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2010 Hyundai Santa Fe Enters Model Year With New Engines, Styling and Plenty of Room for Seven

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The first generation Hyundai Santa Fe was among the first crossovers on the North American market and its weird "fish mouth" style front grille always reminded you that if it wasn't at least from another country it was quite possibly from another planet. It is amazing that just a few short years later in 2010 we would be treated to a new Santa Fe that is the picture of refinement and styling elegance. No "fish mouth" here.

For 2010 the Hyundai Santa Fe sees a number of changes, the most important of which are two new home-grown engines. With each successive generation of engine designs Hyundai engineers keep improving on the durability, drivability and economy of their motors. The new Santa Fe 4 cylinder and six cylinder engines are no different in this respect.

First off comes an all new 2.4 liter 175 horsepower 4-cylinder that promises to be the bargain hunters choice as it is the standard motor in the least expensive GLS Santa Fe. That doesnt mean, however, that the new 276 horsepower 3.5 liter V-6 is a gas guzzler because it is far from it. The V6 is rated at 19 city/27 highway according to the EPA. That is very good efficiency from a motor that has over 100 horsepower more than its 4-cylinder cousin.

The 3.5 liter V6 is standard on both mid-level SE and top spec Limited trims when they are equipped with AWD. The mid-level SE only offers the 6-cylinder engine regardless of whether you are buying a front or all-wheel drive model while the upscale Limited flies in the face of convention by offering the four and the six on front wheel drive variants. Got that?

If anything these engine upgrades were necessary for the seven-seat Santa Fe as sister company Kia just launched its seven seat Sorento with the same motors. While the exterior had to make do with just some subtle bumper and light changes there was nothing wrong with the original design. It is, in fact, one of the best looking SUVs in its class.

The interior has also been refreshed with a newly upgraded navigation system option which brings with it a premium audio system with subwoofer and amplifier along with a power sunroof. Limited buyers are only charged $2,250 for this package while SE buyers get charged $3,200 (for some reason). Let's see how long it takes Hyundai to realize they are totally undercharging their customers considering the fact that many manufacturers charge up to $4,000 just for similar, far less well equipped navigation packages.

There is also a new hue and improved texture for the beige leather in the Santa Fe Limited and the wood trim that accompanies it no longer looks like it came from a tree that was orange. There is additional chrome brightwork here and there and the result is an interior that does not belie the Santa Fe's low prices.

Fully loaded Limited AWD 3.5 liter V6 2010 Santa Fe models with the navigation package currently retail for a hugely reasonable $30,640. That isn't a bad price given the performance, quality and features all in evidence. As the Santa Fe is built in an Alabama factory along with the Sonata you can also take heart that you bought a car built with American hands.

Hyundai also likes to keep production at that factory going even during slow sales periods so if you wait a little while rebates will no doubt get bigger the longer the new Santa Fe is on the market. This now brings us to the biggest problem the new 2010 Santa Fe faces. A cuter Kia!

Unfortunately the new Kia Sorento is an all-new design with an even more upscale feel to the interior that offers the same 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty as the Santa Fe. Now how can Hyundai compete with an SUV from Kia which is essentially the same company?

This sounds like a total Marcia Brady/Jan Brady-type sibling rivalry story that will inevitably be played out on the new car sales charts. Who comes out on top is up to you.

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Comments (4)
  1. Big change, not mentioned - 2010 has 6 speed automatic, replaces 5 speed, 1 of main reasons for increase in gas mileage. Incorrect - US version is 5 passenger only for 2010, no 7 passenger option. Photo is not of 2010 Santa Fe. Author wrote "the Santa Fe is built in an Alabama factory along with the Sonata you can also take heart that you bought a car built with American hands", I assume article is about US spec Santa Fe. Wonder who gave this article 5 stars ;) ?

  2. I sat in and test drove both the Santa Fe and the Sorento.
    The Kia has a more attractive exterior, and a panoramic sun roof. However, the Hyundai's interior has it beat. The plastics on the dash and doors looks cheaper on the Kia. The leather seats are rock hard in the Kia, but much more comfortable in the Santa Fe. The armrests seem to have no padding in the Kia, but has some padding in the Santa Fe. The V6 Kia comes standard with a third row seat. However, the seat is pretty much not useable by anybody over 10 and is hard to access. Additionally to make room for the 3rd row, the 2nd row is set further forward, reducing the leg room for 2nd row passengers. The third row folds into a space beneath the cargo floor. This space serves as additional cargo room in the Santa Fe.

  3. I'm a bit confused by the fact-checking for this article (including the headline, no less), since the 2010 Santa Fe (at least for the US market( does NOT seat seven, only five, since Hyundai removed the third row for this model year.

  4. I don't want to dis the Sorento because I know it is a GREAT car, but when comparing to the 2010 Santa Fe, don't bother with the Sorento, the ride is harsher than the santa fe and the interior isn't even close to as nice as the santa fe. also, sorento has ugly red dash lights and lighting throughout while the Santa has a more soothing blue color lighting scheme. The only advantage the Sorento has is the exterior styling, which is subjective, and the new "it" factor. I own the 2010 Santa fe SE AWD and the power and smoothness is just unbeleiveable, and the Venetian Red color is like candy apple red, stunning!

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