2007 Hyundai Santa Fe – New, and From Alabama2
Some of us grew up around friends or acquaintances who found adolescence a challenging phase. We’ve all heard stories of the ‘late bloomer’ or wished we had been nicer to the girl down the street who came into her own only after our returning from college.
Fortunately, the 2007 all-new Hyundai Santa Fe is materialistic and can be wooed with money alone. It doesn’t care to remember the snide remarks or perplexed gawking it drew from its adolescent years. It no longer looks like an overstuffed pork chop with pointy ears. The new Santa Fe has made it through puberty, lost the baby fat and come into its own.
Hyundai’s plan to launch seven redesigned or completely new vehicles within two years brings them to number six with the all-new ’07 Santa Fe. This campaign speaks to the determination at Hyundai to genuinely build a better vehicle while distancing itself from the negative connotations derived from its former reputation. Hyundai seems to be making a concerted effort to win over those of us who still balk and banter past their dealerships and into the historically confident, secure seats of their competitors. The Santa Fe is now poised to help wage this war against competitors like the Toyota RAV4, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox or Jeep Liberty.
The ’07 Santa Fe was brought to life in Hyundai’s Irvine California design center and looks to have more mature role models like the Lexus RX, Infiniti FX, and Volkswagen Touareg. The exterior has definitely moved upscale from last year’s model with lines that are sleeker and a presence that emits a much more affluent demeanor. The refined, flowing exterior is complimented by a mostly user-friendly interior that has been dipped in a pleasant atmosphere.
The ingress/egress was easy and the seats were comfortable, that is to say they were firm but flexible with soft leather seating surfaces. Both front seats were fully adjustable, and our driver’s seat came with 8-way power and lumbar support. Instrumentation was simple and straightforward with an added bonus of presenting the driver with their gear selection, as it was displayed within the instrument cluster.
A youthful blue backlighting was used for all interior gauges, switches, buttons, and even the cup holders were ringed with the blue light. Attention to detail was fairly impressive; the trays, bins, and glove box were all lined with either rubberized inserts or soft dampening material. Our test models came with the fake woodgrain interior accents that were good from afar but after a closer, longer look they were disappointingly far from good.
The steering wheel offered a myriad of supplementary controls while the center stack was refreshingly uncluttered and reminded me of the Lexus RX. Button and knob tolerances were tight throughout the center stack and their fit and finish was respectable. An AM/FM/CD player was standard, however, there was no navigation (GPS). Navigation is not offered as an option on any model as of yet and even though Hyundai promises a GPS option by next year, they are a little slow on the uptake.
Down from the center stack, both figuratively and literally, the center console was regrettably built from chintzy plastic with that familiar glossy sheen. The shifter knob was planted in a wood grain accent on the console, which put forward an ergonomic link to the transmission. The twin cup holders within the console were appropriately placed and did have the variable plastic fingers to clutch the cups along with color-keyed rubberized inserts.
Even though Hyundai went to the extra trouble of color-keying the inserts where applicable I thought they looked a little cheap. My opinion must have been fueled by their impeccable job of matching the chintzy plastic and the fact that I am not accustomed to the little extras being in harmony or refusing to flaunt their excess. I also think the lighter interiors and subsequently the lighter inserts may find drips and scuffing a little quicker and more easily than the typical black inserts.
Behind the cup holders, the center console bin seemed to apologize for the hard plastic consol (and my aversion to color-keyed inserts) as it was draped in leather and offered sizable storage space with black soft dampening material inside.
Although the Santa Fe’s we test drove were equipped with the Limited package, a total of three packages are available. From the base GLS, to the well-equipped SE, and the added luxury Limited the suggested MSRP begins just under last years base model around $22K and skips up to around $29K for a decked out Limited. While five passenger models do offer significant storage space under the cargo area floor you may opt for a third row instead. A seven-passenger Touring package is offered with a fold-flat (50/50 split) third-row seat and rear seat auxiliary climate control. However, I think this option should be reserved for people with young children or those of us coming from a long lineage of jockeys; as the spatial relationship between the roof, rear window and your head may be considered uncomfortable, especially on longer trips. Without the passengers, children, or jockeys visibility was quite good. After dropping them off at school or the stables the headrests can be readjusted downward to cascade off of the seats, as not to obscure visibility when not in use.
Although the ’07 Santa Fe will be built alongside the Sonata in Montgomery Alabama it will refuse to share the same platform. The unibody platform will cradle your choice of two all aluminum (DOHC – 24 valve) V6 engines. No hybrids are on the horizon as of yet but Hyundai believes that either a 2.7 liter (21 city / 26 hwy) or 3.3 liter (19 city / 24 hwy) V6 will suffice. Those engines will be the only power plants available and Hyundai hopes they will whet the appetites of either the fuel sipping crowd or those with a heavy foot, craving a little more power. As an interesting aside, the 3.3L engine produces 42 more horsepower over last years 3.5L V6.
Both V6 engines are mated to either a 5-speed automatic, 4-speed automatic, or 5-speed manual. The 5-speed manual transmission comes standard with the 2.7L V6 (185hp) and a 4-speed automatic is optional, while a 5-speed automatic with Hyundai’s SHIFTRONIC® is standard in the 3.3L V6 (242hp).
Our Santa Fe came with much improved suspension geometry over last years model and road manners were consequently above average for an SUV. The all-wheel-drive model has negligible torque-steer even though the engine is transversely mounted. The front is suspended by independent McPherson struts and the rear is an independent multi-link design, while both the front and rear are held taut by anti-roll bars.
In putting the Santa Fe through it’s paces the transmission shift points were smooth, the power on tap was more than adequate (with our 242 hp 3.3 liter), but even with the all wheel drive the back end felt a little light around corners and going over a bump you could feel a little wheel-hop. I took solace in knowing our Santa Fe came with ESC and until SCCA accepts the Santa Fe as an entry in the starting lineup I think the current suspension set up should suffice.
Other desirable options that are offered with the ’07 Santa Fe are a power tilt and slide sunroof, DVD rear seat entertainment with an 8-inch roof-mounted monitor, 115-volt power outlet, and 6-disc CD changer with either a 7-speaker audio system or 10-speaker Infinity® audio system.
In closing, it’s becoming apparent that when consumers give their input Hyundai gets the memo. They are not adverse to change and are beginning to take a proactive stance in the North American marketplace. Hyundai is morphing their products to fit their prospective buyer’s needs, while at the same time exceeding their wants, especially in terms of price.
– Second Generation Santa Fe is much improved over the first generation both aesthetically and mechanically.
– First production vehicle designed in Hyundai’s Irvine California design center. The results are an exterior that looks like a pigmy Infiniti FX was bred with a VW Touareg, which has definitely moved the model upscale from last year.
– More than adequate power with the 3.3L 242 horsepower V6 which is estimated to propel you 19 city miles per gallon or 24 highway.
– Not much torque-steer for a front-wheel-drive vehicle.
– Felt a little light around corners and going over a bump you could feel a little wheel-hop.
– The glove box was hung a little low, as too was the instrument cluster dimming knob and Electronic Stability Control (ESC®) adjustment on the left hand side of the steering wheel.
– Color-keyed cup holder inserts may not be the best idea.