For its third year on the market, Hyundais sport utility vehicle gets several enhancements. Standard side-impact airbags are one of those significant changes. A Monsoon sound system with a six-CD changer joins the options list, and a HomeLink remote control unit is built into the sun visor and console.
During the 2002 model year, all-disc brakes and a higher-level stereo were added, and the SUV was upgraded with a revised dashboard and center stack, a reworked overhead console and a new power sunroof. Gas-charged struts also replaced the previous hood prop rod.
The Santa Fe is based on the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Sonata sedan platform. The SUVs rivals include such car-based SUVs as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. Having an SUV in the lineup is helping South Koreas largest auto company maintain its recent sales increases. As reported by Automotive News, 56,017 Santa Fes were sold in the United States during 2001.
The Santa Fe comes in three trim levels: GL, GLS and LX. In the spring of 2001, the compact SUV earned a Good crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), beating the Escape and RAV4.
Roughly the same size as Hondas first-generation CR-V, the Santa Fe is 177.2 inches long overall and close to 66 inches tall. It rides on a 103.1-inch wheelbase. Fords Escape has the same wheelbase but is 4 inches shorter overall. The Santa Fes bulging front fenders are similar to the ones used on the Tiburon sport coupe. The four-door SUV is equipped with a rear liftgate and standard 16-inch tires.
The Santa Fe holds five occupants with front bucket seats and a three-place, split rear bench that folds for additional cargo space. Cargo volume behind the rear seat is 29 cubic feet, and that number grows to 78 cubic feet when the backseat is folded down. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, a CD player, and power windows and door locks. The step-up GLS edition adds such features as remote keyless entry, fog lights and a cassette/CD stereo system. Leather upholstery, automatic climate control and heated front seats are part of the top-of-the-line LX version.
Under the Hood
A 2.7-liter V-6 engine produces 181 horsepower and teams with a four-speed-automatic transmission in the GL V-6, GLS and LX models. The automatic transmission has manual-shifting capability. Used in the base GL edition, the Santa Fes 149-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mates with a standard five-speed-manual transmission.
FWD and permanently engaged all-wheel drive (AWD) are available the latter is intended to provide extra grip on slippery highway surfaces rather than for use on serious offroad treks. AWD sends 60 percent of the power to the front wheels and 40 percent to the rear wheels. No Low range is included.
Side-impact airbags are standard for 2003. Antilock brakes are standard on the LX model.
The Santa Fe is one of the friendliest and easiest of the smaller SUVs to drive, and it handles adeptly and performs admirably. Its bulging fenders, which are uncommon on SUVs, actually make a difference in judging the vehicles position. This SUV is appropriately spacious, and it runs quietly. It also delivers an appealing ride