Monthly Archives: March 2008

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD

The Hyundai Santa Fe is an SUV offered in both FWD and AWD versions. The standard configuration has two rows of seating for up to five passengers. An optional seven-passenger version adds two more seats that fold out of the cargo floor. The internal dimensions of the Santa Fe suggest a mid-sized vehicle, but its taut exterior styling belies the actual size of this SUV.

With so many vehicles in the segment, it is difficult to identify direct competitors. Depending on what is important to the prospective buyer, there can be dozens of available alternative vehicles. The Santa Fe effectively splits the gap between smaller SUVs like the Ford Escape, and slightly larger models such as the Toyota Highlander. Dimensionally, the Santa Fe is similar to the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, but the five-passenger model has an interior volume comparable to the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge. Select the optional seven-passenger seating, and the only vehicles that can rival the Santa Fe’s accommodations and refinement cost $5,000-$10,000 more.

The Santa Fe can be equipped in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels. All three models are well equipped with standard stability control, anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, power windows, door locks and a 6-speaker audio system. Entry-level GLS models start at just over $21,000 and include a 2.7L V-6 under the hood. The SE and Limited models add a larger displacement 3.3L V-6, standard five-speed automatic transmission, and larger wheels/tires. SE models list at just over $24,000 and include a leather-wrapped steering wheel and premium cloth seats. The range-topping Limited trim level starts at about $28,000; Limited models add heated leather seats, a sunroof, and dual-zone climate controls. All three models offer either FWD or AWD drivetrains. All-wheel-drive adds about $1,500 to the price. To get seven-passenger seating, the Santa Fe SE and Limited models must be equipped with an optional Touring package.

Our test vehicle was a 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited AWD. The MSRP for this model was $29,600. An optional navigation system was included for $1,750, as were carpeted floor mats for $120. Price, as tested, was a reasonable $31,470. With the healthy list of features, the Santa Fe is comprehensively equipped for its price.

The first pleasant surprise is the interior. The headliner, seats, center console and lower half of the instrument panel were finished in light beige. The top of the dash, upper door panels, cargo area, carpeting, and scuff-prone areas are all finished in a contrasting charcoal color to hide stains. A band of plastic “wood” trim with aluminum highlights separates the transition between the light and dark-colored interior moldings. Although most plastic surfaces are hard to the touch, they are pleasantly grained and will not mar or scratch easily. More importantly, there very few visible panel gaps which lends to an overall impression of a very high-level of fit and finish. The Santa Fe’s upscale interior is more befitting of vehicles with much higher price tags, and is a cut above the Toyota RAV4 and other smaller SUVs.

The instrumentation is clear and useful with few gimmicks. A medium sized speedometer is front and center, with a tachometer to the left, and fuel and temperature gauges to the right. A small display inset in the tachometer shows the tire pressure monitoring system status. The speedometer includes a small trip computer that shows fuel economy, range, and trip mileage. The steering wheel has controls for the cruise control on the right, and the audio system on the left. The buttons are simple and easy to find without looking down. One complaint with many steering wheel-mounted controls is that they are sometimes too easy to hit accidentally while steering around corners. In the Santa Fe, we kept inadvertently hitting the audio system mode button.

The center stack starts at the top with an LCD clock and the passenger airbag indicator. Below that, our test model had the optional navigation system, which supersedes the audio system head unit. The dual-zone automatic climate control system is below; it consists of an LCD display with large temperature adjustment knobs on each side. Buttons for the defrosters and hazard lights are near the bottom. A small ashtray-sized container resides at the bottom edge of the instrument panel.

The center console contains a large tray for holding cell phones, mp3 players, etc. In a recessed area on the console are the heated seat controls, and a 12V power point. We wish all vehicles had a simple storage bin like this at the front of the center console. It is handy, yet out of the way of the cup holders and shifter. The armrest and center console cover a shallow bin above a deeper storage compartment. The rearview mirror is auto-dimming with an integrated compass. Above the mirror are the pushbutton controls for the sunroof, map lights and a sunglass holder.

