2008 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

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.

TheCarConnection.com’s car enthusiasts researched available road tests on the new Hyundai Santa Fe to produce this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com’s editors also drove the Hyundai Santa Fe to be able to give you an expert opinion, and to help you find the truth where other car reviews might differ.

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.

Review continues below
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2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Styling

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe is a sleek, stylish crossover that looks great wherever you go.

Reviewers across the board appreciated the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe's stylish looks and new lines.

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe returns in the larger, prettier form it adopted in 2007 with a major redesign. Cars.com indicates "the Santa Fe was upgraded to a midsize [crossover] model from its previous compact size" and that it has a "more-aggressive look that includes a new grille and headlights."

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe is considered a crossover "because of its unibody construction that combines the body and frame in one piece," says Cars.com, and that gives "the Santa Fe the ride and handling characteristics of a sedan rather than a truck."

Cars.com applauds the Santa Fe; Hyundai gets kudos for looking "more and more like refined machines and less like the plasticky econoboxes the company put out in the 1980s and '90s" and goes on to say that it has "lines that flow gracefully into each other."

While ConsumerGuideAuto claims the "styling slightly interferes with visibility to right rear and directly astern," MyRide.com notes that "it has more the profile of a sporty station wagon than that of a traditional body-on-frame SUV." Cars.com likes the latest body style since it is "more aerodynamic, with a lower coefficient of drag."

Overall, reviewers raved about the new look and the larger size of the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe. MyRide.com states that "its styling is more refined and less truck-like." Auto123.com notes "this crossover still boasts go-anywhere styling which may not turn a lot of heads but will certainly make its owner proud."

Auto123.com sums it up by saying with the Santa Fe, Hyundai has built a "nice-looking vehicle that's relatively competent in every respect despite its limited off-road capability."

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2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Performance

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe offers a sweet ride on the pavement but lacks when it comes to off-roading.

Reviewers praise the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe's performance on the street while they denigrate it for its off-road performance.

Santa Fe crossovers come "standard with V-6 power, ... [a] 185-hp, 2.7-liter mill," according to Car and Driver, and you can upgrade to a "3.3-liter V-6 that produces a more impressive 242 horsepower," with "Front- or all-wheel drive ... available." ConsumerGuideAuto further clarifies that the all-wheel drive "allows locking in a 50/50 front/rear power split."

ConsumerGuideAuto gripes that it is "slow to build speed and loses steam going up moderate grades." Edmunds refutes that by stating that the "larger V-6 engine is smooth and has plenty of power" and that in the Santa Fe, Hyundai has a "solid-performing and practical SUV for city driving."

Cars.com, on the other hand, says, "don't count on doing any serious off-road driving, however. The all-wheel-drive system does not have low-range gearing."

Experts at TheCarConnection.com found that with the Santa Fe, Hyundai offers a sporty look and excellent road performance. MyRide.com reinforces that, saying, "as long as you don't fling it around corners as if you're in a sports sedan, you'll have no complaints about the Santa Fe's handling." TheCarConnection.com’s editors think 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 other crossovers, with a ride that's well controlled but on the firm side.

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2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Comfort & Quality

With only a fault or two, the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe rates highly in quality and comfort.

Most reviews of the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe agree that the comfort and quality are much improved, with only a few dissenting opinions.

Many compact crossovers are cramped and uncomfortable inside, particularly in their rear seats. In the Santa Fe, Hyundai "offers impressive room, build quality, and standard safety features," according to ConsumerGuideAuto. MyRide.com also reports the "headroom and legroom in the Santa Fe is greater in all rows than in competing models."

Experts from TheCarConnection.com note the very small third seat, and Car and Driver concurs, saying, "Its third row is for tikes and tots only." On the other hand, "other seats, however, are quite comfy for kids and adults alike."

If you’re looking for cargo space in a safe, low-priced crossover, the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe has "a cargo area of 78.2 cubic feet," says Cars.com. To achieve that, "the third row splits 50/50, the second row splits 60/40 and both fold flat."

ConsumerGuideAuto notes the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe's "engines are subdued at full throttle and remain quiet at routine cruising speeds." However, they also say, "road rumble is apparent over some surfaces."

ConsumerGuideAuto thinks "the faux metal and wood trim is convincing, the headliner is handsome, and no plastics look cheap." TheCarConnection.com disagrees somewhat. Inside the Santa Fe, Hyundai offers a much-improved interior, and it’s superior to many other crossovers, but can disappoint up close with some faux wood and cheap-looking plastics.

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2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Safety

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe is one safe car.

Experts from TheCarConnection.com found the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe tops the charts when it comes to safety.

Jalopnik's headline reads, "Insurance Institute for Highway Safety [IIHS] Announces Top Safety Pick Awards for 2008." With the Santa Fe, Hyundai has one of only 21 cars included on that list. Jalopnik notes the IIHS "added a crash prevention criterion last year," which requires vehicles to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC). Jalopnik goes on to recount that "ESC can help drivers maintain control during emergency maneuvers." Cars.com notes that inside the Santa Fe, Hyundai’s “safety features include electronic stability control" as standard, not as an option.

USAToday relays that the NHTSA says stability control "will save 5,300 to 10,300 lives a year when it is on all vehicles" and that its "biggest benefit is its ability to prevent many rollover crashes." USAToday goes on to say, "Hyundai...is one of few automakers to offer it as standard equipment on a low-priced car."

According to Cars.com, the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe's standard safety equipment includes "six airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, active front head restraints and a tire pressure monitoring system." Cars.com adds that in the Santa Fe, Hyundai installs "side-curtain airbags for all three rows of seats."

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. The IIHS’s Top Safety Pick award also is applied to the Santa Fe. Hyundai's long 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty erases another type of worry, too.

8

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Features

The 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with or offers features for everyone at a remarkably low price.

Reviewers found that the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe offers many features and trim packages to fulfill any discerning buyer's needs.

Edmunds indicates for the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe, "all trim levels are well-stocked with standard convenience and safety features." MyRide.com concurs, saying even the base model includes "realistic-looking (but faux) wood-trim accents across the width of the dashboard, surrounding the shifter, and along the door panels."

Cars.com discusses the three trim lines, the "base GLS, midlevel SE and top-of-the-line Limited." The GLS model comes with "16-inch alloy wheels, 112-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, rocker panel moldings, heated power side mirrors," and much more. Cars.com also notes that an "optional DVD player for the third row, dual climate zones and fan controls for the second and third rows" are available.

MyRide.com says in the Santa Fe, Hyundai offers "a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system is now standard on ... [the] Limited" along with a "power sunroof" while the "navigation system is optional." If you want to add the third-row seat and rear AC, Cars.com states, "buyers must choose the SE Touring Package."

All of the features above come at a price, albeit a decent one on the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe. Cars.com indicates that the GLS Model "starts at $21,150," the "SE model ... begins at $24,150," and the "Limited model...has a base price of $28,100."

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April 28, 2015
2008 Hyundai Santa Fe FWD 4-Door Automatic SE

Great vehicle. Bought new and can't give it up

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After 7 years all I had to replace was the battery. This vehicle looks like the day I bought it, inside and out. Everything works the way it did when new. No squeaks, no rattles. Still looks good. Great paint... + More »
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