2004 Hyundai Santa Fe

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$17,999

starting MSRP

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Visibility
  • Handling
  • Ride quality
  • Passenger space
  • Quietness

The bad:

  • Unproven reliability
  • Automatic-transmission behavior
  • Occasional top heaviness

3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Manageable size
  • Three engine choices
  • Side-impact airbags
  • Stylish exterior
  • Bulging fenders

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe review: Our expert's take

By Kristin Varela

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

As a busy mother of two young daughters, I’m on a never-ending quest for the quintessential “mom-mobile.” I’m searching for that vehicle that will make my daily life of grocery shopping and preschool pickup just a little easier. I want to find a car that’s easy to load my kids into, has seats that hide baby vomit and doesn’t require me to spend my children’s college savings to buy it. Last, but not least, I want to feel youthful and modern while driving it. Oh yeah, if it would create international peace and end world hunger, that would be a bonus. Is that asking too much? Will the Hyundai Santa Fe meet all of my criteria?

Hyundai is known for producing budget-friendly (dare I say cheap) vehicles. The Santa Fe is no exception. The entry-level model starts at just $17,999. My test vehicle is just one step up from there and arrived with only the standard features. My first impression is that it’s a somewhat feminine, young-looking SUV sporting a curvaceous body.

First on my agenda is to test how easily the rear seats fold. They’re very user-friendly and I’m able to operate them without referring to the owner’s manual. With the amount of room in the cargo area I doubt I’ll need to fold the seats again unless acting as a taxi pickup for my husband’s latest home-improvement project. I love the opening mechanism for the cargo door. It’s like squeezing the brake on a bicycle handlebar and is much easier to open than others I’ve used.

Upon installing my girls’ car seats, I notice how much legroom there is in the back. A rear-facing infant seat fits perfectly without obstructing movement of the seat in front of it. The forward-facing car seat installs smoothly thanks to the adjustability of the rear seatback angle. It’s a good thing I only have two children, though, because there’s no way I could fit a third car seat back here. The center rear seat isn’t appropriate for larger children either since it’s only equipped with a lap belt. When not in use, the seat belt buckles actually buckle up into the seat. It’s great not having to fumble around with loose buckles while trying to install the car seat Latch connectors.

Sliding into the driver’s seat I’m excited by how well this SUV seems to conform to my 5-foot-2 stature. My 6-foot-2 husband, on the other hand, took it out for a drive and complained that there wasn’t enough headroom and the brake and gas pedals were too close together. The seat belt adjusts effortlessly with one hand but the sun visors are too small to be entirely functional. With the rear headrests removed (Hyundai recommends removing them when installing car seats), my view of the road is seamless. I have fewer blind spots in this SUV than in any of my other recent test vehicles.

I’m impressed with how easy the Hyundai Santa Fe is to operate. The controls (including the thermostat adjusters and lock/unlock buttons) are large and clearly labeled. All you have to do is get in and drive. There’s not a lot in the way of luxury amenities, but no one ever claimed this was a luxury SUV.

After a two-week test drive, the one thing that continues to baffle me is the Santa Fe’s Shiftronic transmission function. It enables me to switch out of automatic into manual mode, where I can make rapid gearshifts. Why anyone would want to do this I don’t know. It will, however, impress your teenage children, who might be tempted to use this vehicle in a drag race. With its responsive, peppy 3.5-liter engine, they’d probably come out on top, too.

The Hyundai Santa Fe 4WD GLS 3.5 may not go so far as creating peace throughout the world, but with its affordable price and high reliability rating from Consumer Reports it might create peace in your household.

*For more information on the Hyundai Santa Fe and its safety features, visit www.cars.com.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.4
  • Interior design 4.1
  • Performance 4.3
  • Value for the money 4.5
  • Exterior styling 4.1
  • Reliability 4.5

Most recent consumer reviews

4.7

Very reliable car. Will definitely get another

Mine has 214,00 miles on it ..Still runs great. The air conditioner no longer works tho. Compressor has a crack in it. Had to replace the motor for electric window .. minor things

1.9

Have had more problems with this vehicle, too many

. Would never suggest anyone to purchase! Brakes are unable to fix! I've repaired this vehicle so many times, still not dependable. Can't trust to drive locally.

4.0

Amazing car

I have had this vehicle for over a year. Have not had any issues (knock on wood.) Super reliable, I have traveled across the states with this car. Drives smooth. Seats are not the most comfortable, but they allow people of any size to fit. Great in snow, and bad weather conditions. Not meant for off roading. Good first car for teenagers.

See all 50 consumer reviews

Compare the competitors

2005

Kia Sorento

$18,995

starting MSRP

2006

Kia Spectra5

$15,995

starting MSRP

2007

Kia Spectra

$12,895

starting MSRP

See all 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe articles