Review: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Hyundai did it again.
Revamped for 2007, the Hyundai Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle is so well-appointed with safety features and standard amenities and has such pleasant V6 power that it can make consumers wonder why they'd pay more for another crossover SUV.
How much more?
Well, given that the freshly styled and larger-for-2007 Santa Fe starts at just over $22,000 for a base, two-wheel-drive model with manual transmission, just over $22,300 for a two-wheel-drive model with automatic transmission and just over $23,000 for an all-wheel-drive version, any mainstream, family-size SUV over $25,000 ought to force some comparison shopping.
Granted, a Hyundai badge may not be as impressive as a Toyota. The Santa Fe isn't as expressive as a Dodge SUV, for that matter. And the Santa Fe doesn't have a V8, like some Ford SUVs offer, and it doesn't have the kind of off-road capability of a Jeep.
But for many American drivers, the new Santa Fe has appealing style and amenities, a five-star, federal government safety rating and, perhaps most importantly, an attainable price.
Don't worry. The Santa Fe doesn't look cheap. In fact, the redone styling for the second-generation Santa Fe is much nicer than the original Santa Fe that had some weird style lines, here and there.
Now, headlights on the Santa Fe remind me of Audi, and rear-end styling is reminiscent of that on a BMW X3.
Many changes for 2007
The base and buzzy 4-cylinder engine of earlier Santa Fes is gone. Starting in 2007, there's a top V6 with 242 horsepower and a base, 185-horsepower V6.
Both have higher fuel economy ratings than the predecessor V6s. The best mileage rating for a 2007 Santa Fe with automatic transmission and two-wheel drive is 21 miles a gallon in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway, up from 19/25 mpg from a Santa Fe from a year earlier. This is for a two-wheel-drive model with base, 2.7-liter V6.
The best mileage rating for an all-wheel-drive, 2007 Santa Fe also is up — to 19/25 mpg. This is the same rating as a two-wheel-drive, 2007 Toyota Highlander with larger displacement V6, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Hyundai's U.S. approach
South Korea-based Hyundai started selling cars in the United States in the 1980s. But quality was poor, and the brand got a reputation for cheap, less-than-durable models.
Officials sought to invigorate the brand and correct things in the 1990s, culminating in a best-in-the-industry new-car warranty that the company hoped would encourage shoppers to try Hyundai again.
This warranty — with limited, bumper-to-bumper coverage for five years/60,000 miles and limited powertrain coverage for 10 years/100,000 miles — still comes with every new Hyundai, including the Santa Fe. So does a five-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance program.
It's also worth noting that in the 2006 Initial Quality Study measuring complaints from car owners after three months of ownership by automotive researcher J.D. Power and Associates, Hyundai held down third spot in the industry, behind high-priced brands Porsche and Lexus.
But Hyundai's older models still bring down the brand in longer-term ownership issues. In Power's 2006 Dependability Study, which measured complaints after three years of ownership, Hyundai still ranked below average.
Company officials respond that as older models are replaced by newer ones, the overall dependability results will go up, too.
Easy power and ride
This was a base model with carpeted cargo and floor mats that were a bit pricey option at $90. But everything else in the vehicle — from driver's seat adjustable lumbar support and air conditioning to heated outside mirrors and light in the glovebox — was standard.
OK, I'd like a bit better stereo system. The standard, 112-watt system, with single CD player, isn't stirring.
The base, 2.7-liter V6 wasn't overbearing in its power, yet it responded quickly to get the Santa Fe merging into traffic and passing others. Torque peaked at 183 lb-ft at 4000 rpm.
I just wish the 4-speed automatic with this engine was a 5-speed, which could boost fuel economy further. As it is, Hyundai puts the 5-speed in Santa Fes that get the uplevel, 3.3-liter V6 that generates 226 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm.
The ride was quieter than I expected. Hyundai boasts that at highway speed, the Santa Fe is quieter than Toyota's Highlander.
Many road bumps were nicely kept away from passengers. This second-generation Santa Fe received a new platform and new MacPherson strut front suspension.
But there was an occasional "grunch" sound that came from the front left wheel area of the test Santa Fe when I'd pull into my driveway, and on potholed roads I sometimes wished for a tad more sophisticated suspension.
Standard tires on Santa Fes with the base engine are 16 inches in diameter. Buyers of the larger V6 get more noticeable 18-inchers.
Steering was mainstream in its feel, neither twitchy nor loose.
Odds and ends
I also appreciated that even in the base Santa Fe has "active" front head restraints that help reduce whiplash injuries in a rear-end crash. Other standard safety features are curtain airbags, side-mounted, front-seat airbags, traction control, stability control and antilock brakes.
But Hyundai doesn't offer, even as an option, a backup assist system to help drivers see what's behind them, and visibility is limited back there.
All Santa Fes can be fitted with the optional third row for approximately $1,300. Note that third-row legroom is decent for kids and adults. For comparison, it's more than what's in the third row of the Acura MDX.
Maximum cargo space also is competitive at 78.2 cubic feet.