2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe

Bigger, more spacious, and more powerful than its predecessor, the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe is now available with three rows of seats that seat up to seven passengers. But is bigger better? The new Santa Fe is the latest compact SUV to grow significantly larger, joining the recently redesigned Toyota RAV4, Suzuki XL7, and the upcoming Mitsubishi Outlander. The 2007 Santa Fe is 175 mm longer, 70 mm wider, and 120 mm taller than the previous model, bigger overall than a Toyota RAV4 and almost as big as a Toyota Highlander.

Essentially, the new Santa Fe has moved from the compact to the mid-size market segment, leaving the smaller Tucson to attract compact SUV buyers. With that extra third row seat available, the Santa Fe has become a ‘family vehicle’ with the extra interior and cargo space needed for soccer moms with junior soccer players and their friends. Even the five-passenger Santa Fe is more utilitarian with the additional legroom and headroom and more cargo space under the rear cargo floor where the third row seat would have been.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Changes for 2007 aren’t limited to utility though: the new Santa Fe also offers better performance. It’s offered with two V6 engines: a revised 185-hp 2.7-litre V6 (now with continuously variable valve timing) and a new 242-hp 3.3-litre V6 replacing last year’s 200-hp 3.5-litre V6. The previous 2.4-litre four-cylinder base engine is no longer offered. The 2.7-litre V6 engine comes standard with a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic, while the 3.3-litre uses a five-speed automatic exclusively. Both automatic transmissions have manual sequential shifting functions.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Considering it’s been totally redesigned and offers a lot more stuff, price increases for 2007 are minimal. 2007 MSRPs start at $25,995 for the GL FWD model, only $800 more than last year’s base model. Standard features on the 2007 GL FWD include the 2.7-litre V6 engine and manual transmission, 16-inch tires and alloy wheels, ABS, stability and traction control, side and curtain airbags, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, telescopic steering wheel, power windows, power locks with keyless entry, and roof rack. With a four-speed automatic transmission, the GL 2.7 FWD is $27,295. With the 3.3-litre V6 and five-speed automatic, the price rises to $28,295 while the GL 3.3 AWD model is $30,095. The latter is this week’s test vehicle.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Further up the trim scale, the GL FWD Premium ($31,295) is a seven-passenger model and includes 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 with leather seats ($31,445) is a five-passenger model and adds carpeted cargo area, fog lights, leather seats and sunroof. The GL Premium AWD seven-passenger is $33,095, and the top-of-the-line GLS AWD five-passenger ($34,295) and GLS AWD seven-passenger ($35,995) have the 3.3-litre engine, leather seats, dual zone automatic climate control, trip computer, chrome door and tailgate handles, chrome grille, garage door opener, and rear spoiler.

Like all Hyundais, the Santa Fe has a standard five-year/100,000 km comprehensive warranty which beats Honda, Suzuki, Nissan and Toyota by two years.

I do have a reservation about the new styling: though I’m happy to see those exaggerated fender bulges disappear, I don’t think the new Santa Fe has quite as much “character” as the original model – chiefly because it now looks similar to other SUVs in it class, particularly the Toyota RAV4. But I guess that wouldn’t be the first time successful designs have been imitated.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge


Interior impressions

With its tall roof and large doors, the Santa Fe is easy to get in to, but I found the step-up height a bit higher than some other SUVs. The driver sits tall in the saddle in the Santa Fe with excellent outward visibility. The side windows extend almost to the rear making lane-changing and parallel parking less stressful; and a large rear window (with wiper/washer) and three rear head restraints that lie flush with the top of the rear seat provide a clear view to the rear too.

The quality of the interior materials is very good: the standard cloth seats have attractive patterned inserts, three round gauges are backlit an attractive blue for easy reading, and quality plastic dashboard materials including two-tone upper/lower dash colours, dark wood trim on the dash and centre console, and silver trim around the radio and heater. Even the front cupholders are backlit with blue rings at night.

Over and above the appearance of the instrument panel, the knobs and controls are all easy to see and easy to use, though the circular ventilation layout is a bit unconventional. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel has audio and cruise controls for convenience and the shift lever falls easily to the right hand.

