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2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

by Martha Hindes

Hyundai Santa Fe
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Interior

As many vehicle buyers are downsizing, some of the vehicles they want are getting larger. But with good reason. Take Hyundai's midsize Santa Fe. On a new U.S. platform, its larger size is meant to allow more breathing room for American drivers and an optional third row for more passenger space. Transporting seven instead of five in the same vehicle would have to be a net gain in fuel efficiency. Add a price drop from the previous version and it can be downright irresistible.

The new version of the Korean auto maker's staple for 2007 bears faint resemblance to its hereditary past. This new U.S.-built breed came from Hyundai's California design center, with an eye toward better performance, more usable cargo space and the kind of stretch room someone more than six feet tall would appreciate.

One can choose from a pair of more powerful, Greek-letter designated sixes, including an upgrade of the previous edition's 2.7-liter code-named "Mu." With a standard five-speed manual (or optional four-speed SHIFTRONIC automatic), it now pumps out 185-HP for an improved 21/26-MPG as base engine. (Previous mileage was 19/25.) Added is the new, lightweight "Lambda," a 3.3-liter V-6 with 242-HP output and 19/24 EPA ratings from a five-speed SHIFTRONIC auto. All models have ESC, an adaptive braking technology to correct straying-off-course emergencies.

Outside, the Santa Fe is aimed squarely at American tastes, with the obvious influence of some high-end competitive designs. Hyundai benchmarked the Lexus RX, Acura MDX, and Volvo XC90 before styling this revision, and it shows. This version has a subtle styling sophistication lacking in the previous model. The quiet interior's touches include light-ringed gauges with blue backlighting.

You won't win a tough man (or woman) contest with the Santa Fe. And it wouldn't be the point. It's not designed for snow-capped mountains or rugged, rut-filled bogs. The trenches it is destined to travel are more the local mall parking lot, a rush-hour clogged freeway or a sandy, back country lane. Oh, and pricing. Try a $ $20,945 base.