The Santa Fe’s passenger accommodations are above average. The sculpted leather seats are properly shaped for comfort, while the perforated middle cushions help to manage perspiration. Front headrests adjust both up/down and fore/aft. The driver’s seat contains basic power-operated controls, but the front passenger makes do with manual adjustments. Rear seat occupants benefit from the reclining 60/40 split rear seatback. The outer seating positions are somewhat contoured and should be comfortable for most, but the middle passenger sits on a flat cushion and seatback acceptable for only short trips. All seating positions contain sufficient headroom and ample legroom.

Open the rear hatch via the unique side-mounted grab handle and the Santa Fe becomes surprisingly versatile for hauling duties. There is over 34 cubic feet of storage behind the second row seat. With the second row folded flat, stowage increases to over 78 cubic feet. In addition, there are two large storage compartments beneath the load floor. The rearmost compartment holds the tire changing kit, and has a spot for first aid supplies. The forward dividable compartment features a large deep well that is sufficient to hold a decent load of groceries. Seven-passenger models give up this cargo area for the third row seats. The spare tire mounts under the vehicle for maximum interior room.

Our test model was equipped with an optional navigation system, which is the first time Hyundai has offered a factory-installed navigation system. The system, made by LG Electronics, features a touch-screen with a small number of physical buttons for commonly accessed functions. The screen is ordinarily bright and legible, but like many other factory systems, automatically dims to an unacceptably low brightness level when headlamps are required during daylight hours. Relatively speaking the Hyundai navigation system is feature-rich and useful for $1,750, but falls short of the usefulness and value of an aftermarket unit like those from Garmin.

Hyundai offers the Santa Fe with two different V-6 engines. A 3.3L V-6 producing 242-bhp and 226 lb-ft of torque resides under the hood of the Santa Fe Limited. With almost two tons of mass to move, this is the preferred engine. The fuel economy penalty is negligible compared to the 2.7L V-6, because the 3.3L V6 is equipped with a five-speed transmission. Our only real complaint with the Santa Fe is the transmission. The shift logic seems biased towards fuel economy, and often leaves the vehicle in the wrong end of its torque band for swift acceleration. Switching the transmission to the manual input mode provides a significantly more rewarding driving experience. Working the V-6 harder significantly diminishes fuel economy. We averaged about 17 MPG in mixed duty, and significantly less with frequent starting/stopping.

In the ride and handling department, the Santa Fe never shows its weight. While the larger Veracruz, feels disconnected and quiet, the Santa Fe is lively and fun to drive. The body structure is tight, and the test vehicle showed no signs of flex or rattles. The rack-and-pinion steering is direct, with an appropriate level of feedback. The fully independent suspension provides a ride that is comfortable, yet sporty enough to appeal to SUV buyers. There is noticeable body roll, and at times a little pitching over very rough surfaces, but nothing out of the norm for a tall vehicle with 18-inch wheels. Our Santa Fe came shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/T all-season tires. The tires provided reasonable traction in dry, wet, snowy and icy conditions. The standard four-wheel disc brakes stop the vehicle with confidence.

In summary, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a vehicle that belongs on many shopping lists. It offers most of the size, equipment, utility and refinement of larger SUVs at a far more agreeable price. Buyers will make few sacrifices and will end up with a pleasing vehicle that is attractively styled and fun to drive.

Greg A. Godsell 02/26/2008
Velocity Automotive Journal

Check out the Hyundai Tucson

Check out the Hyundai Tucson

Hyundai’s reputation for undercutting the competition looks increasingly attractive in a weakening economy.

In the competitive crossover segment, for example, Hyundai can offer a top-of-the-line Tucson Limited with 4-wheel drive for a base price of $24,585. That window sticker might be hard to believe once you’ve seen and driven this attractive, well-mannered sport utility imitator.

