumpers, 218-watt Monsoon AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, carpeted floor mats, a cargo net and retractable cargo cover, and a first aid kit (comprising sunscreen, poison ivy balm, bandages, and a thermal blanket).
GLS is also available with a 3.5-liter V6 engine ($22,099) with five-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic manual override.
The GLS can be upgraded with an in-dash six-CD changer for the stereo ($395), and a Convenience Package ($495) including fully automatic temperature control, and a photochromic auto-dimming inside rear view mirror with Homelink programmable transmitter. A power tilt/slide sunroof with sunshade ($750) is also available.
Santa Fe LX ($23,499) comes standard with leather upholstery and the 3.5-liter V6 and five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission, all features of the GLS plus automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, a Homelink transmitter, an electrochromic rear-view mirror, the Monsoon stereo with an in-dash six-CD changer, chrome door handles and brushed-stainless scuff plates'. Optional: the power sliding glass sunroof ($750).
Safety features on all Santa Fe models include four-wheel disc brakes, an anti-lock braking system with traction control, dual front airbags and front-seat mounted side air bags.
All Hyundais come with one of the best warranty/service plans in the business: 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain, five-years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, five-years/60,000 miles on corrosion, and 24-hour roadside assistance for five-years with unlimited mileage.
The proportions of the Hyundai Santa Fe are nicely balanced. A friendly front end blends smoothly into gentle flanks. The design suggests sufficient robustness for off-road capability. Large wheel arches filled with 16-inch alloy wheels and high-profile 225/70R16 tires (standard for 2005) reinforce this impression of strength. The glasshouse is adequately sized.
Santa Fe was designed to have a softer, more subdued visage than the rugged facade prevalent on other SUVs. Nevertheless, contrasting body cladding, bumpers, and restyled front grille give the 2005 Santa Fe a no-nonsense appearance of being able to cope with underbrush and tree limbs out on the trail.
The rear liftgate works well. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have tail doors hinged on the right, which works well in Japan but in the U.S. the open door gets in the way when unloading curbside. By hinging the hatch at the top, Hyundai provides a universal solution. Opening the rear hatch is a cinch with its pistol-grip latch handle and gas struts. Closing it is just as easy with a pull-down grip mounted inside. When open, the liftgate easily clears six-foot foreheads.
Getting in and out of the Santa Fe is easy, thanks to its big, comfortable door handles and low step-in height. You don't have to climb up to get in or climb down to get out. Rear-seat passengers don't need to turn their feet sideways to clear the doorjamb.
Once in, the interior is friendly to the touch. All controls are big and thick. The shift knob is big. The stereo controls are large, offering easy adjustment. The climate controls are big and easy to operate, though they look and feel like plastic. Bright trim dresses up the inside door releases and parking-brake handle.
The shift knob and shift quadrant are brightened by chrome trim in the GLS and LX. Illuminated power window switches and a lighted glove box add convenience at night. The driver's cup holder is conveniently located, making this a good vehicle for that morning cappuccino. The digital clock is located in the middle of the dashboard where it's easy to see. Big outside mirrors provide an excellent view rearward.
The front seats are comfortable, though flat, without much side-bolster support. The driver's seat adjusts eight ways to accommodate different body shapes and preferences, though the adjustments are a bit awkward.
The Santa Fe offers roomy rear-seat accommodations, with lots of headroom and legroom. Rear-seat cup holders are molded into the door-mounted map pockets. The rear seatback reclines for better rear-passenger comfort. But the windows in the rear doors don't roll all the way down, a shortcoming shared with other small SUVs.
ISOFIX child-seat anchors are provided at both outboard rear seating positions. Head restraints and three-point seatbelts are provided for outboard passengers, while the center-rear passenger must make do with a lap belt only. The outboard shoulder-belt anchor loops are fixed, not adjustable (though we sometimes wonder whether anyone actually adjusts the adjustable kind). The restraining loops for rear seat-belt buckles don't appear to be very durable (but that isn't a safety item).
To fold the rear seats, flip the rear seat bottom forward, remove the headrests from the seat backs, then fold the seat backs down. This provides as much or more cargo space than any other compact SUV. We noticed the latches for the flipping the rear seats forward were made of plastic rather than metal. The cargo floor isn't perfectly flat. But nine tie-down loops are available to keep your gear from shifting around. Sub-floor storage bins provide a place to hide valuables or road gear. A retractable cargo cover and cargo net are standard.
The Hyundai Santa Fe offers good handling, particularly in the two-wheel-drive version. The front-drive Santa Fe proved to be more fun and more responsive than the heavier four-wheel-drive models. It doesn't feel top-heavy like some SUVs. The brakes are refreshingly responsive, even before the ABS (standard) steps in.
