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If you still don’t believe Hyundai is the real deal, it might be time to check out the Santa Fe crossover.
The midsize, seven-passenger Santa Fe (not to be confused with the smaller Santa Fe Sport), shines brightly in a segment that includes such luminaries as the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango and Nissan Pathfinder.
Its 290-horsepower V-6 is one of the most powerful engines in the class and its cabin is among the segment’s most attractive and best equipped. Under everyday conditions, ride and handling are very good.
At $30,775, the Santa Fe is no longer bargain priced, but its standard features list includes several items found only on the other guys’ upper trims, or not at all. They include satellite radio, parking assist, roadside assistance, heated and power-operated front seats, Bluetooth phone and audio, and turn-by-turn navigation.
High-quality materials and soft-touch surfaces dress up the crossover’s roomy cabin. Both front seats are heated and the driver’s seat boasts eight-way adjustability and adjustable four-position lumbar support.
The 40/20/40-split second-row bench slides for and aft for adult-scale legroom. Taller passengers enjoy plenty of headroom, even with the optional panoramic sunroof in place. Standard second- and third-row HVAC controls, with vents, boost rear-of-the-cabin comfort.
The third row is easily accessed and can accommodate a pair of adults in a pinch.
Up front, gauges are clear and easily readable and the placement of the touchscreen-based controls is logical and ergonomic.
The Santa Fe’s 3.3-liter, 290-hp V-6 is mated with a six-speed automatic. Front-wheel-drive is standard, AWD is optional. EPA estimates are 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city/25 mpg highway) on front-wheel-drive models and 20 mpg combined (18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway) with AWD.
The optional Active Cornering Control All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) system works with the stability management program to anticipate traction losses and distribute torque to any single wheel. Braking force can also be sent to any single wheel.
A three-mode steering system allows the driver to adjust steering feel and power-assist levels. Most drivers will set it and forget it.
Acceleration is on the quick side of average for the class. Underway, the Santa Fe feels nimble and light, even through fast corners. A full load can push the rear suspension to its limits, though, turning handling mushy.
All Santa Fes are equipped with foglights, rear spoiler, windshield-wiper deicers, cruise control, trip computer, full power accessories, air-conditioning, leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar), heated front seats, a 40/20/40-split sliding and reclining second-row seat and a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat.
Also standard are 18-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system, and a six-speaker audio system with CD player, satellite radio, HD radio, USB/iPod integration and a 4.3-inch touchscreen display.
Despite robust sales throughout the recession and beyond, Hyundai still faces perception issues. Doubters should know perception is not necessarily reality.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD AWD
Vehicle base price: $29,900
Trim level base price: $35,450
As tested: $41,310
Key options included 19-inch alloy wheels; HID Xenon headlights; LED taillights, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel; ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; navigation; surround-sound audio.
Tow rating: 5000 lb.
EPA rating: 18 city/24 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified