- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

WHISPERING PINES, Calif. With everyone rushing to develop or expand their sport utility offerings, Hyundai has held off, and that may have been a very wise, or very lucky, move.
The 1990s began with Ford showing that the four-door Explorer could add extra excitement, adequate hauling capability and the illusion of safety to a market bored with minivans and station wagons. Today the Explorers and their kin account for about a quarter of vehicle sales and almost killed the sporty segment of the market.
Now the public seems to have had its truck fling and coupe sales are soaring, but people still want the rough-and-tumble image, but do not want the rough edges, clumsy handling and socially incorrect inefficiency. The time is right for Santa Fe.
The Santa Fe is the first sport utility vehicle designed, engineered and developed by Hyundai, South Korea's leading automaker. Hyundai will sell the Santa Fe as a value priced, fully capable but comfortable SUV, undercutting competitors on price while offering excellent standard equipment and a great warranty. The company is dead serious about improving quality and brand image.
Santa Fe's optional V-6 is more powerful than most competitors in this segment. Hyundai's past reliability problems are put to rest by the Advantage warranty program. If you're in the market, the Santa Fe isn't the risk it might have been a few short years ago.
If Hyundai didn't use the name "Santa Fe" someone else would have, and marketeers are scrambling to tie up every Western name in the lexicon.
As standard equipment, the Santa Fe will feature a four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission and two-wheel drive at a very affordable starting price. The upscale Santa Fes offer 24-valve V-6 engines, electronically controlled, fully adaptive four-speed automatic transmissions, and an electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system with viscous coupling.
Santa Fe comes as a four-door and is available in three trim series (base, GLS and LX), with seven different drivetrain and trim level combinations available.
It is similar in size to a Lexus RX300. It is both larger and roomier than Asian competitors such as the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, and offers more engine/driveline combinations. V-6-powered models start as low as $18,299 and include a four-speed Shiftronic automatic transmission.
Hyundai has coined the phrase "XUV" for crossover sport utility, which relates to its use of an extensively revised version of the Sonata midsize car platform. This is the ploy used by CR-V, RAV4, Forester and Ford s Escape/Tribute, and offers buyers carlike driveability, steering, ride, handling and braking with near-truck seating height plus the traction and security of optional all-wheel drive.
Santa Fe drives like a car yet can serve as an excellent vehicle in all weather and limited-traction conditions.
The base engine is Hyundai's proven 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder rated at 150 horsepower. The optional V-6 is a 2.7-liter version of the high-tech, all-aluminum, 24-valve, dual-overhead-camshaft V-6 introduced in the Sonata. The company has shown us 3- and 3.5-liter versions of this engine, and these may be available in the future.
The distinctive front end, including its stylish fender and headlamp treatment borrowed from the Tiburon sport coupe and Sonata sedan, should give Hyundai some visibility in a crowded marketplace. Large ovoid headlamps are placed at the corners of the front end to create an image of size and presence. With strong character lines over front and rear wheel wells, the Santa Fe demonstrates a family resemblance.
At the same time, the Santa Fe's body-side contours give the Hyundai more styling personality than traditionally angular SUVs. It successfully combines style and toughness.
The all-wheel-drive system's viscous coupling seamlessly engages the rear wheels for added traction when needed without any input from the driver. The Santa Fe has MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and an anti-roll bar. At the rear is a fully independent trailing-arm design with multilinks, coil springs and hydraulic shock absorbers. Rack-and-pinion power steering is standard. Big 16-inch alloy wheels fitted with 225/70-16 B.F. Goodrich Long Trail T/A tires give the Santa Fe an aggressive stance on the road and meet the driving demands of most SUV buyers.
The Santa Fe is spacious, flexible and comfortable with 101 cubic feet of passenger volume plus 29 cubic feet of cargo volume. Santa Fe safety features include second-generation, de-powered dual frontal air bags, a Passenger-Presence Detection system that shuts off the passenger-side air bags when a small child (or no one) is in the seat.
Front seat belts also come with automatic pretensioners to cinch the belt tightly in the event of a collision.
Standard features include air conditioning, power windows, black privacy glass, power rack-and-pinion steering, roof rack rails, 60/40 split folding and reclining rear seat and AM/FM/CD sound system. Standard seats are surfaced with a comfortable and gripping velour with leather seating available as an option.
The options checklist also features the Utility Package, which includes cruise control, keyless remote with alarm, heated power mirrors, power door locks, contrasting tone body-side cladding and bumpers, first aid kit, rear wiper with washer, cargo net, cargo cover, round built-in front fog lamps and an under-floor storage tray in the cargo area.
Also available: anti-lock brakes, traction control, limited-slip rear differential, auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated seats.
Like all Hyundai products, the Santa Fe will feature the Hyundai Advantage "America's Best Warranty," which includes limited five-year, 50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage; a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty for the original owner; and toll-free 24-hour roadside assistance for five years (unlimited mileage). Hyundai cars are sold and serviced through nearly 500 dealerships nationwide.

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