This is assuming you research your vehicle purchase, of course. And if you’re among those who study up before you venture onto a dealership lot, this will come as no surprise: Hyundai, especially with the debut of a new 2007 Santa Fe, is on the move. Call it the New Toyota, and while doing so is unfair to both the point is nonetheless relevant: Hyundai is doing what Toyota has done for the past decade, which is build safe, reliable and well-made vehicles, set an aggressive price, and watch as one after another leave lots in the hands of happy motorists. Rest assured that officials in Tokyo and Kentucky are spending many more sleepless nights thinking about the emergence of Hyundai than they are worried over any comebacks mounted by Ford or General Motors. The domestic darlings, for all their efforts, have a long way to go before they wipe out years spent building second-rate cars and selling at a discount. Hyundai, on the other hand, is already beginning to craft a name for itself as the “better” buy. The days of being the low-price leader with a great warranty are over, yo – Hyundai is now among the makers of cars with the most to offer. Need a competitor for the Camry or the Accord? Check out the Sonata. Tired of looking at Siennas and Odysseys? Take a gander at the Entourage.
It all comes back to choice.
And now that choice extends to SUVs. The little Santa Fe is no longer so little. It’s grown up, with more room, more power, a more sophisticated style, and a fine interior full of nice touches and thoughtful design elements. Sure, there are holes – every car has its weak spots. For the Santa Fe, it looks like fit-and-finish is a potential issue, and there are competitors with more horsepower or that offer better fuel economy – a major issue in these $3-plus per gallon times. Curiously, Hyundai decided to offer its base Santa Fe with a smaller V6 engine instead of following the herd and bolting in a four-cylinder gas sipper. The difference in fuel economy may be debatable: Hyundai’s 2.7-liter V6 stacks up as an efficient powerplant, but the absence of a four-cylinder may leave the Santa Fe at a competitive disadvantage as rising fuel prices drive up the desirability of smaller engines.
All in all, however, the Santa Fe is everything a mid-size SUV needs to be – and slightly more – at a competitive price. In this, one of the most hotly contested of new car segments, that’s news other automakers will be loath to hear but music to the ears of thousands of SUV buyers looking for choice and who are, increasingly, choosing a Hyundai.