Standard equipment on the Limited is extensive, including leather upholstery, seven-speaker AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer and MP3 functions, power accessories, six air bags, fog lights, tire-pressure monitoring system and a number of other attractive features.

Sharing the Elantra platform with the Kia Sportage, the Tucson is a sport utility body atop a car chassis. It can go off-road but is chiefly designed for less demanding duty.

Crossovers represent a middle ground between gas-guzzling full-size SUVs and cars that lack the utilitarian functions of a ute. They also attract buyers who shun the domesticated aura of a minivan.

They tend to attract the safety-conscious, as well. Tucson boasts the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s highest five star safety rating. The compact also received top honors in J.D. Power and Associates’ Initial Quality Study in 2005.

Sold in three trim levels in a price range of $17,235 to $24,585, the Tucson is offered in front-drive or 4-wheel-drive formats.

The entry-level GLS comes with a 2 -liter inline four cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Electronic Stability Control, traction control and ABS are standard, as are 16-inch alloy wheels, advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags covering both rows of seating.

Other standard features include power windows, door locks and exterior mirrors and an 80-watt AM/FM/CD audio system. Active front head restraints are standard across all trim levels for 2008. Automatic transmission, air conditioning and cruise control are optional.

At $21,035, the SE trim in front-drive brings along a 2.7-liter, double overhead cam, V6 engine and four-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission, 16-inch double-spoke alloy wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and upgraded cloth seating surfaces. Air conditioning, cruise control and trip computer are standard.

Options on the Limited include electronically controlled four-wheel drive and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof. A front-drive Limited retails for $22,885, compared to $24,585 for the 4-wheel-drive version.

While the Tucson’s ride is generally comfortable, handling is not as crisp as that of the new Nissan Rogue’s. The V6’s 173 horses are typical for the class, but don’t expect the performance to be too spirited.

The independent suspension handles bumps without sloshing your coffee. The setup includes struts up front and multiple links in the rear, along with stabilizer bars front and rear.

The brakes on the Limited are discs with anti-lock features and electronic brake force distribution to keep the driver in control.

The Tucson’s power rack-and-pinion steering system provides a tight, 35.4-foot turning circle.

Hyundai took extra measures to dampen outside noise in the 2008 model. The interior is nice and quiet.

I appreciated the back-lit power window and door lock switches that made them easy to find in the dark. The 10-way adjustable driver’s seat and tilt-adjustable steering column are unusual in this price range. The Tucson’s trip computer, standard in SE and Limited trims, includes two trip modes, each with information relating to mpg, distance to empty, drive time and average speed.

The standard 60/40-split fold-down rear seatback allows you to expand the cargo capacity of the Tucson. The seats fold down with the release of a single lever, and you don’t have to remove or adjust the headrests. The front passenger seatback can fold flat either forward or backward, adding more cargo capability.

I appreciated the fact that the lift gate has two modes. You can open just the glass or the whole gate, and the release for each is clearly labeled.

Three bag hooks help secure your groceries, and you can take additional security measures with six flush-mount metal tie-down anchor points and six cargo net mounting points.

Beneath the load floor is a sectionalized storage area with the spare tire below. Other storage bins can be found throughout the vehicle. A two-tier front storage console comes with a two-position padded armrest with two cupholders and two more in each door pocket. The rear armrest also has a cupholder that can hold juice boxes.

While Hyundai has put a lot of years between its early quality problems and its current reputation, the South Korean maker continues to offer one of the best warranties in the business.

The Tucson comes with five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection, 10-year/100,000-mile limited power train warranty and seven-year/unlimited mileage anti-perforation coverage. Buyers also get free 24-hour roadside assistance for five years.

WHAT’S NEW: Active head restraints; new leather interior; XM Satellite Radio free for three months.

PLUSES: Value, standard equipment, safety.

MINUSES: Somewhat vague handling; modest power.

BOTTOM LINE: Very attractive value.

(Richard Williamson writes about automobiles for Scripps Howard News Service.)

Consumer Reports New Top Picks For 2008

Consumer Reports New Top Picks For 2008: Hyundai Elantra SE, Hyundai Santa Fe…

First time a South Korean automaker represented in Top Picks

YONKERS, NY – Consumer Reports has named four new models to its Top Picks list for 2008-the Hyundai Elantra SE and Hyundai Santa Fe as top choices for small sedans and midsized SUVs, respectively; the redesigned Chevrolet Silverado as the top choice for pickup truck; and the Lexus LS 460L as the best luxury sedan.

The announcement was made today during a Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) press conference. Details can be found in CR’s Annual April Auto Issue, on sale Tuesday, March 4.

This marks the first time that a South Korean automaker – Hyundai – is represented, and the first time since 2005 that a U.S. model – the Chevrolet Silverado – has made the list. Historically, Consumer Reports Top Picks have been a blend of Japanese, European, and domestic models, but for the last two years the Top Picks have all been from Japanese manufacturers.

The Toyota Prius remains the Top Pick in the “green” car category for the fifth year in a row. The Prius demonstrated an excellent 44 mpg overall in Consumer Reports’ real-world fuel economy tests, the best of any five-passenger vehicles tested by CR.

Consumer Reports’ Top Picks are the most well-rounded models in their categories and must meet stringent road test, reliability, and safety requirements. Each Top Pick scores at or near the top of its category among more than 260 vehicles CR recently tested at its Auto Test Center; has average or better predicted reliability (based on the problems subscribers reported on in CR’s Annual Car Reliability Survey of almost 1.3 million vehicles), and performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or insurance industry.

Starting this year, they also must provide a critical safety feature, electronic stability control (ESC), either as standard equipment or as a readily available option. That’s why the Honda Accord, for example, is the Top Pick in family sedans over the Nissan Altima. The Altima scored slightly higher in CR’s testing, but offers ESC only as a pricey option on the V6 and standard on the hybrid model.

“All the vehicles in Consumer Reports’ Top Picks list are standouts for performance, versatility, reliability, and safety,” said David Champion, senior director of automotive testing, Consumer Reports. “CR’s Top Picks list is a great place for consumers to start when they’re looking for a new car.”

Consumer Reports’ testing procedures are the most comprehensive of any U.S. publication or Web site. More than 50 individual tests are performed on every vehicle, including evaluations of braking, handling, Comfort, convenience, safety, and fuel economy. Around 6,000 miles of general driving and evaluations are racked up on each test car during the testing process.

Here, by category, are the issue’s best performers. Changes from last year’s Top Picks list are noted:

* SMALL SEDAN: Hyundai Elantra SE. The Hyundai Elantra SE ($18,000) is a well-rounded small car thatprovides good fuel economy, a comfortable ride, and an interior that’s quiet, roomy, and well-equipped. TheSE also has standard electronic stability control, a proven safety feature that’s absent on many other smallcars. The Honda Civic EX and Mazda3 scored almost as well and are more fun to drive, but lack ESC onmore affordable versions. (Last year’s Top Pick for Small Sedan was the Honda Civic.)

* MIDSIZED SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe. Redesigned for 2007, the much-improved Santa Fe ($22,000 to $31,000) edged out the Honda Pilot in CR’s tests. It provides a quiet and roomy interior, excellent fit and finish, a refined powertrain, a relatively good ride, and an optional third-row seat. Standard ESC helps provide secure handling. (Last year’s Top Pick for Midsized SUV was the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.)

CR’s Annual April Auto Issue is on sale from March 4 through June 4. The Consumer Reports Auto Issue is available wherever magazines are sold. Free highlights from the April Auto Issue will be available

Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe to Consumer Reports, call 1-800-234-1645.

Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at