For 2007, the Hyundai Santa Fe is completely redesigned, and moves into its second generation. It also moves across the pond: while the previous model was built in South Korea, the all-new models are made in the company’s facility in Montgomery, Alabama.

Previously a five-passenger model only, the Santa Fe is now available with a third row of seats, to hold up to seven people.

The four-cylinder engine used in 2006 is gone; choices are now a 2.7-litre V6 or 3.3-litre V6. The 2.7-litre starts with a five-speed manual that can be optioned to a four-speed automatic, while the 3.3-litre uses a five-speed automatic exclusively. Both transmissions have Shiftronic manual-shift mode. The 3.3-litre models are also available with all-wheel drive; trim lines are GL, GL Premium and GLS.

The GL is available with either engine, and includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, side and curtain airbags, stability and traction control, floor mats, windshield de-icer, power locks with keyless entry, power windows and roof rack. The 3.3-litre GL also includes a telescopic steering wheel with audio controls.

The GL Premium, available only with the 3.3-litre, is available with seven-passenger seating, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated seats, auto-dimming mirror with compass, leather-wrapped wheel, and rear air and heat ducts for the third row.

The GL Premium Leather package is a five-passenger 3.3-litre model, and adds carpeted cargo area, fog lights, leather seats and sunroof.

The GLS is seven-passenger with 3.3-litre and adds leather seats, air quality system, all-wheel drive, chrome door and tailgate handles, chrome grille, garage door opener, and rear spoiler.

The previous smaller model was a good, inexpensive choice as a hauler; its place is now taken by the Tucson. The new Santa Fe features more mature styling, a refined interior, two strong V6 choices and the ability to outfit it nicely without having to move up to all-wheel drive.

As with most three-row vehicles, the third row is cramped and awkward, and suitable mostly for smaller children; opt for the five-seater, and you get a large, deep under-floor storage box with movable dividers. The second-row seats recline and can be locked into any position on their travel; they also fold and lock into place to form a flat cargo floor.

The new Santa Fe rides on a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, but has a smaller turning circle, and is 50 per cent stiffer than before. It makes for a nimble, tighter handling package, but the suspension can be noisy over bumps. Overall quality is very good; comparison-shop this new model to vehicles like the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.

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