For many suburban families, the midsize crossover SUV represents the ideal vehicle. It's less cumbersome than a full-size SUV but still big enough to haul around the kids, the dogs or the latest desirables from Pottery Barn. Weather-beating all-wheel drive is usually available and, as the top bonus for many people, it's not perceived as being geeky like a minivan. Perhaps not coincidentally, then, this midsize sweet spot is exactly where Korean automaker Hyundai has positioned its fully redesigned 2007 Santa Fe.
The original Santa Fe, while certainly competent, never quite matched up to top offerings from Japanese automakers in terms of refinement. Looking toward improvement, Hyundai designed the second-generation Santa Fe on an all-new, purpose-built unibody crossover platform. Its wheelbase is longer than before and overall length is up nearly 7 inches. Hyundai says that this chassis was specifically designed to deliver a better balance of ride and handling. The body structure is also considerably stiffer, and new suspension geometry has actually tightened the Santa Fe's turning circle.
On the outside, the new Santa Fe has a much sleeker look and is about the same length as a Toyota Highlander. Inside, the new body pays dividends in terms of interior space. A third-row seat is now optional and overall headroom, legroom and shoulder room measurements are equal to or better than those of many competing SUVs. Hyundai spent a lot of time on interior design, and the result is a very attractive dash and high-quality materials.
Mechanically, the 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe features two- or four-wheel drive and two available V6 engines. The base engine, standard on the Santa Fe GLS, is a 2.7-liter V6 that was available in the previous Santa Fe but now offers the added benefit of variable valve timing. Replacing the previous Santa Fe's cast-iron 3.5-liter V6 is an all-aluminum 3.3-liter V6 that also sees duty in the redesigned Sonata sedan.
Overall, Hyundai has put together a pretty impressive package. Typical core strengths for a new Hyundai -- plenty of features for the money and a strong warranty -- hold true for the Santa Fe, and the old model's gawky styling is thankfully long gone. It should serve suburban families quite well, and we recommend that shoppers interested in this segment consider the Santa Fe one of the top choices.