couldn't call Hyundai's Santa Fe compact sport utility a
heavyweight. But it's not designed to be. With a front-wheel-drive
foundation and non-overpowering engine power, it fits easily
in the middle of the midsize SUV pack where ride comfort,
features and styling, and a good value win more accolades
than an ability to scale a steep-grade mountainside.
off-roading is a reason for having a sport utility. But
there are some fire-breathing mean machines out there more
fitted to an Olympian version of the task. This is the newly
revised center-stage staple for 2005 with the American southwest
moniker from the Korean manufacturer whose name no one seems
able to pronounce. (According to Korean execs, it's "Hyundai,"
just like "Sunday.")
Santa Fe a weekend off-roader, or off-pavement traveler
best designed for shopping trips, getaways to a cottage
on a lake, or a trip to the opera where floor length gowns
and stiletto dress pumps have easier access than in a higher
clearance vehicle. This doesn't suggest the car-based Santa
Fe is easy to dismiss. It's not. Styling and function are
solidly sport utility, with handsome lines, on-demand or
full-time advanced four-wheel drive availability, advanced
electronics and five spoke 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
A fuzzy logic transmission learns to adapt to driving style.
execs say they listened to what their customers wanted in
the vehicle's current revision: Ease of ride and handling,
sporty appearance, more power. Traction control was made
standard at buyers' request. And with the smaller Tucson
now on sale, the company dropped its four cylinder engine
in favor of two solid sixes, a 2.7-liter V-6 that generates
170-horsepower (GLS model) and the Sigma 3.5-liter, 200-HP
V-6 (LX, and GLS upgrade).
freshening the Santa Fe, Hyundai redesigned the grille,
body cladding, taillamps, rear bumper and rear liftgate
handle. Interior changes include a new instrument cluster,
upgraded cloth seats and richer two-tone color scheme. Among
standard amenities are anti-lock braking, four-wheel disc
brakes, air conditioning and flip-down rear seating, while
available features include heated leather seating, Monsoon
audio with six-disc in-dash CD changer, and auto-dimming
rear view mirror with HomeLink. We think the Santa Fe, in
the mid-20s range before options, offers a lot of bang for