Sales of sport utility vehicles continue to grow and so is the number of companies that sell them in the United States. Hyundai joins the sport utility craze this fall with the Santa Fe, a car-based vehicle designed to lure buyers away from the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and other car/SUV hybrids. Hyundai pegs base prices between $17,000 and $23,000.
Santa Fe is based on the front-drive Sonata platform, which also spawns the new XG300 sedan this year.
Hyundai was on the ropes in the United States just two years ago, but sales are booming for South Koreas largest auto company, despite a lineup that until now included only cars.
Santa Fe is a four-door SUV with a rear liftgate, and bulging fenders mark its styling similar to that on the Hyundai Tiburon sports coupe. Wheelbase is 103 inches, overall length is 177 and the height is 66 inches virtually the same as the CR-V. The new Ford Escape has the same wheelbase but is 4 inches shorter overall.
Sixteen-inch wheels and tires are standard.
Santa Fe is equipped with seats for five passengers, with a pair of front buckets and a three-place split rear bench seat that folds for additional cargo space. Hyundai lists cargo volume behind the rear seat as 29 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a stereo with a CD player and power windows. Leather upholstery is optional.
Under the Hood
Because it is based on the Sonata, the Santa Fe uses the same engines, though displacement on the V-6 grows from 2.5 liters to 2.7 a change that will eventually apply to the Sonata. The V-6 generates 181 horsepower and comes with a four-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder has 150 hp and comes with a five-speed manual.
Santa Fe comes with front-wheel drive or permanently engaged all-wheel drive that Hyundai says is designed for extra on-road grip, not heavy-duty off-roading. The AWD sends 60 percent of the power to the front wheels and 40 percent to the rear.