Vehicle Overview
One year after its redesign, the Hyundai Santa Fe gains a few more standard features at higher trim levels for 2008, as well as an available navigation system. The Santa Fe competes with other midsize SUVs, including the redesigned Toyota Highlander and the Subaru Tribeca.

The redesigned Santa Fe was bumped up from a compact SUV to a midsize in order to make way for the compact Tucson, a 2005-model-year addition. The new Santa Fe grew seven inches in length and, more importantly, now offers seven seats, all the better to compete with vehicles such as the Highlander. Trim levels include the base GLS, midlevel SE and top-of-the-line Limited.

Throughout its current product rollout, Hyundai's vehicles have gradually looked more and more like refined machines and less like the plasticky econoboxes the company put out in the 1980s and '90s. The Santa Fe is the best effort yet, with lines that flow gracefully into each other. Hyundai toned down its typical fender flare, and now there's just enough to give the vehicle character.

The 2008 Santa Fe, built in the Montgomery, Ala., plant that produces the Sonata, is 184 inches long, 74.5 inches wide and 68 inches tall, and its wheelbase is 106 inches.

Those exterior dimensions contribute to space for the seven seats available on various trim levels. The people in those seats were a clear priority in this vehicle, with such touches as an optional DVD player for the third row, dual climate zones and fan controls for the second and third rows. The Santa Fe Limited gains a standard moonroof and Infinity Logic 7 stereo. A navigation system — not previously available in Hyundais — becomes optional.

Hyundai says the third row has more legroom than a Honda Pilot or Volvo XC90. The company promises a sedan-like ride — felt most prominently in the third row — out of this car-based SUV; that means off-roading is unadvisable. If you have cargo needs, the third row splits 50/50, the second row splits 60/40 and both fold flat.

Under the Hood
Hyundai offers two engines: a 185-horsepower, 2.7-liter V-6 and a 242-hp, 3.3-liter V-6. The smaller V-6 makes 183 pounds-feet of torque and the larger generates 226.

The 3.3-liter engine will mate with a five-speed automatic transmission, while the 2.7-liter comes standard with a five-speed manual. An optional four-speed automatic is available for the 2.7-liter. Front- or all-wheel drive is available.

The Santa Fe is loaded with safety features: Six airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, active front head restraints and a tire pressure monitoring system are standard on all trim levels.