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Santa Fe gets roomy with third-row seating

<p>With the arrival last year of its “baby” Tucson, Hyundai could allow their Santa Fe to get bigger. The Korean builder didn’t hold up on it either.</p>

Few drawbacks to Hyundai’s new mid-size SUV



The 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe has sleek European styling — similar to the Subaru Tribeca — and offers third-row seating which is a little short on headspace, writes our columnist.





With the arrival last year of its “baby” Tucson, Hyundai could allow their Santa Fe to get bigger. The Korean builder didn’t hold up on it either.


The Santa Fe’s second generation, assembled in Alabama along with the Sonata sedan, enlarges enough to get third-row seating. This means that the vehicle becomes a bigger mid-size SUV next to the likes of the Toyota Rav4 (2007) and Highlander, the Ford Freestyle and the Subaru Tribeca.


In fact, doesn’t the new Hyundai design, with its European curves, remind you of the latest Subaru? Joe Piaskowski, chief designer of the California Hyundai/Kia studio, swears that it is just a mere coincidence: “The Tribeca wasn’t even on the market when we designed the new Santa Fe.”





Like all other products launched by Hyundai in recent years, the new Santa Fe impresses by its assembly quality, its interior material selection, its handling on the road and its pricing: $25,995 for the base version (GL) with 2.7L V6 (185 HP) engine and five-speed manual transmission.


I personally prefer the 3.3L V6 (242 HP) version. The power is more compliant thanks to the sequential transmission that gets five gears (the sequential paired with the “small” V6 holds only four gears).


As you might have noticed, the Santa Fe doesn’t offer the four-cylinder engine anymore. It can still be taken with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (GLS). The AWD available on demand has seized the opportunity to upgrade: it is now possible to manually set it to 50-50 lock, splitting the torque uniformly between front and rear axles, ensuring that you can avoid any incident before it happens. Well done!





As for security, front and side airbags, ABS brakes and stability system, are standard on all versions. Well done again!


On the road, the Santa Fe shows much assurance. The suspension is firm without being too tight and steadies itself well after jolts. The steering, without being most efficient, still conveys the right attitude for this type of vehicle. Add to that a convincing braking ability, good manoeuvrability and a well-insulated interior and you obtain an SUV that isn’t lacking much.


Exceptions: front seats might need a little more padding (base version), and a third-row seat doesn’t offer much head space.


PROS:




  • Nice European curves.



  • Can seat up to seven.



  • 5 year/100,000km warranty.



CONS:




  • Front seats could have been a little more comfortable (base version).



  • “Small” V6 missing the edge of the “big” one.















Specs for Sante Fe ’07





  • Mid-size SUV (5-7 passengers)

  • Engine 1: 2.7L V6 • Performance: 185 HP, 183 lb.-ft.

  • Engine 2: 3.3L V6 • Performance: 242 HP, 226 lb.-ft.

  • Transmission: manual 5-speed, automatic 4 or 5-speed

  • Traction: 2WD or AWD (50/50 manual lock)

  • Wheels: 16-inch (GL), 18-inch

  • Cargo: 2213-L (behind the front seats)

  • Built in: Montgomery, Ala.

  • Pricing: from $25,995 up to $35,995.


 
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