The 3.5-liter V6 comes paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. It offers lots of throttle response once it's going. It's a little lethargic off the line and the throttle response isn't linear, but the owner should be able to calibrate his or her foot to it. The 3.5-liter engine develops 200 horsepower and 219 pound-feet of torque. Indeed, only the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, which share an optional 200-horsepower 3.0-liter V6, offer similar power in this class. EPA-rated fuel economy drops to 17/23 city/highway mpg. The front-wheel drive 3.5-liter Santa Fe, equipped with trailer brake, is rated to tow up to 3,300 pounds, enough to handle a small boat trailer. With its cast-iron block and multi-valve aluminum cylinder heads, this is the same engine Hyundai installs in its flagship XG350 sedan.
The 2.7-liter V6 produces 170 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. Those are good numbers when compared to the V6s offered in other compact SUVs. The 2.7-liter V6 Santa Fe can accelerate more quickly than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, which offer four-cylinder engines only. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19/25 mpg city/highway for a front-wheel-drive 2.7-liter Santa Fe, and 18/23 for a 2.7-liter with four-wheel drive.
Santa Fe models equipped with all-wheel drive use one of two different systems, depending on whether the 2.7-liter or 3.5-liter engine supplies the power.
We found the mechanical full-time four-wheel-drive system that's available with the 2.7-liter V6 capable for light off-road driving in Southern California. The system appears to do a good job of sending the torque where it's needed, especially with the traction control (standard). This system is compact and clever and was developed by Austrian four-wheel-drive specialists Steyr-Daimler-Puch. The system combines proven engineering in innovative ways. A planetary differential inside the front transaxle splits the drive torque equally between the front wheels, and 60/40 between the front and rear axles. A viscous coupling between the front and rear axles overrides the differential if the wheels at either end begin to slip. This is a simple, purely mechanical system that's been around for decades, and it works very well with no attention whatever from the driver. All four wheels are driven all the time, with the coupling limiting the difference in speed between the front and rear axles. So if a front wheel starts to spin, torque is immediately re-directed to the rear, and vice versa.
Santa Fe 3.5-liter models come with a new and more sophisticated electronic system that Hyundai calls InterActive Torque Management (ITM). This system still requires no driver input. It drives only the front wheels most of the time, but monitors their traction with a computer, and distributes torque to the rear wheels only when necessary. The main advantage of ITM is optimized fuel economy with all-wheel-drive traction. A 3.5-liter Santa Fe with all-wheel drive gets an EPA rating of 17/23, equal to the lighter front-wheel-drive version. The electronic ITM system available with the 3.5-liter V6 was developed by U.S. gearbox veteran Borg-Warner. It relies on a series of wet clutches mounted just ahead of the rear axle. A computer monitors wheel speed, throttle position and steering angle, and engages the clutches when necessary.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is fun to drive, particularly the V6 front-wheel-drive models. The optional all-mechanical four-wheel-drive system improves traction in slippery conditions, but places a burden on the 2.7-liter V6 engine. The all-wheel-drive system available with the 3.5-liter engine should work better. If you're in the market for a compact SUV, the exceptionally well-equipped Hyundai Santa Fe, with its attractive styling and competent manners, may be just what you're looking for.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Tom Lankard is based in Northern California.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2WD ($21,499); GLS 4WD ($22,999); GLS 3.5L 2WD ($22,099); GLS 3.5L 4WD ($23,599); LX 3.5L 2WD ($24,499); LX 3.5L 4WD ($25,999) |
|170-hp 2.7-liter dohc 24-valve V6; 200-hp 3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|4-speed automatic with Shiftronic override; 5-speed automatic with Shiftronic override |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|dual front airbags with passenger-presence detection, front side-impact airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, anti-lock braking system, traction control |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|Basic warranty: |
|5 years/60,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Ulsan, South Korea |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5L 2WD ($22,099) |
|Standard equipment: |
|air conditioning; six-speaker AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo; power door locks, windows and outside mirrors; overhead console; first aid kit; tilt-adjustable steering wheel; front passenger seat under-storage tray; 60/40 split reclining and folding rear seat with folding center armrest; four under-floor cargo area storage areas; leather-wrapped steering wheel; power steering; tachometer; five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission; in-glass radio antenna; fog lamps; ABS with traction control; cargo net with retractable cargo cover, rear intermittent windshield wiper with washer |
|Options as tested: |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|front-wheel drive |
|3.5-liter dohc 24-valve V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|200 @ 5500 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|219 @ 3500 |
|5-speed automatic with Shiftronic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|17/23 mpg. |
|103.1 in. |
|177.2/ 72.7/66.0 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|60.7/60.7 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|37.1 ft. |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|39.6/54.3/41.6 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|39.2/53.9/36.8 in. |
|Cargo volume: |
|77.7 cu. ft. |
|Towing capacity: |
|3300 lbs. |
|Suspension F: |
|independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
|Suspension R: |
|independent, multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar |
|Ground clearance: |
|8.1 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|3737 lbs. |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|disc/disc with ABS in. |
|Fuel capacity: |
|19 gal. |