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Suburban Dad: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

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I have something of a history with the Hyundai Santa Fe. You might even call it a crush.

When I was looking for a new car back in 2002, among the cars I looked at was the Santa Fe. It was a brand-new model then, full of promise and good looks. It was appealing for its size, the cargo it could hold and its truck-like look and feel. In the end, my fears about buying a Hyundai, given their previous quality track record, held me back. My sister-in-law bought one (you can see it above), so I’ve been able to ride in it from time to time. It was like a long-distance romance.

Fast-forward to last fall, when I drove the Santa Fe for a few minutes and had mixed feelings about it. It looked great, had grown from its original size and was really comfortable. Unfortunately, it was also dragging. Although it had a V-6, I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere.

Now, though, I’ve driven the Limited version of the Santa Fe, and my fears and concerns have melted away thanks to the Limited’s bigger V-6. It still has the same great looks, the creature comforts and a huge cargo area.

It may be love.

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My wife was equally thrilled. “It’s really sharp-looking,” she enthused. She and I were both drawn to the debut version five years ago, but we see the new model as vastly superior. Even with three kids in the second row (the test vehicle didn’t come with the optional third row), we didn’t feel cramped. All three kids sat comfortably — more comfortably than just about any SUV we’ve tested so far. “The width of it was nice,” my wife pointed out. Of course, they still fought, but there’s not a car out there that can solve that problem.

The interior seems a lot more refined than the earlier version. It doesn’t seem as plasticky, although the original was not horrible. The light metal on the center console was nice, but automakers need to find a way to make these seem more substantial than they look. The faux wood along the bottom on the center console and around the gear shift didn’t bug me, but I wonder what it’ll look like after a few years in the sun.

The controls are a little over-the-top, especially the diagram that tells you how the climate control is working. And in a $25,000 car, can’t Hyundai spring for a decent stereo? Plus, any automaker who isn’t automatically placing an MP3 jack in its cars these days should be ashamed. More than 100 million iPods have been sold so far; I’m guessing that quite a few of the owners are even driving now.

Mileage was actually not bad, getting about 18 mpg in our mostly city driving. That’s better than a lot of midsize SUVs I’ve driven over the last few months, and within the limits of what my wife and I will accept.

Would we buy this car? (Drum roll, please) Yes. We. Would.

“I’ve always liked the look of the Santa Fe,” my wife said, “and they’ve improved it.”

As tested, it was priced just under $27,000. Given the decent mileage it gets in relation to the room it has, and I think this one would make a perfect second car for us. And, as those who follow Suburban Dad know, that’s high praise indeed.

Related:
The Urban DINK: Car Shopping List Update 2 (KickingTires)

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