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2006 Hyundai Santa Fe reviews

March 6, 2006 02:40 PM EST | Hyundai , SUV's | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageThe Santa Fe offers a consumer-friendly blend of space, comfort, features, performance and value that make it a compact SUV worth considering.

Reasonable price, strong warranty, roomy interior, long list of standard features, solid construction, good crash test scores.

The 3.5-liter V6 is thirsty at the pump, soft suspension limits handling ability, no side curtain airbags.

What's New for 2006
A new Limited trim level has been added, featuring leather seating, automatic climate control and a trip computer. The GLS gets an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and Limited models can be equipped with an all-black monochromatic color scheme.

Introduced for the 2001 model year, Hyundai's Santa Fe cuts to the heart of what most American SUV buyers really want -- the ride and handling characteristics of a car melded with the styling and tall seating position of a truck. At the same time, it's big on value. While priced to match compact competitors like the Mazda Tribute and Toyota RAV4, the Santa Fe is based on Hyundai's previous-generation Sonata sedan platform, which means that it's technically a midsize sport-ute and accordingly offers more room for passengers and cargo. Only the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Pontiac Torrent offer a comparable balance. Moreover, like other Hyundais, this one is packed with desirable standard features and comes with a strong standard warranty. And the Santa Fe's crash test scores have generally been very good.

The Sonata is now in the sixth year of its model cycle, but Hyundai has made continual improvements over the years to keep it competitive among budget SUVs. Most significant among these was the arrival of a 3.5-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic transmission, a combination that vastly improved its acceleration. When equipped with all-wheel drive, this Hyundai can handle well-groomed dirt roads, but it's not a serious off-roader like the Nissan Xterra or Kia Sorento. However, we would certainly recommend the Santa Fe to the general consumer looking for a good deal on a family vehicle that doesn't have any serious faults.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The four-door Santa Fe is sold in GLS and Limited trims. Standard equipment on the GLS includes side airbags; air conditioning; power windows, mirrors and locks; a CD player; 16-inch alloy wheels; a full-size spare tire; an auto-dimming rearview mirror; and foglights. Options on the GLS include a power sunroof and a Monsoon sound system with an in-dash CD changer. The Monsoon stereo comes standard on the high-line Limited, along with automatic climate control, a power driver seat, leather upholstery, heated seats and a trip computer.

Powertrains and Performance:
The GLS model comes standard with a 2.7-liter V6 rated at 170 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque; it's paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. Optional on the GLS and standard on the Limited is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 200 hp and 219 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes with a five-speed automatic. Buyers can choose between front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models. Although the smaller V6 is rated for up to 26 mpg on the highway, the 3.5-liter turns in poor fuel numbers for a small SUV application -- just 16-17 mpg in the city and 21-22 on the highway.

Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control and side airbags (for front occupants) are standard on all models. In government crash tests, the Santa Fe received four out of five stars for driver protection in frontal impacts and five stars for the front passenger. Side-impact testing resulted in a five-star rating for front- and rear-passenger protection. In frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, the Santa Fe received a "Good" rating (the highest possible); in IIHS side-impact testing, it earned an "Acceptable" rating (the second highest).

Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, the Santa Fe offers reasonable accommodations for five and a 29.4-cubic-foot cargo bay; fold down the 60/40-split rear seats, and you get a generous 78 cubes. The cabin boasts a sharp two-tone color scheme and feels high in quality, as Hyundai has fitted it with low-gloss plastics and solid switchgear. The seats are comfortable, but legroom can be a bit tight for adults in back, and unlike the Equinox and CR-V, the Santa Fe doesn't offer fore/aft adjustment for its rear bench.

Driving Impressions:
The Santa Fe has just what most family-oriented buyers want: adequate power and a smooth, quiet ride. Its handling capabilities provoke little excitement but unless you're a driving enthusiast, you probably won't mind the soft setup. If you opt for an AWD Sante Fe, you'll have a bargain-priced, all-weather family vehicle.

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