By The Car Family
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Hyundai’s Santa Fe is a pleasant surprise with excellent interior components, a host of technology helpers, the availability of a third row of seats, and low long term costs making this an ideal family vehicle. The CUV category of vehicles is one of the most competitive in the industry as companies as diverse as Porsche and Fiat offer alternatives to tempt consumers. Hyundai has done well in this segment and the new Santa Fe is extremely competitive in both price and features. Indeed, it has been rated very highly in head to head competitions with only more expensive models rated higher.
Dad’s view: The base four-cylinder engine is adequate, but we much prefer the turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s acceleration, although the gas mileage isn’t stellar with 20 mpg in mixed driving being our average. The six-speed automatic transmission is standard and is excellent. The ride is compliant, steering feel is quite good and the brakes have a satisfying feel. Scores for Korean made cars have improved dramatically in recent owner quality reviews and the significant warranty provides comfort for those who have been reluctant to try this marque’s offerings. This model is going to be a concern for the competition with exceptional pricing and value. With it performance and equipment it is nearly unbeatable save for the humdrum fuel mileage. Even with the abundance of players in the crossover utility class (CUV), the Santa Fe is a standout and the turbochared 265-hp, 2.0-liter inline-four is quite capable. The 3.3-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower is a worthwhile consideration for those that use the 5000 pound towing package. All wheel drive is an option. This Hyundai is compelling choice as it offers the ability to travel to the mountains, seashore, desert or just go shopping in quiet luxury that one does not expect in a vehicle with a starting price in the mid-$20,000 range. Adding to that allure is that way it easily handles chores whether it be dropping of the kids at school, bringing home do-it-yourself items, or going out to dinner.
Mom’s view: An impressive interior with easy to decipher controls, good forward visibility, and comfortable seats make the Santa Fe very user friendly. The position of the sideview mirrors, however, can block your view of pedestrians. The second row seats are ample, but the third row is quite small as it is for most SUVs in this class. Cargo space is limited and so it is good that the Santa Fe’s seats are easy to fold down to carry larger items. I would highly recommend the rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and navigation with an eight-inch touch screen. You can open the power liftgate with the key fob making it much easier to use as part of the must have Premium package that even includes lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and rear window shades among other goodies. Safety wise you the Santa Fe standard equipment includes a vehicle stability system, traction control, seven airbags including a driver’s knee airbag, four-wheel disc brakes and ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, hill-start assist control, downhill brake control and a tire pressure monitoring system. Crash scores were very good, but from a mommy standpoint the Santa Fe is a vehicle I would want to carry my family as it does not shortchange safety.
Young woman’s view: You must order the $4,350 Ultimate with heated and cooled front seats, parking sensors, memory seats, and a larger touchscreen display screen. The center stack is well organized and the ride is much improved over previous models. However, this isn’t a canyon runner. There are faster compact utility vehicles, but none really have offer the combination of ride, performance, and value. It is quiet, conventional looking, and doesn’t attract unwanted attention. Getting in and out when wearing a dress is not a problem and the controls are easy to reach and activate even if you have longer fingernails. The rear liftover is a bit high for me, but the automatic rear hatch negates any problem related to reach.
Young man’s view: Bluetooth and a USB port are standard as well as a very clear rearview camera. Other standard features include alloy wheels, foglights, a windshield wiper de-icers, cruise control, heated front seats, a 40/20/40-split sliding and reclining second-row seat and a 50/50-split flat-folding third-row seat. Also standard are Hyundai’s telematics system and a six-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, USB/iPod integration and a 4.3-inch touchscreen display. I would recommend a close look at the many technology options available on the Santa Fe including the really nice 12-speaker Infinity audio system. This vehicle is surprisingly interesting even if it isn’t the sexiest CUE on the block.
Family conference: If you are looking for a lot of car for the money, the Santa Fe and smaller Santa Fe Sport are must drives. The cabin is very nice, almost elegant, and the menus and functions are intuitive and fast reacting. Putting these traits together in a price range that is thousands under most competitors makes for a persuasive argument. No doubt Hyundai has put safety first with its Santa Fe models.