Tuesday, December 02, 2008

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe: Mid-size crossover delivers on features and value

Last year, Hyundai bowed with its second generation Santa Fe, which continued its role as an urban crossover but with an all-new look, increased interior space, high-tech safety features and value packaging.

Prior to the actual design execution, Hyundai engineers benchmarked several high-end unibody construction crossovers, which ultimately resulted in producing a considerably more upscale vehicle than the previous generation. The new Santa Fe combined class-leading safety technologies, advanced and improved power trains, as well as a host of functional and versatile features, both inside and out.

The design was all-new and on the contemporary side, something Hyundai referred to as "assertive grace." The Santa Fe was one of the first to break the traditional elemental boxiness inherent in many early SUVs. The nose is rounded and aerodynamic with a hood that slopes gracefully up to the sharply angled windscreen. The fender line rises progressively toward the elevated beltline, which finally swoops dramatically upward to meet the rear tilt of the "D" pillar. The rear backlight dips low for improved visibility, and headlight and taillamp profiles match.

There are still two engines available to power the Santa Fe: a 2.7-liter, Mu DOHC, 24-valve, 185 horsepower V6; or a 3.3-liter Lambda V6 that generates 242 horses and 226 pound-feet of torque. There are three transmission choices - a five-speed manual, standard with the smaller V6; an optional four-speed automatic with Shiftronic (also for the 2.7-liter motor); and finally, a five-speed Shiftronic automatic, which comes standard with the 3.3 V6. Front-wheel drive is the standard drive configuration, with an optional Borg Warner all-wheel drive system available.

The Santa Fe continues to be offered in both five- (standard) and seven- (optional) passenger versions with a choice of three trim levels: the well equipped base GLS, a full-featured SE model and the top-of-the-line Limited.

Santa Fe SE and Limited models come with 18-inch alloy wheels for a more aggressive appearance. Roof rack side rails are standard and aid in defining the simple side profile, while adding to the SUV functionality.

My test 2008 Santa Fe came in Limited trim with the 3.3-liter motor and five-speed Shiftronic. It was in the AWD configuration with a Slate Blue metallic exterior and beige interior with faux dark wood trim accents. The base sticker read $29,600, while the navigation system and carpeted floor mats upped the final amount to $31,470.


The 2008 Santa Fe is an exceptional CUV. It is attractive inside and out and drives and handles well with satisfying responses in acceleration, positive steering input and a compliant, comfortable ride quality.

For 2008, the Santa Fe Limited has gotten even better by adding a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system and power sunroof to the long list of standard equipment and an all-new navigation system to the list of optional equipment.

Santa Fe is an ideal consideration for consumers in search of a mid-size CUV, since it provides more than enough choices to tailor and personalize it to suit individual tastes and requirements. Its affordability is perhaps misleading in that the value approach to content in no way affects its attention to detailed fit and finish quality levels. Combine that with what Hyundai calls "America's best warranty" and it appears that the Santa Fe is on track for continued success despite the increasingly stiff competition in the market segment.

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

Base price: $29,600
Price as tested: $31,470
Engine/transmission: 3.3-liter, 242-horsepower V6; five-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 184.1 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 67.9 inches
Curb weight: 4,121 pounds
Fuel capacity: 19.8 gallons
Fuel consumption: 17mpg city/24mpg highway

Arv Voss
The San Francisco Chronicle

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