2002 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

Pros & Cons

  • Relatively inexpensive price, super warranty, roomy interior.
  • Unimpressive four-wheeling capability, underwhelming powertrain performance.
List Price Estimate
$1,181 - $2,351

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Edmunds' Expert Review

An impressive combatant in the mini-SUV realm with more cabin room than competing models. Now, if we can only overlook its exuberantly, uh, different, sheetmetal.

Vehicle overview

Hyundai is treading the water of the teeming SUV pool with the Santa Fe, a sport-ute based on the midsize Sonata platform. According to Hyundai, the Santa Fe combines car-like drivability, steering, ride, handling and braking with a truck-like seating height and profile. An optional full-time four-wheel-drive system can be thrown in to sweeten the deal. What more could the average American consumer want, right?

Hyundai's ute offers either front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive configuration, in one of three trim levels. The base Santa Fe comes with front-wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine; all others come with a V6. That means you're not likely to find anything but V6 models on the dealer's lot, with either GLS or LX trim. On the plus side, both of these trim levels give you the choice of front-wheel drive (2WD) or all-wheel drive.

That standard 2.4-liter inline four makes 138 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic with manual shift mode. Most buyers will be better served by the 173-horsepower 2.7-liter V6 that powers the GLS and LX; the four-speed automatic is standard. With roughly 3,500 pounds to tug around, however, neither engine could be called sprightly.

The Santa Fe comes with MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone suspension at the rear to ensure a car-like ride. Rack-and-pinion power steering provides sharp response. Sized roughly equal to a Lexus RX 300, the Santa Fe is likely to be cross-shopped against smaller models like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

Beyond beefy sport-ute cues like big wheels and aggressive front styling, the Santa Fe is designed to resemble the pre-2003 Tiburon Coupe and the Sonata Sedan. You decide if this was a wise move. The rounded body-side contours, according to Hyundai, recall a desert landscape, thus setting the Hyundai apart from other more angular SUVs. We can tell you that with a scant 7.4 inches of maximum ground clearance, you'd better stick to well-traveled fire roads when venturing off pavement.

Inside, the Santa Fe offers safety features like second-generation depowered front airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners. Other standard features include alloy wheels, ABS, four-wheel disc brakes, power windows, dark-tinted glass, a CD player and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. The driver seat has adjustable height and lumbar support for long-trek comfort, and the Santa Fe boasts 29 cubes of cargo capacity with the rear seat in use.

Midlevel GLS models gain a limited-slip differential, oversized foglights, power door locks, cruise control, a first-aid kit and remote keyless entry to the standard equipment list. The highline LX adds leather seating, antilock brakes and traction control. ABS is optional for base and GLS models, though the small number of base model buyers may be disappointed to find that they have to spring for a $990 package to get it. The GLS is a better deal in this regard, since you can get ABS and traction control for $595. In response to buyer suggestions, Hyundai has added a power sunroof to the options list for the GLS and LX -- this midyear change will take effect in May 2002.

Also this spring, all models will get a number of upgrades, including larger air conditioning vents; a center stack-mounted clock (relocated from the overhead console); illumination for the power window buttons and glovebox; chrome interior accents; ISOFIX child seat anchors for the outboard rear seating positions; an improved rear seat recliner and folding mechanism and gas-charged hood struts (that eliminate the need for a prop rod when you're checking the oil).

Naturally, the Santa Fe is backed by Hyundai's excellent 10-year/100,000 limited powertrain and 5-year/60,000-mile limited bumper-to-bumper warranties. Along with a 5-year roadside assistance program, the comprehensive coverage should reassure once-bitten-twice-shy consumers that the Santa Fe will hold up over time.

Santa Fe is a big step for Hyundai and should prove popular with budget-minded SUV buyers more interested in a roomy cargo hold and sure footing during a snowstorm than running their own version of the Baja 1000.

2002 Highlights

Entering its second year of production, the Santa Fe gets four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment as well as an optional upgraded stereo system. In May 2002, Hyundai responds to customer requests and makes a power sunroof optional for GLS and LX models. Besides that, all models benefit from midyear interior upgrades, among these larger air conditioning vents; a center stack-mounted clock; illumination for the power window buttons and glovebox; chrome accents; ISOFIX child-seat anchors for the outboard rear seating positions and an improved rear-seat recliner and folding mechanism. In September 2002, Hyundai announced that it had misstated the horsepower ratings for all of the models in its lineup -- the Santa Fe's 2.4-liter four-cylinder is now rated for 138 hp and its V6 is now at 173 hp. To compensate, the company is offering Hyundai owners (of 2000 models and newer) three options: 10 years of roadside assistance, 6-year/72,000-mile basic warranty coverage or 12-year/120,000-mile powertrain coverage.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Best vehicle I have ever owned
Everyone in the deerwoods lauged at me when I left camp to buy my wife this veh. But now 3 of them have one also, yes it's an 02 and finally were waiting for the 2011's I'm 100% sure I will buy another, the only problem we had with ours was a tail light going out, it was fixed 4 yrs ago and now it has 80,000 miles and she wants another so spring we will, I will not even look at another brand, a bad taillight in 9 yrs. Why would I, by far the very best I have ever owned, I'm 50 and I look for comfort when I travel with my wife, just got back from a trip to padre island and round trip was 1802 miles long and I was fine the whole trip, I hope this will help
2002 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 4WD V6
E Dawes,09/02/2006
This has been a very satisfactory car for me. The features are excellent for the price. It is a bit underpowered for the weight of the vehicle, but Hyundai has corrected that in newer models. The only failure in 5 years has been the interior clock for which a replacement doesn't seem to be available. I am considering purchasing another Santa Fe when I replace my present car.
Best car ive owned, too !
I bought my 2002 SantaFe in that year brand new. Its been very reliable and ive babied the car on doing maintenance which i do myself. It routinely gets a combined 21 MPG with 23 on the Highway at 70 mph. It is very peppy and in fact, the front tires will spin from a start if you take off real quick. I upgraded the crummy LongTrail Tires to Michelin LX Tires and went from 225's to 245's -- the extra width makes it handle superbly and they dont rub on anything. The Factory radio / tape/ cd player went out at 75,000 miles so i went with a new Pioneer from BestBuy. Other than that, i had a Temperature Sensor go out around 80,000 miles...and thats been it for failures. Its been good.
Love my Hyundai Santa Fe BASIC 2WD Automatic
I have 191,000 miles on my 2002 Santa Fe. This is by far the best, most reliable vehicle I have ever owned. Only complaint is that this vehicle has an issue with every belt. The timing belt had been replaced 2x and I often had to have other belts replaced or tightened. Failure to do so immediately resulted in a loud squeeling every time I started my car. The good thing is, nothing EXPENSIVE ever went. This car is fun to drive, GREAT Gas Mileage, and cheap to maintain. I am on the road a lot, and I love being in this car. It is so comfortable that my MANY long trips per month (ranging from 2 hours one way to 12 hours one way) are always a breeze. HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS VEHICLE

Features & Specs

See all Used 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover3 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe

Used 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe Overview

The Used 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe is offered in the following submodels: Santa Fe SUV. Available styles include GLS 2WD 4dr SUV (2.7L 6cyl 4A), GLS AWD 4dr SUV (2.7L 6cyl 4A), 2WD 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A), LX 2WD 4dr SUV (2.7L 6cyl 4A), LX AWD 4dr SUV (2.7L 6cyl 4A), and 2WD 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe?

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Which used 2002 Hyundai Santa Fes are available in my area?

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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Hyundai lease specials
Check out Hyundai Santa Fe lease specials