The new 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe sport-ute reminds us of a less-stocky Infiniti FX from the front and a Subaru B9 Tribeca from the rear and sides. It features a flat-folding third row of seats, a first for Hyundai. The Santa Fe grows seven inches in length and three inches in width, which also distances it from the Tucson cute-ute. Look for the Santa Fe to improve upon its carlike driving characteristics, as it dropped its control-arm rear suspension for a multilink setup while retaining a strut-type front-suspension. The Santa Fe will offer two aluminum-block V-6s with 180 or 230 hp; the larger is a 3.3-liter that will be paired with a version of Hyundai's nice five-speed automatic from the new Azera.
Stability control and air bags for all three rows of seats should help make the Santa Fe a fairly safe sanctuary, and features such as power-adjustable pedals, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and rain-sensing windshield wipers are likely to sway some buyers away from more well-established makers' costlier and thirstier SUVs.
The Santa Fe will be built alongside the Sonata in Montgomery, Alabama. Hyundai, celebrating its twentieth year of car sales in the United States, promises that the Santa Fe will be priced thousands of dollars less than a comparably equipped Toyota Highlander.