2001 Hyundai Santa Fe

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2001 Hyundai Santa Fe

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Available in 7 styles:  2001 Hyundai Santa Fe 4dr AWD shown
Asking Price Range
$1,628–$7,104
Estimated MPG

19–21 city / 23–28 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 9

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Maybe it means we've scraped the bottom of the sport utility vehicle barrel when a South Korean company takes a name like Santa Fe for its newest cute-ute.

Santa where? Santa who?

Since when does Southeast Asia have a say in something so blatantly Wild West and so obviously U.S.? Since Hyundai started building an SUV that can compete with anything on this shore. This is the new Santa Fe - hardly Hyundai, very American, quite interesting.

We told you a few months ago about Hyundai's rebuilt reputation - the XG300 and the Sonata are two good examples - and the tradition continues with its first-ever SUV. Trashed are the tin cans that used to roll off the Hyundai assembly line. Gone are the days of the 10-year warranty needed to cover everything from the gear shift to the tire rims.

Its respect-level restored, Hyundai feels it's time to discover new territory and maybe do a little name dropping.

New for 2001, Hyundai's SUV will bang bumpers with the best mini-utes around. Actually, we'll call it a fine-ute - nicely equip-ped, well-mannered and not a drain on the wallet - a sort of SUV truce on wheels. Not too small, not too large and, maybe more importantly for Hyundai, finally able to compete with the Toytoa RAV4, Honda CRV and Chevy Tracker's of the world. That's a place Hyundai's been longing for for awhile.

Financially sandwiched between a Lexus RX 300 and a Kia Sportage, the Santa Fe might be a little tardy to the SUV party, but rolls in as a better-than-basics approach to both sport and utility, with a whole world of simplicity. Climb aboard the Santa Fe and you get an uncomplicated interior, plenty of comfort not to mention decent ride and handling.

Designed for more on-road comfort than off-road exploits, it won't blow you away at the stoplight or in the showroom. But that's not its intention. Hyundai wants to be on the short list of mini-ute buyers - those wanting the car-like ride with the small-truck size - who were looking to upsize their small sedan or young buyers looking for a little Santa fun.

Hyundai's quickly realized that not everyone who lives in the suburbs wants to party in the boonies. They just want to say they can - and then have the ability to stow the groceries on the way home from the store. In both ways it succeeds.

From the outside, its styling is California cool - tall fenders, a sharp nose and a bulky, thick look that is so un-Hyundai. Inside, it's no-fuss. Its wheelbase is five inches longer than a RAV4 and the same as a Ford Escape; it's wider than the competition. And all that means more comfort and a whole lot of space - important ingredients in any small-family set of wheels. Maybe more to the heart of the matter, it's priced better.

Loaded up, our Sante Fe GLS tester with automatic transmission is a $20,249 ride. All of which drives directly into Hyundai's motto: Cheap wheels, good looks, safe bet. Available in eight different trim levels - from the two-wheel-drive GL five-speed (starting at $16,499) to the AWD LX automatic ($21,999) - there is plenty to choose from but not much to complain about. Keeping with the economical theme, gas mileage is a respectable 23 mpg highway and 19 city - certainly not the stuff of tank SUVs.

Despite its lower-than-average sticker, the Santa Fe delivers the essentials. Doors don't close with a ting!, instrumentation is logical and well-placed and the chunky, easy-to-read buttons work the way they should. The overly plastic feel could be restyled but the list of standard features make for that good, all-important dollar-to-feature ratio. Air conditioning, power windows, 16inch alloy wheels, a roof rack and AM/FM stereo with an in-dash CD are all standard.

Of course, some key elements are left out. The Santa Fe comes with disc front and rear brakes but, regrettably, without standard anti-lock brakes or traction control (both are options). Two quick Hyundai hints: Make them andard and beef up that V-6. If you're going to use an American name, you need muscle.

The base power package is a 181-horsepower 2.4-liter in-line four cylinder. At 149 horsepower, we didn't hold our breath waiting to be inspired. The V-6 was another story. Although it's a leg up on the RAV4's 2.0-liter, 148 horse fourcylinder, it was still less than enthusiastic off the light.

Handling was better. Having driven some wretched Hyundais in the past, including an Excel that did anything but, the Santa Fe was surprisingly tight on turns. It's all by design. Hyundai calls the Santa Fe an XUV, as in crossover-utility vehicle, meaning because it rides on a revised version of Hyundai's Sonata sedan, it's well-behaved like a sedan - no bouncing around or jarring edges - yet in the shape of something larger.

The four-wheel-drive models are designed to deliver 60 percent of the power through the front wheels and 40 to the rear. And it works. The Santa Fe is a digger that doesn't mind being shoved around a corner once or twice. The turning radius is decent, meaning parking is easy and because of its width it's stable at highway speeds.

There's plenty of room for four adults and plenty of flexibility in a larger-than-life cargo area with foldflat split rear seats. Rear-seat leg room is abundant and the step-up height isn't unreasonable - still OK for someone under 5-foot-8.

The warranty also can't be ignored. As just another indication of good business sense, Hyundai continues to offer one of the best protection plans in the industry. The standard warranty is five years or 60,000 miles, bumper to bumper, and 10 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain. Want a better guarantee?

Hyundai appears back for good. Yes, this is a first-time vehicle, so the obligatory caution should be issued here.

But, nonetheless, this appears to be a good XUV - with X marking the spot for many things finally right.

2001 HYUNDAI SANTE FE GLS

Rating: 3.5

High Gear: The first SUV from South Korea's biggest automaker is high on the features-per-dollar list as well as a few other things, including: cargo room, ride, handling and an industry-leading warranty.

Low Gear: The next-generation Santa Fe needs more American muscle in the V-6 and maybe updated interior detailing. Side air bags would also be a plus.

Vehicle type: Front- or all-wheel-drive, front engine, four-door, five-passenger sport utility vehicle.

Standard equipment: Four-speed automatic with manual-shift capability; dual front air bags; air conditioning; power steering; tilt steering; eight-way manual adjustable driver's seat; split-folding rear seat; power windows; AM/FM/CD player; full-size spare wheel; heated power mirrors; cruise control; power door locks; remote keyless entry; cargo cover; fog lights.

Competition: Chevy Tracker, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester

Engine: 181 horsepower, 2 .7-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6

Torque: 177 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm

Wheelbase: 103.1 inches

Length: 177.2 inches

MPG rating: 19 mpg city/23 mpg highway

Manufactured: South Korea

Warranty: Basic warranty is five years/60,000 miles; the drivetrain is 10 years/100,000 miles; body corrosion is five years/100,000 miles and roadside assistance is five years/unlimited miles.

Base price: $19,299

Price as tested (including options, destination and delivery): $20,249




    Expert Reviews 2 of 9

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