Tuesday, July 25, 2006

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe Grows up to Midsize

Hyundai's Santa Fe sport utility vehicle enters its second generation for 2007, reborn as a midsize model from its previous compact size. The growth means the Santa Fe now has room for up to seven people, and can compete in the same segment as the Toyota Highlander, Ford Freestyle and Honda Pilot. The Santa Fe, like those competitors, is one of the new breed of SUV called a crossover, thanks to its carlike unibody construction that combines the body and frame in one unit. The South Korea-based Hyundai hopes that the larger Santa Fe can take sales away from traditional truck-style SUVs such as the Ford Explorer, as well as competing against its crossover competitors. The compact Santa Fe that the new model replaces already had made a name for Hyundai. It was well-built, affordable, stylish, and easy on gas. Hyundai's 2007 Santa Fe, is about 7 inches longer than its predecessor, and features a sleeker, more aerodynamic body and a new grille. The automaker isn't abandoning the compact crossover segment, however. It also offers the Tucson, introduced for 2005, which actually is in the same segment as the previous generation of the Santa Fe; the Santa Fe was just slightly larger and better-equipped, giving it a higher price. The new Santa Fe is 184.1 inches long, about seven inches longer than its predecessor. It's also an inch wider and almost two inches taller. Its track is 2.9 inches wider, which makes it wider than the tracks of the Highlander and Explorer. Even though it is larger, the new Santa Fe starts at $21,595  $100 less than its predecessor. And it offers quite decent fuel economy for a midsize sport utility. EPA ratings are as high as 21 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway for the base 2.7-liter V-6 version, and up to 19 city/24 highway for the uplevel 3.3-liter V-6. That compares with 15 city/21 highway for the base Explorer. It's also quite Americanized. The Santa Fe is the first production vehicle created by Hyundai's new U.S. design center in Irvine, Calif. The center's mission, Hyundai says, was to design a vehicle "to meet American consumers' demand for safety, style, sophistication and performance." The designers and engineers aimed high, Hyundai says. The benchmark for the new Santa Fe weren't its would-be competitors such as the Highlander and Pilot; instead, it was vehicles such as the Lexus RX and Acura MDX, which are the premium versions of the Highlander and Pilot, and the Volvo XC90. The XC90, whose reputation for safety is well-established, gave Hyundai inspiration for the new Santa Fe's safety features. They include electronic stability control, anti-whiplash active head restraints, and side-curtain air bags for all three rows of seats. Although test results have not been announced yet, the Santa Fe "is expected to earn the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's top five-star crash test rating for front and side impacts," Hyundai said. The side-curtain air bags are standard on all models. Some of the Santa Fe's competitors offer this feature as an option, including the Explorer, Highlander and Toyota RAV4. Electronic stability control also is standard on all versions. This system "compares the driver's intended course with the vehicle's actual response and then brakes individual front or rear wheels and/or reduces engine power as needed" to help maintain vehicle stability in extreme or panic maneuvers to help prevent rollovers, Hyundai says. This is a feature that is appearing as standard equipment on most of the newer SUVs, and is expected to lower death rates from SUV accidents substantially. The available engines include a new 2.7-liter V-6, rated at 185 horsepower and 183 foot-pounds of torque, and the 3.3-liter V-6, with 242 horsepower and 226 foot-pounds of torque. That's an increase of 15 horsepower from the 2.7-liter engine in the 2006 model, and 42 horsepower from the 3.5-liter V-6 that was optional in the '06  with better fuel economy for the larger engine despite the huge spike in power. The 2.7-liter model comes with a standard five-speed manual transmission, with EPA ratings of 20 city/25 highway. A four-speed automatic is optional, and actually gets better fuel economy than the manual. With the 3.3-liter engine, a five-speed automatic is standard. Both of the automatics come with the Shiftronic feature, which allows the driver to shift manually (without having to use a clutch). Two-wheel drive is standard, but an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system is optional, Hyundai says this system automatically sends power to the wheels offering the best traction. The driver can activate a new center differential lock that splits power 50-50 between the front and rear axles regardless of which wheels have the best traction. This can help move the vehicle better in some off-road situations. The all-wheel-drive Santa Fe does not have low-range gearing for serious off-road driving. It is capable of limited off-road operation, however. Among exterior features are a more aggressive look that includes a new grille and headlights. The new Santa Fe has a sleeker, more aerodynamic body, with a lower coefficient of drag. That's the measure of wind resistance, and the lower the resistance, the better a vehicle's fuel economy. Although the vehicle is 2.1 inches shorter than the Lexus RX, there is more head, leg, and shoulder room in the first two rows of seats. The RX doesn't offer a third row of seating, either. "With 40 percent of all crossover and SUV customers demanding a third-row seat, this feature will significantly broaden Santa Fe's market reach and appeal," Hyundai said. The third-row seat has a 50/50 split, and can be folded flat to increase cargo space. The middle seats, with a 60/40 split, can be folded, too, creating a cargo area of 78.2 cubic feet. With the second and third rows of seats in place, though, cargo space is just 10 cubic feet. Three trim levels are offered: base GLS, midlevel SE and uplevel Limited. But the GLS even comes well-equipped, and offers more standard equipment for thousands of dollars less than a Highlander, Hyundai says. GLS models come with the 2.7-liter engine, manual transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, 112-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with six speakers, rocker panel moldings, heated power side mirrors, power windows and door locks with remote, roof rack with sliding cross rails, tire-pressure monitoring system, air conditioning and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Options include the four-speed automatic transmission and a premium package, which adds a power tilt/slide glass sunroof and heated front seats. Five-passenger seating is standard; to get the third seat, the buyer must opt for the GLS touring package. It includes a rear climate control unit. Moving up to the SE model brings the 3.3-liter engine and five-speed automatic transmission, along with 18-inch alloy wheels, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, front fog lights, and steering wheel audio controls. An SE premium package adds a power driver's seat with lumbar support, a power tilt/slide glass sunroof, heated front seats and universal garage/gate opener. The optional ultimate package includes the premium package plus a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with eight-inch LCD monitor; a 252-watt AM/FM/CD-changer/MP3 audio system with seven speakers and external amplifier; and a 115-volt power outlet. To get the third seat and rear air conditioning, buyers must choose the SE touring package. Top of the line is the Limited, which comes with everything found on the SE, plus leather seats, heated front seats, power driver's seat with lumbar support, dual zone automatic climate control with outside temperature display, and the universal garage/gate opener. Special exterior touches on the Limited include a chrome grille and exterior door handles, and a body-color rear spoiler. A tilt/slide glass sunroof is optional. Also optional with the Limited is the ultimate package, which brings the sunroof, rear entertainment system, a 605-watt Infinity AM/FM/CD-changer/MP3 audio system with 10 speakers, 115-volt power outlet, and power front passenger seat. The Limited Touring Package adds the third row of seating and rear air conditioning The 2007 Santa Fe is arriving at Hyundai dealers now. San Antonio Express-News G. Chambers Williams III

Thursday, July 13, 2006

All-Time Sales Mark For June

More Hyundai vehicles were sold this past June than in any other month in the history of Hyundai in the U.S. Overall sales records have also been shattered for the first half this year, setting 2006 to be the best year ever for Hyundai, especially now with the new '07 models in stock. Total sales were at 44,508 units, with the Sonata tops at 11,739 units, which was a 37% increase over last year.