Interior storage areas are numerous, including a covered bin on top of the dash, a slide-out coin tray below the heater, an open tray and 12-volt powerpoint ahead of the shift lever, and a large covered bin between the front seats. Rear passengers get a small slide-out tray and a slot for a cell phone or PDA next to a 12-volt powerpoint. There are two cupholders in the front and two in the rear folding centre armrest.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Front and rear passengers in the Santa Fe have generous headroom and plenty of legroom too. The driver’s seat has a manual seat height adjuster and a manual lumbar adjustment in the GL model, and I found the seat very comfortable. The rear seats have reclining backrests for more comfort but they don’t offer fore-aft adjustment. Standard 60/40 rear seatbacks fold down easily by pulling up on a lever on top of the seats and pulling forwards in one motion – however, when lowered the loading surface isn’t quite level with the cargo area. With the second row seats in the ‘up’ position, there is 969 litres of cargo space behind the seats. With both second row seats folded flat, there’s 2,213 litres. That compares to the CRV with 1,011 litres and 2,064 litres respectively and the Toyota RAV4 with 1,016 litres and 2,073 litres respectively.

My tester didn’t have the optional 50/50 split third-row bench seat but Hyundai claims it offers more legroom than in a Honda Pilot. Still, Contributing Editor Chris Chase reports that the third seat “is best suited to kids”.

At the rear, the lift-up hatch features the same unique type of pull-handle found on the last generation Santa Fe. It lifts up to reveal a large opening, and a roomy cargo area with a carpeted floor, plastic side walls and a 12-volt powerpoint. The liftover height does seem quite high though. The cargo area of the five-passenger Santa Fe has a unique and spacious under-floor storage area not found in the seven-passenger model.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge


Driving impressions

The Santa Fe 3.3 is quick off the line, and has plenty of pep when merging on to the freeway. Its 242-horsepower 3.3-litre V6 is both smooth and quiet, and the standard 5-speed automatic transmission changes quickly and smoothly. The manual Shiftronic function is useful for holding the engine in gear when preparing to pass or climbing steep hills. Independent acceleration tests by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) show the 2007 Santa Fe AWD’s 0-100 km/h time as 9.0 seconds and its 80-120 km/h time as 7.6 seconds – better than the four-cylinder Honda CR-V LX AWD (10.3 and 8.7 seconds respectively) but not as good as the surprising Toyota RAV4 V6 Sport (6.7 and 5.7 seconds). Cruising on the freeway, the Santa Fe is very quiet, its engine loafing along at 1,900 rpm at 100 km/h, and 2,400 rpm at 120 km/h.

Though the new Santa Fe offers better fuel consumption than its predecessor, it still lags behind its Japanese competitors. Official fuel consumption figures for the Santa Fe 3.3 are City 12.2 L/100 km and 8.8 L/100 km, thirstier than both the RAV4 V6 (11.1/7.7) and the CR-V 4-cylinder (10.7/7.8).

For a tall vehicle, the Santa Fe handles very well and is very easy to drive. The steering is lightweight and the Santa Fe goes where you point it. The fully independent suspension is MacPherson struts in front and multi-links at the rear. On smooth pavement, the ride is very comfortable, but I found it a bit stiff over uneven pavement – my vehicle had Bridgestone Dueler HT 235/70R-16-inch radials on five spoke alloy wheels which gripped well in wet and dry conditions – but I think a little more shock damping would make this a smoother-riding vehicle.

2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD
2007 Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3 GL AWD. Click image to enlarge

Though easy to drive, one disadvantage of the new Santa Fe’s larger size is that it requires bigger parking spaces and more care when parallel parking. So it’s not quite as ‘urban-friendly’.

Despite having standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution, the Santa Fe doesn’t stop quite as quickly as its Japanese competitors, probably because it weighs at least 50 kg more than either of those vehicles. Braking tests from 100 km/h to 0 conducted by AJAC show the Santa Fe stopping in 43.9 metres, compared to 42.0 metres for the Toyota RAV4 V6 and 42.5 metres for the Honda CR-V LX AWD.

The optional on-demand all-wheel drive system runs in front-wheel drive most of the time until the system senses front wheel slip and then transfers torque to the rear wheels. An AWD Lock button (to the left of steering wheel) allows you to lock the front/rear torque split in a 50/50 fashion at low speeds for negotiating very slippery roads or steep off-road surfaces.

Overall, I was impressed with the comfort and quietness of the Santa Fe’s interior and the vehicle’s overall practicality and value for money. There’s a lot of vehicle here for just over $30,000.


Verdict

With more contemporary styling, more power, more interior room and an optional third-row seat, the redesigned 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe has become more of a family vehicle and less of an SUV.


Pricing


Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications

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Competitors

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Toyota RAV4
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Honda CR-V
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Kia Sportage
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Suzuki XL7


Crash test results


Manufacturer’s web site

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