The 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe is offered at one of the lowest price points for the affordable mid-sized SUV class, with an MSRP range of $21,017 to $28,950. Average gas mileage rates at 19 city and 26 highway, which is quite good given the form factor. Price is actually the top selling point for this model when it's held up against the competition. On it own, however, there's a lot to like here. If you're on a budget, the Santa Fe is a value choice.
To shop in the same price range, the "competition" actually rests with compact SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, which is large for its class. The Equinox, however, sells for $1,000 more than the Santa Fe. Buyers who need a third row would do best to test drive a Toyota Highlander, but beware - it's more expensive to the tune of $4K.
There are three trims for the Santa Fe - GLS, SE, and Limited - with an AWD drive option for each. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter four cylinder with 175 hp paired to a six-speed manual (optional six-speed automatic). The SE and Limited can be equipped with a V6 that produces 276 hp. If you go with the base engine and manual transmission, fuel economy jumps to 20/25, a noticeable improvement.
The Santa Fe is a smooth handling, comfortable SUV, but braking distances are long and take some getting used to. An emergency stop from 60 mph will require about 135 feet. There's a new grille for 2011, with a redesigned front bumper and fog lights that lend a purposeful air to the stance as well as a more modern tone to the complete appearance. The body has graceful lines and the fender flare, generally prominent on a Hyundai product, has been toned down.
Inside, the Santa Fe has a high-quality feel. Both Bluetooth and a USB port are new standard features for 2011. The cabin is lacking in soft-touch surfaces, but the use of faux metal and wood actually works and doesn't come off as cheap. Overall seating is comfortable, with leather standard on the SE and Limited, trims that also have an option for heated front seats.
Standard amenities on the base trim include a six-speaker stereo with an auxiliary input jack, audio controls on the wheel, and Bluetooth for hands free phone use. Move up one level and you'll pick up a combination of leather and cloth. Top out the trim options, and the audio becomes a six-CD changer and you gain stereo dual zone climate control and an integrated HomeLink garage door opener. There's also an option for a navigation system, but no rear DVD entertainment package.
The Santa Fe picked up five stars for passenger protection in the front and back for front and side impacts. Standard safety systems include electronic stability control, traction control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, and a full complement of air bags. All models have an option for a rear view camera.
Basically, the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe is a budget option in the affordable mid-size SUV class. It does not have a "wow" factor, but it does get the job done. A capable day-to-day hauler, the Santa Fe won't disappoint and if it eases the strain on your pocketbook, it may well delight.