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By reading existing road tests on the new Hyundai Santa Fe, TheCarConnection.com produced this conclusive review that points out areas of agreement and conflicting information to help you deduce the truth. TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the Hyundai Santa Fe and added their expert opinion here.
The Santa Fe, in many respects, best represents Hyundai's improved reputation in the United States. In 2007, the Santa Fe grew in dimensions to somewhere between compact and mid-size and gained standards of refinement and comfort that boosted it near the top of many best-of lists—and to a position that’s competitive with some of the best offerings from Japanese and American automakers.
Where competitors offer economical four-cylinder alternatives, Hyundai continues to provide two different V-6 engines for the Santa Fe. That’s both a plus and a minus; even with the smaller 2.7-liter, the Santa Fe doesn’t get close to the fuel economy of, say, a four-cylinder Toyota RAV4. Both engines are very torquey and responsive, but the difference between them is in refinement. The 3.3-liter engine and Shiftronic five-speed automatic in the upscale Limited and SE models is no drag racer, but it shows a silky, strong yet unobtrusive character that’s absent from the coarser 2.7-liter engine and four-speed automatic in the GLS.
The interior in the 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe is tightly assembled and makes a refreshing design statement that breaks from Euro worship, but up close it disappoints with faux wood and cheap-looking plastics. 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.
Just as we now expect from Hyundai models, the 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe comes with a few more features at each price level than we’d get on competing vehicles. Even at the base GLS level, it includes cruise control, automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a six-speaker sound system with XM Satellite Radio. For 2009, Hyundai improves the audio system of the Santa Fe by adding standard USB/iPod auxiliary inputs and realigning its options packages to better suit the demands of its customers.
Hyundai's long 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty erases worries. The Santa Fe is also the safety champion in its segment, receiving 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. In addition, it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick.