2004 HYUNDAI SANTA FE GLS
Used SUV - 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS in Levittown, Pa
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2004 Hyundai Santa Fe ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Bigger V6 adds to the charm of this inexpensive SUV.
The Santa Fe is an inexpensive, compact sport-utility with a tall seating position and generous cargo capacity. Its curvaceous body looks friendly yet ready for the outdoors. Already an attractive choice in the compact sport-utility field, the Hyundai Santa Fe is made even more appealing for 2004 by a new and more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine.
The Santa Fe drives well on and off paved roads with decent handling and good brakes. The V6 engines, both the new 3.5-liter and the 2.7-liter, deliver good acceleration, particularly in front-wheel-drive models. The four-wheel-drive system available with the 2.7-liter engine works well for light off-road duty. A new electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system available with the 3.5-liter engine promises better fuel economy.
Side-impact air bags are standard, and GLS and LX versions come with a 218-watt Monsoon stereo. Best of all, the Santa Fe is backed by Hyundai's long and comprehensive warranty, making it one of the most attractive small SUV's on the market. They say you get what you pay for, but with the Hyundai Santa Fe it seems like you get a little more.
Hyundai Santa Fe is available in three trim levels: base, GLS, and LX. All come standard with four-wheel-disc brakes, gas-charged shock absorbers, air conditioning, power-assisted steering, power door locks and windows, power heated outside mirrors, tilt steering wheel, an AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers, an illuminated glove box, carpeted passenger and cargo areas, three power outlets (two front, one rear), rear seat heating and air conditioning ducts, an eight-way manually adjustable driver's seat, and reclining rear seatbacks.
The base Santa Fe ($17,999) is available with front-wheel drive only, and is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed automatic transmission ($800) is optional. An option package ($495) adds cruise control, remote keyless entry, a rear-window wiper-washer, cargo convenience net, retractable cargo cover and a first aid kit (comprising sunscreen, poison ivy balm, bandages and a thermal blanket). Another package ($990) adds anti-lock brakes (ABS) to the package above.
The Santa Fe GLS ($20,999) comes with a 2.7-liter V6. The only transmission available is a four-speed automatic with Hyundai's Shiftronic manual override. Standard GLS luxuries include all of the option-package items mentioned above plus fog lamps, carpeted floor mats, deluxe cloth upholstery with contrasting inserts, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and the 218-watt Monsoon stereo. Front-wheel drive is standard, full-time all-wheel drive is an option ($1500). ABS ($595) and a sliding glass sunroof ($595) are also available.
The new 3.5-liter V6 is available as an option on the GLS ($1000). Standard with the 3.5-liter V6 is a five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission, ABS, and traction control; plus a uniquely tuned suspension that adds an anti-roll bar at the rear.
The Santa Fe LX ($23,999) comes standard with the 3.5-liter V6, five-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission, ABS, traction control, automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, a Homelink transmitter and an electrochromic rear-view mirror. The Monsoon stereo also gets an in-dash six-CD changer. Leather upholstery, chrome door handles, and brushed-stainless scuff plates bolster the LX model's up-market image. Four-wheel-drive is optional ($1500). Also optional: the power sliding glass sunroof ($595).
The Hyundai Santa Fe's proportions are nicely balanced. The friendly front end blends smoothly into gentle flanks. The design suggests sufficient robustness for off-road capability. Large wheel arches reinforce this impression of strength. The glasshouse is adequately sized.
Santa Fe was designed to have a softer, more subdued visage than the demi-brute, jut-jawed facade prevalent on today's quasi-off-roaders (like the Ford Escape). The Santa Fe still looks forceful and its curvy lines are holding up well as it enters its fifth season.
The Santa Fe's rear liftgate works well. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have tail doors hinged on the right, which works well in Japan but in the U.S. the open door gets in the way when unloading curbside. By hinging the hatch at the top, Hyundai provides a universal solution. Opening the rear hatch is a cinch with its pistol-grip latch handle and gas struts. Closing it is just as easy with a pull-down grip mounted inside. When open, the liftgate easily clears six-foot foreheads.
Getting in and out of the Santa Fe is easy, thanks to its big, comfortable door handles and low step-in height. You don't have to climb up to get in or climb down to get out. Rear-seat passengers don't need to turn their feet sideways to clear the doorjamb.
Once in, the interior is friendly to the touch. All controls are big and thick. The shifter knob is big. The stereo controls are large, offering easy adjustment. The climate controls are big and easy to operate, though they look and feel like plastic. Bright trim dresses up the inside door releases and parking-brake handle.
The shift knob and shift quadrant are brightened by chrome trim in the GLS and LX. Illuminated power window switches and a lighted glove box add convenience at night. The driver's cup holder is conveniently located, making this a good vehicle for that morning cappuccino. The digital clock is located in the middle of the dashboard where it's easy to see. Big outside mirrors provide an excellent view rearward.
The front seats are comfortable, though flat, without much side-bolster support. The driver's seat adjusts eight ways to accommodate different body shapes and preferences, though the adjustments are a bit awkward.
The Santa Fe offers roomy rear-seat accommodations, with lots of headroom and legroom. Rear-seat cup holders are molded into the door-mounted map pockets. The rear seatback reclines, and the reclining mechanism was recently improved. But the windows in the rear doors don't roll all the way down, a shortcoming shared with other small SUVs.
ISOFIX child-seat anchors are provided at both outboard rear seating positions. Head restraints and three-point seatbelts are provided for outboard passengers, while the center-rear passenger must make do with a lap belt only. The outboard shoulder-belt anchor loops are fixed, not adjustable (though we sometimes wonder whether anyone actually adjusts the adjustable kind). The restraining loops for rear seat-belt buckles don't appear to be very durable (but that isn't a safety item). Also, we noticed the latches for the flipping the rear seats forward were made of plastic rather than metal.
To fold the rear seats, flip the rear seat bottom forward, remove the headrests from the seat backs, then fold the seat backs down. This provides as much or more cargo space than any other compact SUV. The cargo floor isn't perfectly flat. But nine tie-down loops are available to keep your gear from shifting around. Sub-floor storage bins provide a place to hide valuables or road gear.
The Hyundai Santa Fe handles well good handling, particularly the two-wheel-drive version. The front-drive Santa Fe proved to be more fun and more responsive than the heavier four-wheel-drive models. It doesn't feel top-heavy like some SUVs. The brakes are refreshingly responsive, even before the optional ABS steps in.
The new 3.5-liter V6 comes paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. It offers lots of throttle response once it's going. It's a little lethargic off the line and the throttle response isn't linear, but the owner should be able to calibrate his or her foot to it. The 3.5-liter engine develops 200 horsepower and 219 pounds-feet of torque. EPA-rated fuel economy drops to 16/22 city/highway mpg. With its cast-iron block and multi-valve aluminum cylinder heads, this is the same engine Hyundai installs in its flagship XG350 sedan.
The 2.7-liter V6 produces 173 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. Those are good numbers when compared to the V6s offered in other compact SUVs. Indeed, only the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, which share an optional 200-horsepower 3.0-liter V6, offer more power in this class. The 2.7-liter V6 Santa Fe can accelerate more quickly than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, which offer four-cylinder engines only. EPA estimated fuel economy is 20/26 mpg city/highway for a front-wheel-drive 2.7-liter Santa Fe, and 18/24 for a 2.7 with four-wheel drive.
With its standard rated 138 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and optional automatic transmission, the base model accelerates with far less vigor. Getaway from a stoplight is about as quick as a Toyota RAV4, but lags behind the CR-V, and the four-cylinder versions of the Tribute and Escape. Slamming down the throttle at highway speed brings on a smooth and prompt downshift, but acceleration that's less than fulfilling. We don't doubt the rated towing capacity, but we suspect that a 1700-pound load would be taxing.
Santa Fe models equipped with all-wheel-drive use one of two different systems, depending on whether the 2.7-liter or 3.5-liter engine supplies the power.
We found the mechanical full-time four-wheel-drive system that's available with the 2.7-liter V6 capable for light off-road driving in Southern California. The system appears to do a good job of sending the torque where it's needed, even without the optional traction control. We jacked up the back tires, then stood on the accelerator, and our Santa Fe raced eagerly ahead. This system is compact and clever and was developed by Austrian four-wheel-drive specialists Steyr-Daimler-Puch. The system combines proven engineering in innovative ways. A planetary differential inside the front transaxle splits the drive torque equally between the front wheels, and 60/40 between the front and rear axles. A viscous coupling between the front and rear axles overrides the differential if the wheels at either end begin to slip. This is a simple, purely mechanical system that's been around for decades, and it works very well with no attention whatever from the driver. All four wheels are driven all the time, with the coupling limiting the difference in speed between the front and rear axles. So if a front wheel starts to spin, torque is immediately re-directed to the rear, and vice versa.
Santa Fe 3.5-liter models come with a new and more sophisticated electronic system that Hyundai calls InterActive Torque Management (ITM). This system still requires no driver input. It drives only the front wheels most of the time, but monitors their traction with a computer, and distributes torque to the rear wheels only when necessary. The main advantage of ITM is optimized fuel economy with all-wheel-drive traction. A 3.5-liter Santa Fe with all-wheel drive gets an EPA rating of 17/21, just 1 mpg below that of the front-wheel-drive version. The electronic ITM system available with the 3.5-liter V6 was developed by U.S. gearbox veteran Borg-Warner.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is fun to drive, particularly the V6 front-wheel-drive models. The optional all-mechanical four-wheel-drive system improves traction in slippery conditions, but places a burden on the 2.7-liter V6 engine. The all-wheel-drive system available with the 3.5-liter engine should work better. The standard four-cylinder engine works best with the standard manual transmission.
All Hyundais come with one of the best warranty/service plans in the business: 10 years/100,000 miles on the powertrain, five-years/60,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, five-years/60,000 miles on corrosion, and 24-hour roadside assistance for five-years with unlimited mileage.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is worth a test drive if you are already considering the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Honda CR-V, Suzuki Grand Vitara or Toyota RAV4. Take a look. You might like what you see.
Hyundai Santa Fe 2WD ($17,999); GLS 2WD ($20,599); GLS 4WD ($22,499); GLS 3.5L 2WD ($21,999); GLS 3.5L 4WD ($23,499); LX 3.5L 2WD ($23,999); LX 3.5L 4WD ($25,499).
Ulsan, South Korea.
Options As Tested
Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5L 2WD ($21,999).
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