New & Used Hyundai Santa Fe: In Depth
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The Hyundai Santa Fe is value-packed to compete with utility vehicles like the Chevy Equinox, Subaru Forester, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder.
The Santa Fe comes in two mainstream, family-oriented versions from the South Korean automaker. The original two-row, five-seat Santa Fe is now known as Santa Fe Sport, while the recently added long-wheelbase version boasts seven seats and is called simply Santa Fe. The two vehicles are built on a shared platform but in different locations—one in the U.S. and one at a factory in Hyundai's home country.
In either vehicle, drivers get a crossover with plenty space for people and cargo.
Hyundai's two Santa Fe crossovers share a platform but have different wheelbase measurements and feature different powertrains, so they're essentially two separate vehicles. Hyundai's reason for this badge consolidation was to capitalize on strong Santa Fe sales (the vehicle that's now named Santa Fe Sport) and get rid of the less successful Veracruz nameplate (which now becomes, somewhat confusingly, the Santa Fe).
In either version, the Santa Fe adopts some of the cues of the Sonata and Elantra, but it is toned down significantly, with a new maturity to the look both inside and out. This is especially true for the three-row model, which competes against vehicles with more traditional, boxier designs.
The shorter Sport comes only with four-cylinder engines, while the three-row Santa Fe gets a 3.3-liter V-6 good for 293 horsepower. The smaller Santa Fe's base 2.4-liter makes 190 hp; an available turbo 2.0-liter four makes 264 hp. All engines are mated to a six-speed automatic with a manual shift mode and front-wheel drive, with an option for all-wheel drive. Gas mileage on the Sport rises to as high as 29 miles per gallon highway, thanks to the newer, more efficient engines and other additions like electric power steering.
Like several other models in its class, the Santa Fe Sport adds flexibility to its interior package with an available sliding second-row seat. The seat also folds on a three-way 40/20/40 split, for toting longer objects while preserving four seating positions. There's even some storage space below the cargo floor--under the 35.4 cubic feet of storage space.
With a base price in the mid-$20,000 range, the Santa Fe Sport includes standard Bluetooth, but a rearview camera is an option--and not on the base model. An audio system with satellite radio and a USB port is also standard. Options include a well-executed navigation system, a panoramic sunroof, and Infinity audio. Equipment is similar on the longer Santa Fe, with prices rising into the high $20,000 range, base.
The 2013 Santa Fe Sport was one of a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Hyundai's initial estimates of as much as 33 mpg highway for the new ute have been lowered, after tests run by the EPA. Owners can register with Hyundai to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at HyundaiMPGInfo.com.
At the 2015 Detroit auto show, Hyundai displayed a crossover-truck concept called Santa Cruz that, if produced, would be based on the Santa Fe platform. Similar in concept to the Honda Ridgeline, it combines a sleek crossover front end with an equally sporty integrated truck bed with the requisite innovative loading and carrying features, including bed extenders that slide out of the bedsides. Hyundai will no doubt study public reaction to the concept on the show circuit to determine whether or not a production model will join the Santa Fe crossovers in showrooms.
Hyundai Santa Fe history
On its debut in 2001, the Santa Fe was powered by either a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine available with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission, or a 2.7-liter V-6 paired only with the automatic. Front-wheel drive was standard, though all-wheel drive was available as an option. A 3.5-liter V-6 engine option was added to the lineup in 2003, and that first Santa Fe had only minor styling changes through the 2006 model year. Three trim levels were available.
The Santa Fe's second generation launched in 2007 with a revised lineup of engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 2.7-liter V-6, and a 3.3-liter V-6. The 2.7-liter was the only model available with a manual transmission; all others were paired with a four- or five-speed automatic. For 2010, powertrain choices were again reshuffled, with a 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder made standard and a 276-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and a new six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic added. That same year, however, a small third-row seat was dropped and the last three years of this Santa Fe were offered with only two rows.
From 2007 to 2012, Hyundai offered the Santa Fe in three trim levels, each with its own specific engine options. The base GLS came standard with the four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission, while an automatic was available. SE models came only with a 3.5-liter V-6 and automatic transmission. The Limited was available with either engine but came only with an automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive was standard on all models, with all-wheel drive available with any automatic-transmission combination.
This second Santa Fe was sold much like other recent Hyundai vehicles--in relatively few build combinations, and with a strong list of standard features. Alloy wheels were standard in all models, as were power windows and locks, cruise control, a USB port, and keyless entry. Top Limited models got a standard power sunroof and exterior chrome accents, plus heated front seats, 605-watt Infinity surround sound, and dual-zone automatic climate control. An optional navigation system included a rearview camera system and real-time traffic, and XM satellite radio became available.