Toyota RAV4 2009 Review
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It is new, well designed, well built and excellent value from $35,990.
And it is more proof - after the impressive Elantra and classy Sonata - that Hyundai knows exactly what it needs to do to jump from the bargain basement into the real world of serious cars.
Hyundai believes the Santa Fe is a genuine threat to some of the best cars, including the Ford Territory, and it has enough ammunition to make a case.
Though the South Korean contender is missing the final refinement and Aussie-style grunt, this is the first time any Hyundai has been mentioned seriously in the same sentence as the Territory. And the same goes for the Toyota RAV4 and Kluger, the other benchmark cars for the Santa Fe.
The newcomer is genuinely new, with a bigger and more rigid body around its 2.7-litre V6 engine and all-wheel-drive powertrain. It is a five-seater that can also be ordered with a third row of children chairs, and the model spread runs from the base model (pictured) up to a leather and luxury Elite model that is impressive value at $42,990.
The most obvious shortcomings in the Santa Fe are a suspension system that still rides over the road and an outdated four-speed automatic gearbox.
It also lacks punch, particularly with a load on board, though there are people who will prefer having lighter fuel consumption.
The Santa Fe sits in the middle of Hyundai's AWD range, above the Tucson and below the LandCruiser-style Terracan.
It is classified as a compact model by the scorekeepers from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, but based on cabin space and overall body size -- and its 1894kg and 2000kg towing capacity -- I believe it qualifies more in the medium class.
So its rivals run from the RAV4 and Suzuki Grand Vitara up to the Kluger and Territory, though most people will probably also consider it against a Jeep Wrangler or a Subaru Outback or a Ford Escape.
It has been designed as a comfort-first vehicle, with big seats, loads of standard luxury and the sort of safety features -- electronic stability control, anti-skid brakes and loads of airbags -- that make families feel secure.
But it does not have a rear-view camera in the tail.
Hyundai has got the basics right with the V6 engine, but also comes with a secondary rear-view mirror to keep an eye on the youngsters, extra airvents for the back seats and 33 storage compartments.
As always, the deal at this price includes alloy wheels, electric windows and mirrors and air-conditioning.
There is a lot to like about the Santa Fe. It is quiet, comfortable, easy to drive and has the feel-good factor that wins new owners.
Even better, it is close to Japanese quality at a lower price and has real size, yet is still easy to handle and park.
It's not a Territory, and I would not take it over a Kluger without a price adjustment, but it deserves to be on family shopping lists.
The first impression is that the new Santa Fe is considerably heftier and yet more stylish, particularly in the cabin. And like the Elantra and Sonata, it does not have the smell of cheap South Korean plastics in the cabin.
In fact, the final finish is good and everything fits well with no squeaks or rattles.
Some of the plastics still look hard and brittle, but the overall effect is classy.
It's mostly the same with the drive. The Santa Fe gets along well enough but it never feels like a powerhouse, even with 138kW from its V6.
That could be the gearbox because it takes a while to stir the engine with only four gears and an automatic, even using the touch-change manual shift.
The five-speed manual is probably better.
The AWD system is unobtrusive and simple, with good grip for light gravel work, and the Santa Fe also stops well and is surprisingly easy to park.
Hyundai says it did a lot of work to make the Santa Fe a nicer drive, and it is more responsive than the previous model, but it never feels as if it is engaging the road.
It is too firm to really work the suspension and that means it moves around over small bumps, rolls too much in corners and can be a bit fiddly on secondary roads.
It's not supposed to be a sports car, but it's no match for the Territory.
Still the package and the price and all the nice extras that Hyundai has crammed into the Santa Fe deal are impressive.
A great reason to put a South Korean machine on your shopping list, instead of looking at Hyundai as a dollar-driven brand with a good warranty.
|(4X4)||2.7L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$4,100 – 6,710||2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 (4X4) Pricing and Specs|
|Elite (4x4)||2.7L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$5,500 – 8,470||2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 Elite (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|Elite CRDi (4x4)||2.2L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO||$5,000 – 7,700||2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 Elite CRDi (4x4) Pricing and Specs|
|SLX (4X4)||2.7L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$4,400 – 7,040||2006 Hyundai Santa Fe 2006 SLX (4X4) Pricing and Specs|