Base Price (MSRP):$21,695.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $29,390.00
View The 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe Specifications
| Review by: New Car Test Drive
Efficient new engines for roomy SUV.
The 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe is offered in three trim levels: GLS, SE, and Limited. All-wheel drive is offered as an option on all three, and all have seating for five.
All versions of the GLS are powered by the 2.4-liter dohc four-cylinder engine that develops 175 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 169 pound-feet of torque at 3750 rpm. The GLS is available with a six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive ($21,695), a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive ($22,995), or the six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive ($24,695). The GLS is well equipped with air conditioning, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, AM/FM/CD/XM/MP3 audio system with six speakers, XM Satellite Radio, trip computer, power and heated side mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, and 17-inch alloy wheels with P235/65R17 tires. The Premium Package ($3,450) is available only with the automatic transmission and adds a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, navigation with a 6.5-inch touch screen, premium audio system, rearview camera, automatic headlights, and roof-rack cross rails.
The SE with front-wheel drive ($25,995) has the 3.5-liter dohc V6; it is rated at 276 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 248 pound-feet of torque at 5000 rpm and is available only with the six-speed automatic transmission. In addition to the equipment found on the GLS, the SE adds cloth and leather seating surfaces, electrochromic auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, front fog lights, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, windshield wiper deicer, automatic headlights, driver seat power lumbar adjustment, a rear spoiler, and 18-inch alloy wheels with P235/60R18 tires. The Premium Package for the SE ($3,200) adds the sunroof, navigation, rear-view camera, and premium audio system. The SE is also available with all-wheel drive ($27,895), but it is not available with the four-cylinder engine.
To the SE trim level, the Limited with front-wheel drive and the four-cylinder engine ($26,645) adds leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control with outside temperature display, HomeLink universal garage-door opener, and the sunroof. The Limited is also available with the V6 engine and front-wheel drive ($28,595) and the V6 engine with all-wheel drive ($30,295).The Premium Package ($2,250) adds navigation, rear-view camera, and the premium audio system.
All Santa Fe models come with Hyundai's bumper-to-bumper warranty of five years/60,000 miles, plus a powertrain warranty of 10 years/100,000 miles.
Safety features that come standard on all models include dual front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags (for torso protection), side-curtain airbags (for head protection) and active front head restraints. Active safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, Electronic Stability Control, traction control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
With its relatively long wheelbase and short overhangs, the Santa Fe has more the profile of a sporty station wagon than that of a traditional body-on-frame SUV. The most noticeable attribute of the Santa Fe's front end is the complete absence of a bumper. Instead the front valence curves around from beneath the body to encompass the large grille and wrap-around headlights. The hood slopes up toward the raked windshield, and the wedge shape continues along the lower edges of the side windows that sweep up dramatically toward the tailgate.
Even the rear has distinctively curved lines, with high taillight clusters that are partially mounted on the main body and the tailgate. The easy-to-see and easy-to-grab tailgate handle is handy and convenient.
The new wheels for 2010 are a five-spoke design, and the other exterior enhancements give the Santa Fe a look that says it might cost more than its actual price. The roof rack is also well integrated into the whole.
Pleasing is the best way to describe the interior of the Hyundai Santa Fe because it's trimmed in modern plastics with a soft-touch feel. All models feature blue accent lighting at night to illuminate the instruments, switches and the edges of the front cupholders. Even the base GLS has nice luxury touches.
The gauges are mounted in a large instrument pod in front of the steering wheel. The radio and climate controls are well located in a center stack that is mounted high in the dashboard for easy reach and observation while driving.
According to Hyundai's measurements, headroom and legroom in the Santa Fe is more than just competitive with other vehicles in its class, thanks to a uniquely designed unibody that is not based on an existing car platform. That allowed the engineers to maximize interior space.
Fold down the second row of seats and there is 78.2 cubic feet of storage space. Although the Santa Fe is one of smallest midsize SUVs in exterior dimensions it is far from being the smallest inside, a tribute to its space-efficient design.
The air vents for the second row of seats are mounted in the B-pillar, which is much more effective than being mounted down low behind the center console, as in many vehicles.
Nobody can really expect an SUV, even one built using a stiff unibody, to handle as well as a sedan. However, the Hyundai Santa Fe comes mighty close. Indeed, 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.
Overall, the driving experience is transparent, meaning there is nothing outstanding, negatively or positively. The steering has a pleasant feel, neither too tight nor too loose, the brakes work well if not dramatically, the ride is smooth and the vehicle is quiet.
The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is quite a pleasant surprise. It has Continuously Variable Valve Timing on both the intake and exhaust valves, and a Variable Intake System that enhances engine breathing, and, as a result of these advanced technologies, delivers both better performance and superior fuel economy than the 2.7-liter V6 it replaces. For most drivers most of the time, the four-cylinder will be more than adequate and deliver great fuel economy in the bargain.
The new 3.5-liter V6 is also a very nice engine. It also has the Continuously Variable Valve Timing on both intake and exhaust, and a three-step Variable Intake System that enhances engine breathing and efficiency at both low and high engine speeds. The benefit is felt in both off-the-line acceleration and in passing performance. In addition, it also delivers better fuel economy than the previous 3.3-liter V6. Both these engines are big improvements and really enhance the viability of the Santa Fe in its competitive market segment.
The six-speed automatic transmission features SHIFTRONIC, which allows manual control of the gear selection, and it has an overdrive lock-up torque converter for improved highway fuel economy.
We drove a Santa Fe with all-wheel drive. It's electronically controlled and automatically sends power to the wheels with the best traction. For really slippery or off-road conditions, there is a driver-selectable all-wheel-drive lock that provides a fixed 50/50 torque split between the front and rear wheels. On dry pavement (not locked) it did not feel any different from the front-drive model. All-wheel drive is designed to improve handling stability and traction on slippery surfaces, and the Hyundai system does that. In addition, all Santa Fe models include Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which includes the function of traction control.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is only a little smaller than a Toyota Highlander, but it costs a lot less. Judging from Hyundai's performance in J.D. Power and Associates quality studies, Hyundai's vehicles are right there in terms of quality and reliability as well. If you're in the market for a suburban utility vehicle, with a tidy size, good versatility, nice styling, responsive performance, commendable fuel economy, a generous list of appealing features, and an attractive price, the Santa Fe should be included on your shopping list.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent John Rettie drove the Hyundai Santa Fe in Santa Barbara.