Another inoffensive, yet unimpressive aspect of the Santa Fe is its performance.
Although a 3.5-liter V-6 engine is available at the SE and Limited trim levels, our GLS is only available with Hyundai's 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. While 175 horsepower and 169 pound-feet of torque is a good amount of power from an engine of this size, in the 3,725-pound Santa Fe, it's only barely adequate.
Our Santa Fe GLS was equipped with an optional six-speed automatic transmission with a manual Shiftronic mode. A six-speed manual transmission is the standard gearbox for the GLS trim level, which is a bit odd for an SUV of its size.
The Santa Fe is also available in front and all-wheel-drive configurations.
The Santa Fe is available with an in-dash navigation system, however our unit was sporting the bone standard single-disc CD player with AM/FM/XM radio. Fortunately, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio streaming is standard, as well as USB connectivity and an auxiliary input.
The Sonata's steering-wheel controls feature buttons for the hands-free calling system, which uploads the address book of a paired phone, allowing users to initiate calls by speaking a recipient's name.
The instrumentation is a basic three-gauge cluster with a centrally mounted speedometer. An ECO driving feature illuminates a green light when you're driving thriftily and being gentle with the throttle.
Standard on the Santa Fe are USB and analog audio inputs. Although the label says iPod, users will need to purchase Hyundai's combo cable that joins both inputs into a single dock connector to use an iDevice with the audio system. It's only a $35 purchase, so it's no biggie.
Although available with all-wheel drive and just a hair over 8 inches of ground clearance, the Hyundai Sonata seems like an off-roader, but it's suspension is better suited for navigating parking lots and speed bumps.
Optional across trim levels is an all-wheel drive system. Under normal conditions, 95 percent of the available torque is sent through the front wheels, but in the event of slippage a magnetic clutch-type transfer case can send up to 50 percent of the power to the rear wheels. Because the rear wheels are virtually disengaged most of the time, fuel economy isn't affected. Oddly, city efficiency actually goes up by a mile per gallon!
However, the Santa Fe's strongest selling point is probably its value, offering good performance, decent fuel economy, and a pretty good basic cabin tech suite for thousands less than the competition. Grab a V-6 model with the premium package for an even better value.