- Inoffensive, smooth styling
- Against-the-grain interior styling
- Just-right sized (read: compact-only spaces!)
- Spacious interior
- Busier ride than most other crossovers
- Steering wheel doesn’t telescope
- Faux woodgrain won’t win friends
Hyundai is no longer bargain-basement-priced, but the hard-to-fault 2008 Santa Fe has all the refinement of comparable rivals with a little more flair.
The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe is the poster child for everything that's right about Hyundai's newfound poise and near-perfection. For 2007 the Santa Fe grew appreciably, to a size that's now between compact and mid-size among carlike crossover SUVs, and gained standards of refinement and comfort that boosted it to near the top of many best-of lists. Two different V-6 engines provide power, whereas other competitors offer four-cylinder alternatives. For 2008, a navigation system joins the options list.
The torquey 3.3-liter engine and Shiftronic five-speed automatic in the upscale Limited and SE models is no drag-racer but shows refinement a class above the 2.7-liter engine and four-speed automatic in the GLS. The Santa Fe's driving feel is surprisingly capable and somewhat sporty compared to that of other crossovers, with a ride that's well controlled but on the firm side. The tightly put-together interior in the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe makes a refreshing design statement that breaks from Euro-worshipping, but disappoints up close with faux wood and cheap-looking plastics.
The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe could be called the valedictorian in its segment for safety; it got all the best safety features of its peers, such as standard electronic stability control and active head restraints, along with the highest ratings in the frontal and side crash tests from both the federal government and the insurance industry, and it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Hyundai's long 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty erases another type of worry, too.