Full 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe Review
What's New for 2011
After significant updates last year, the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe carries over largely unchanged. The Limited trim gets a new, standard 10-speaker Infinity surround-sound system.
The 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe is the big kid in its class. Though its price, equipment and general character makes it comparable to the small crossovers from Chevy, Honda and Toyota, this plus-sized Hyundai boasts more interior space than them all. Unlike the big kid in the class, though, the Santa Fe has been bullied a bit over the years and hasn't enjoyed the popularity of its rivals. Yet that doesn't mean it's not worth a look, especially in light of the new engines introduced last year.
The Santa Fe is getting on in years, which would explain why it doesn't boast the same curvaceous styling inside and out as the Hyundai Tucson compact crossover. Yet the Santa Fe was one of the first vehicles from Hyundai to establish a reputation for durability, something the entire brand enjoys today. It also maintains the traditional Hyundai trademarks of a low price, generous equipment, a lengthy warranty and simple controls that can be figured out by young and old.
Like most vehicles in this class of big "compact" crossovers, the Santa Fe comes standard with a four-cylinder engine that should be powerful enough and fuel-efficient enough for most buyers. Much like the Toyota RAV4, however, the Santa Fe's V6 is the smart choice as it matches the smaller engine's fuel economy while besting it by 101 horsepower. That's what we call a win-win.
As a shopper, it can be difficult to choose in this category, since there's a wide range of impressive crossovers from which to pick. Of the bigger variety, we suggest checking out the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Kia Sorento, Subaru Outback and the RAV4. The RAV4 and the Sorento offer a third-row seat — a feature the Santa Fe once had but has since been discontinued. The 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe is getting along in years and isn't really a class leader, but if you're looking for the biggest of the biggest compact crossovers, it's your best choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe is a five-passenger crossover SUV available in GLS, SE and Limited trim levels.
Standard equipment on the base GLS includes 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, roof side rails, heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, rear seat air vents, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and satellite radio.
The Santa Fe SE gets 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, a windshield wiper de-icer, roof rack cross rails, an eight-way power driver seat with adjustable lumbar, leather/cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Premium package adds a sunroof, a rearview camera, a touchscreen navigation system and an upgraded audio system.
The Santa Fe Limited adds a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, full leather upholstery and a 10-speaker Infinity surround-sound audio system with a six-CD changer. The rearview camera and navigation system are also available for the Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
The Hyundai Santa Fe GLS and Limited come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 175 hp and 169 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the GLS, while a six-speed automatic is optional on the GLS and standard on the Limited. Front-wheel drive is standard on all Santa Fe trims and all-wheel drive is optional. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined with the automatic and 19/26/21 with the manual.
Standard on the SE and optional on the Limited is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, this engine brought the Santa Fe from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds -- a strong performance for this segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is a solid 20/26/23.
Every 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, brake assist, traction and stability control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is optional. In Edmunds brake testing, a Santa Fe Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet -- a perfectly average distance.
The Santa Fe has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) were a perfect five stars in all frontal and side crash categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Santa Fe its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side crash categories.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Santa Fe doesn't enjoy the organic modernistic curves of the cabin in Hyundai's newer Tucson, but it nevertheless offers a relatively elegant environment compared to the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Quality of materials and their fitment are pretty much par for the course, with plenty of hard plastics thankfully broken up by soft touch points. The Santa Fe benefits from extremely simple controls, even with the available navigation system.
Some buyers may find it hard to get comfortable behind the wheel because of the overly high seating position and short bottom cushions that offer taller drivers minimal thigh support. The second row offers an above-average level of comfort, but doesn't slide like many of its competitors' seats do.
Cargo capacity is a standout attribute of the Santa Fe, with its 78 cubic feet of maximum space eclipsing the RAV4, CR-V and Subaru Forester, while greatly outpacing midsize models like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano. You'd have to step up to a large crossover to enjoy more.
On the road, the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe offers predictable if not exciting handling, characterized by plenty of body roll and artificial feel to the steering. The ride quality is generally good, though models fitted with the larger 18-inch wheels tend to be a bit harsh on rough pavement. With either engine, the Santa Fe delivers good acceleration relative to other four-cylinder vehicles in its class, though the V6 is certainly the more impressive of the two, since it matches the lesser engine's fuel mileage as well.