2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS
2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

As far as first forays into new market segments go, the Santa Fe was a good start for Hyundai and its sport utility vehicle (SUV) aspirations. When it was introduced for the 2001 model year, the Santa Fe sported exterior shapes and lines that car shoppers either loved or hated. That this new truck would be so polarizing wasn’t a big surprise, what with sheetmetal that, from certain angles, made it hard to tell if someone hadn’t just backed into the side of it.

A little harsh, perhaps, but odd styling cues aside, the Santa Fe proved to be a hit for Hyundai, largely due to the company’s value pricing approach. Another factor was Hyundai’s growing reputation for screwing together quality vehicles. This has held true with the Santa Fe: these little trucks have proven quite dependable, with the exception of a few minor problems.

Among common issues are clunking noises from the front suspension that are frequently tied to bad front stabilizer bar bushings; check engine lights triggered by wonky electronic engine sensors (these can be expensive to replace out of warranty) and stalling caused by faulty crankshaft position sensors on 2.7-litre V6 engines.

That last item (covered by a recall – see recall information at the end of this article) is something the Santa Fe shares with the Sonata mid-sized sedan that provided much of the

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS
2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS. Click image to enlarge

Santa Fe’s running gear. Santa Fes sold in the 2002 to 2003 model years were available with either a 2.4-litre four-cylinder or a 2.7-litre V6; and starting in 2004, a 3.5-litre engine and five-speed automatic transmission, both lifted from the larger XG350, were offered in the Santa Fe. First-year models were sold only as V6, all-wheel-drive versions.

While fuel consumption is generally reasonable, none of the powertrains offered in the Santa Fe offers class-leading efficiency: per Natural Resources Canada’s test standards, fuel consumption ranged from about 12 L/100 km city and 8.5 L/100 highway for four-cylinder models (offered with front-wheel-drive only) and front-wheel-drive models with the 2.7-litre V6 used slightly more fuel than that. For 2.7-litre, all-wheel-drive models, figure on fuel consumption about a full litre/100 km higher. In 3.5-litre versions (which all got all-wheel-drive), fuel consumption ratings hit about 14 L/100 km city and 10 L/100 km highway.

2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS
2004 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS. Click image to enlarge

The Santa Fe’s results in crash tests, on the other hand, were excellent. In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, early Santa Fes scored five and four stars, respectively, for protecting the drive and front passenger in frontal impacts, and five stars for front-seat occupant protection in side impacts. Later models (fitted with side airbags) scored four and five stars for driver and front passenger protection in frontal impacts, and five stars each for front and rear seat occupant protection in side impacts.

The Santa Fe even scored well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests, which are typically less forgiving. Here, Hyundai’s first SUV earned a “good” rating in the IIHS’s frontal offset crash test, and “acceptable” in side impact tests on vehicles with side airbags (which were standard on 3.5-litre models from 2004 on).

As is the case with just about any Hyundai model, used shoppers come out on top in the price department. As a brand, Hyundai hasn’t built up the kind of equity that allows its vehicles to retain value terribly well, so a used Santa Fe comes in significantly cheaper than its Japanese competitors, with prices more on a par with small SUVs from the domestic automakers. According to Canadian Red Book, values for used Santa Fes range from about $12,000 for a 2001 model to $27,250 for a barely-used top-of-the-line 2005 model. Look for a 2003 or 2004 model with the 2.7-litre engine and all-wheel-drive and you should be able to find one for about 20 grand, give or take a few bucks.

Online resources

  • www.hyundaiperformance.com – This is one of the biggest Hyundai communities on the web, with 36,000 registered members. Despite that, and the Santa Fe’s popularity, though, the forum section dedicated to Hyundai’s first SUV (which it shares with the Tucson) is one of the quietest of the model-specific areas on the site.

  • www.i2k.com/~gopack/santafeforum – Here’s a useful spot on the web for Santa Fe owners. There are many knowledgeable members here (almost 4,000 in total), and lots of useful information about these trucks.

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Manufacturer’s Website


Transport Canada Recall Number: 2003326; Units affected: 28,660

2001-2004: On certain vehicles, the wheel rims and the tire pressure labels do not comply with CMVSS 120. The rims do not contain the required markings and the tire pressure labels do not contain the rim size. Correction: Hyundai will provide owners with a corrected tire pressure label. Since the non-compliant wheel rims do not pose any safety risk, no corrective action is required.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2002008; Units affected: 4,661

2001: Certain vehicles equipped with 2.7-litre V6 engines. Improperly manufactured crankshaft position sensors (cps) were installed. The CPS cases were improperly manufactured and did not meet dimensional specifications. Internal gaps within the cases allowed epoxy to contact the printed circuit board, which resulted in cracking of the printed circuit board capacitor. A damaged CPS capacitor could result in engine stalling. Correction: Dealers will replace the CPS.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004104; Units affected: 671

2004: On certain vehicles equipped with a 3.5-L V6 engine, 4wd and ABS, if the brake pedal is depressed at speeds between 5 and 20 km/h when the brake pad friction surfaces are wet, a condition called creep vibration may occur between the brake disc and pad. The ABS Electronic Control Unit may misinterpret the ABS sensor signal noise as indicating that the speed is above 7 km/h, causing it to activate the ABS, extending the stopping distance. Correction: Dealer will reprogram the ABS ECU.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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