The first generation Santa Fe was tying to be everything to everyone. The car wanted to be cute enough for the soccer moms while being aggressive enough to appease the off-road crowd. The resulting car may have looked a little odd, but it was a best seller for Hyundai over its five-year run.
When the second generation hit the market last year, it showed that Hyundai figured out that the best way to make everyone happy was with a sleek design. This car is a step up in every way from the previous generation. It grew to accommodate more seats, more amenities, and even a small increase in price.
Sleek truly the buzzword for this car. Everything is designed to look like it could cheat the wind. What it results in is an attractive teardrop design. Other touches such as minimal chrome and a single cluster for headlights and turning lights add to this smooth effect.
Clean. Simple. Sleek.
The interior of our tester even could even turn your grandmother into a badass. It’s a dark place: black leather, black instrument panel, black carpet, and even black faux wood trim. With the tinted windows, the overall effect of the tomb-like atmosphere will make you fell like your transporting a secret and make you a more aggressive driver.
Everything is laid out in a logical way. Nothing is too far out of reach, and the GPS system on our loaded car was one of the most logical systems we’ve seen lately.
The steering wheel is wrapped in quality leather, and the seats are soft and supportive. Everything is built for the long haul. This is not necessarily something you want to go racing with, but its not likely you bought a seven-passenger SUV to go racing.
Like most SUVs of today, the Santa Fe is just really tall wagon. The Santa Fe not only shares an assembly line with the Sonata sedan, but they also share a version of the 3.3-liter V6. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The 242 horsepower on our tester was plenty of power for our everyday driving. In fact most of the staff would refer to the power on tap as "peppy", and there was enough power that we rarely questioned the "sport" of our SUV. It was even once referred to as "the family man’s GTI".
The Santa Fe is effortless getting around town. The steering is light but communicates the road conditions effectively. The interior noise is well-handled as conversations could still be pleasant at highway speeds. The extra height of the SUV puts a little more bounce in the ride — not excessive, but enough to be noticeable.
The ground clearance and engine are not set up for serious off-roading, but none of us live on a farm, and we doubt you do too. Instead the car is built to be more agile than it looks, which makes for an enjoyable family hauler in the city.
The field is packed with seven-passenger SUVs, and our loaded Hyundai is a low ball in the field at $32,365.
We are not advertisers, and so we’re not going to say what cars need to be on your list when looking for a mid-size SUV. What we can say is that if you’ve decided to stay away from the South Koreans because of reputation, then you may be missing out. The details on the car seems to be built for the long haul: the doors close with a reassuring “thunk”; the paintwork is shiny and deep; and the interior bit feel sturdy and from quality materials.
We were impressed with our Hyundai. It’s becoming harder for us to tell if the little “H” badging comes from Korea or Japan. Just watch the deprecation, the second-hand market is still catching up.