The 2012 Hyundai Santa Fe comes in value-priced GLS, sportier SE, or luxurious Limited trims. GLS models come with a 175-horsepower, 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and SE models step up to a 276-hp, 3.5L V6; Limited models can be had with either engine.
Both the engines offered on the Santa Fe are new designs that put out more power while returning better fuel efficiency than the engines they replaced last year. Both engines feature continuously variable valve timing and a variable intake system. The so-called Theta II 4-cylinder makes 175 hp and gives the Santa Fe respectable acceleration, while it returns an EPA-rated 20 mpg city, 28 highway. The V6 is nearly as fuel-efficient, at 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, while making 276 horsepower; it gives the Santa Fe a different character, with strong performance either front a standing start, when passing, or with a heavy load. In either case, an in-dash ECO light helps with fuel-efficient driving.
A responsive 6-speed automatic transmission is offered with either engine; all V6s get that automatic while a 6-speed manual gearbox comes standard with the 4-cylinder. An electronically controlled all-wheel drive system helps put the power to the pavement. The system normally sends torque toward the wheels with the best traction but can be locked with a switch to a 50/50 split for some conditions like snow or mud.
The 2012 Santa Fe has a stiff body structure, matched with a carlike suspension layout, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link rear setup with stabilizer bars front and rear, to provide crisp handling and a firm but composed ride.
The Santa Fe has a comfortable interior good for four adults on a long trip--or five in a pinch--and there are plenty of cubbies and cupholders, as well as recently upgraded materials and trims. As with most vehicles of this type, the back seats can be folded forward to expand cargo space.
GLS models certainly don't feel stripped-down-- they include keyless entry, air conditioning, roof-rack rails, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, iPod and USB inputs and a 120-watt, 6-speaker sound system with XM satellite radio capability. Bluetooth hands-free calling connectivity is also included on all models. The Santa FE SE includes 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, leather-and-cloth upholstery, roof cross rails and body-color mirrors. The top Limited model gets leather seats, heated front seats, a dual-zone climate control system and a HomeLink garage-door opener. A navigation system with XM NavTraffic live traffic updates is available on the Limited. Included on the Limited, but optional on other models is a new Infinity 650-watt Logic 7 Surround Sound system with ten speakers and a subwoofer. V6 models also include a 115-volt AC outlet, and trailer-tow package on V6 models allows a capability of 3,500 pounds.
The Santa Fe also includes, in all models, a very strong set of safety features, including standard side air-curtain bags and side airbags, plus front-seat active head restraints, electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist.