Reviewers almost across the board criticize the 2009 Hyundai Santa Fe's off-road ability while commending its on-road performance.
TheCarConnection.com editors praise the Santa Fe for having 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." 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, if also on the firm side.
According to Car and Driver, the Santa Fe comes "standard with V-6 power ... [a] 185-hp, 2.7-liter mill," 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."
ConsumerGuide gripes that it is "slow to build speed and loses steam going up moderate grades." Edmunds refutes that, stating the "larger V-6 engine is smooth and has plenty of power," and in the Santa Fe, Hyundai has a "solid-performing and practical SUV for city driving."
"Don't count on doing any serious off-road driving. The all-wheel-drive system does not have low-range gearing," says Car and Driver.