I don't know why I'm continually surprised by the quality of Hyundai vehicles. I know I'm not the only one; maybe we have some prehistoric tendency to revert to things that were etched in our brains during our formative teenage years. Whatever the cause, for some reason I am pleasantly surprised every time I drive a new Hyundai, and the 2008 Santa Fe was no exception. In fact, I liked the Santa Fe so much I want to kick that teenage, snarky me to the curb right now and recommend this midsize SUV go to the top of the list for two of my friends who are shopping for cars.
The array of features in the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited was so complete that the only thing my kids mildly complained about was the lack of an entertainment system. As far as I'm concerned, that's like complaining about having no dessert - talk to the hand. The kids were thrilled with things like a little drawer in the back of the center console that fit exactly two iPods and two sets of headphones. They also took advantage of the reclining seats for proper snoozing on a late-night return from Grandma's house. My 8-year-old daughter even asked me to snap photos of the interior door handles because she found them really easy to operate. Now that is meat and potatoes, people, not fluff.
Even better than all the great features, I so enjoyed driving the Santa Fe. My seating position was really easy to adjust, and the adjustable steering wheel made me even more comfortable and confident. I liked the blue glow of the instruments and controls at night - it was really sporty. The controls were very simple and functional, and the navigation system was easy to operate. I especially liked the 3D view option on the navigation system that looked like an on-the-street perspective (complete with horizon) rather than a bird's-eye view. I think that was my dessert, because I can't be sure it served any practical purpose.
Other nice features include heated seats, steering-wheel audio controls, an excellent safety rating, decent gas mileage and plenty of storage. I did find myself wishing for a backup camera (which I would like to see come standard with any navigation system) or even some backup sensors.
The cargo space in the Santa Fe was plentiful, and the center console offered several options for my regular mom-coutrements, like a pack of gum, garage door opener, toll pass, etc. My test vehicle did not have a third row, but it did include a huge lined storage bin in its place. I'm sure I could line that sucker with ice packs and stash enough snacks for my son's entire baseball team. Heck, I could even throw in a picnic lunch for my family of five and still have room for some umbrellas and galoshes (because you KNOW it'll rain) thanks to the convenient built-in separator.
I think one of the most impressive things about the Hyundai Santa Fe is the extensive warranty that comes with it. Just about everything on the car is covered for five years or 60,000 miles, and most of the driving parts (the powertrain) are further protected to 100 months or 100,000 miles. Teenage-me thinks of that as a necessary safety net when buying a Hyundai, but adult-me just sees a quality car that's nice to drive, has just about everything my family needs and comes at a decent price. The great warranty is just dessert.
*For more information on the 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Good Times
2008 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD
Base price: $29,800
Price as tested: $31,470
Engine: 242-hp, 3.3-liter V-6
Fuel: 17/24 mpg
Ground Clearance: 8.1"
Turning Radius: 17.9'
Cargo space: 34.2-78.2 cu. ft.
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 5 Stars
Passenger's side: 5 Stars
Front occupant: 5 Stars
Rear occupant: 5 Stars
Rollover resistance: 4 Stars
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