Newly redesigned, the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited earned a "Very Good" overall rating — surpassed only by the V6-powered Toyota RAV4 Limited — in tests for the May issue of Consumer Reports.
The Santa Fe ranks second overall among some 20 small SUVs recently tested by Consumer Reports, including the highly rated Subaru Forester and Honda CR- V.
"The Santa Fe is quiet, comfortable riding, and it’s refined," said David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Center in East Haddam, Connecticut. "It has a versatile interior, yet its exterior dimensions are modest."
The Santa Fe was one of five small SUVs tested for the May issue. Other vehicles in the group were the Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander, Suzuki XL7, and Dodge Nitro. The RAV4 and CR-V are among the other small SUVs previously tested by CR. As tested, the SUVs ranged in price from $27,662 for the Subaru Forester Sports 2.5XT to $30,745 for the Santa Fe Limited equipped with a 3.3 liter engine.
Though not on par with the Santa Fe, the Forester, Outlander, and XL-7 all posted "Very Good" overall scores. The new Dodge Nitro scored at the bottom of the pack with a "Fair" score.
The May issue also includes updates on three previously-tested minivans — the Toyota Sienna, Nissan Quest, and Chevrolet Uplander. As reported in the Annual April Auto Issue, the Sienna is CR’s Top Pick in the minivan category. It posted an "Excellent" overall score. The Nissan Quest achieved a "Very Good" score and the Uplander is rated "Good".
Among the SUVs in this test group, Consumer Reports recommends only the Forester. CR does not yet have reliability data on the Santa Fe, Outlander, and XL7. The Nitro scored too low to be recommended. Consumer Reports only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey of its own subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
The redesigned Santa Fe is a big improvement over the old model. With an interior now big enough for a third row seat and excellent fit and finish, it is a refined and versatile package. The Santa Fe Limited ($30,745 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested) was tested with an optional 242-hp, 3.3-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission that deliver very good acceleration and smooth shifts — but only 18 mpg overall in CR’s fuel economy tests. The Santa Fe’s third-row seat is suitable only for children, with a low cushion and very little leg room. The SUV has 37.5 cubic feet of storage area with the second- and third-row seats folded. Braking is very good overall.
The high-end Sports XT is the only Forester to currently offer electronic stability control. It is also quick and handles nimbly. But the ESC kicks in too late to prevent the SUV’s tail from sliding. The Forester Sports XT ($27,662 MSRP as tested) is powered by a refined 224-hp, 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers acceleration matching that from many V6s. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The Forester has a substantial amount of cargo space for its size — 32.0 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seat folded forward. Braking performance is very good.
The redesigned Outlander is greatly improved and is now a competitive entry in this class. It has a refined, responsive powertrain and agile handling. The Outlander XLS ($30,615 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 220- hp, 3.0-liter V6 that delivers smooth power and very good acceleration. It’s mated to a slick, six-speed transmission. The interior is roomy and offers a tiny, third-row seat. With all the rear seatbacks folded, the Outlander has 33.5 cubic feet of storage space. Braking is very good.
The redesigned XL7 has moved past its truck roots and is now based on the Chevrolet Equinox. But it’s longer than the Equinox and has enough room for a usable third row. Different suspension tuning gives it improved ride and handling over the Equinox. The XL7 Luxury ($29,284 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 252-hp, 3.6-liter V6 engine that provides ample performance. The XL7 pulled CR’s 3,500-pound test trailer to 60 mph faster than any vehicle in this group. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly. Cargo room is 36.5 cubic feet, and both 60/40 second-row and 50/50 third-row seatbacks fold forward for additional storage space. Braking distances are fairly good.
The Nitro shares a platform with the Jeep Liberty and has bold styling but otherwise falls flat. Handling is clumsy, and the ride is snappy and unsettled. The driving position is awkward, and fit and finish are below par. The Nitro SLT ($28, 875 MSRP as tested) is equipped with a 210-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine that feels sluggish and gets 16 mpg, the group’s worst. The four- speed transmission shifts smoothly but isn’t particularly responsive to part throttle downshifts. Cargo area expands to 39.5 cubic feet by folding the 60/40 rear seatbacks. The tailgate rises for access to the cargo area, and the floor pulls out for loading. Stopping distances from 60 mph were long on both dry and wet pavement.