- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Hyundai’s Santa Fe offers all-wheel-drive in a midsize vehicle that copes well in a snowstorm. And yet, because the Santa Fe is based on the Hyundai Sonata car platform, it definitely is carlike in its handling and feels enough like a sedan inside to make a long drive pleasant indeed.

I test-drove the GLS model with the bigger V-6 engine — 3.5 liters — that supplied 195 horsepower and 219 foot-pounds of torque to the five-speed automatic transmission. The tires chirped on dry pavement as I punched the accelerator, much more power than I expected to get with 22 more horsepower than the standard 2.7-liter V-6 engine.

Speaking of engines, there is a 2.4-liter, inline four-cylinder engine on the base Santa Fe with a five-speed manual transmission, but it is only available with front-wheel drive. And, to me, buying a sport utility without all-wheel or four-wheel drive is like buying a newspaper without the sports section; it just isn’t complete.

The Santa Fe is an easily maneuverable 177.2 inches long and 72.7 inches wide, which makes me question the midsize label, but it does have an 8.1-inch ground clearance to manage my snow-packed driveway. And though it seems too pretty to pull a trailer, this 3,846-pound sport utility can tow 2,300 pounds, so don’t be fooled.

EPA mileage estimates are 21 highway and 17 in the city.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price on the Santa Fe GLS is $23,499, and it starts off with a dealer invoice of $21,946. Edmunds.com’s True Market Value guide says the average selling price of the GLS is $22,369 before dealer, preparation and delivery charges.

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