The Santa Fe was rejuvenated in 2010 with a new focus on fuel economy. To that end, the base model features a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that provides improvements in both fuel economy and acceleration versus the old base 2.7-liter V-6. The Santa Fe’s top-of-the-line engine also changed at that time — the 3.3-liter V-6 was replaced by a more powerful, less thirsty 3.5-liter V-6. For 2012, the manual-transmission GLS model has been dropped (very few were actually sold, and it didn’t exactly transform the Santa Fe into a sports car anyway), so the base price has gone up by about $1500 this year. All models now utilize a six-speed automatic gearbox. Recent updates aside, the Santa Fe is priced more attractively than most of its competition, and stability control, six air bags, heated power mirrors, cruise control, a CD/MP3 six-speaker stereo, and Bluetooth phone connectivity with steering-wheel controls are all standard equipment. The midlevel SE model comes only with the V-6, but the bookends of the Santa Fe lineup, the GLS and the Limited, are both available with four-cylinder or V-6 power. All-wheel drive is available on any trim level with any engine, with the exception of the four-cylinder Limited, which is sold only with front-wheel drive. A sunroof, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a backup camera, and navigation with XM NavTraffic also are available. Driving the Santa Fe is no dynamic revelation, but the vehicle is very competitive in its class.

Drive: Front-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim Levels: GLS, SE, Limited
Body style: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger
Engines: 2.4L I-4, 175 hp, 169 lb-ft
3.5L V-6, 276 hp, 248 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Passenger volume: 108.3 cu ft
Capacities: Towing 1650-3500 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 34.2/78.2 cu ft

Cosmetically, the Santa Fe gets a larger grille, a new leather shift knob, and two new available colors. Mechanically, it gets Hyundai’s so-called downhill brake control, which is designed to help the driver maintain vehicle speed and control on steep declines without having to apply the brakes. Also, a manual tranny is no longer offered, and vehicles with seventeen-inch wheels now come with low-rolling-resistance tires, which improve fuel mileage slightly.

Dual-stage front air bags, front side air bags, side curtain air bags with rollover sensors, and active front head restraints are standard equipment on all models. Antilock brakes are standard, as are traction and stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, and tire-pressure monitors.

All: 20 mpg city/25-28 mpg highway

  • Decent fuel mileage
  • I-4 or V-6, 2WD or 4WD
  • Lots of space for five people
  • Fails to stand out in a crowded segment
  • No more stick shift

Average fish in a big pond.

  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Ford Edge
  • Mazda CX-7
  • Toyota Venza

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