Once upon a time our family owned a Saturn Vue. It was a sport-cute, and my wife was the main driver. Apart from a lot of road noise, a nagging gearshift issue that the mechanics couldn't recognize (but we did), and how very badly it handled in the snow, we kind of liked it. But we've actively avoided all Sport-Utes since we got that out of our system and went back to driving a sedan.
I've boycotted all Hyundai products out of protest because of the Pony. I won't even rent them. Back in the eighties we had just enough means to buy one of only three cars in our meager price range - a Pony, a Pontiac Sunbird, or the Renault Alliance. Thankfully we chose the Renault, because the Pony had a useful life of exactly three years, and the Sunbird was a blue smoke belching excuse for a small car. I had a friend who owned a Hyundai Pony and got not one hour more than 1080 days out of it. Last payment and a dead car (back in the day when you could afford to buy a car over three years).
So when the rental guys try to offer me a Hyundai, I always decline, but this week I caved and took the Santa Fe. What a great vehicle! It's got me rethinking my aversion to Sport-Utilities, and I have discovered a new respect for Hyundai. Here's what I thought:
Great: The design. This is a good sized vehicle that doesn't feel cumbersome. It's easy to handle, has plenty of zip even with the air conditioning on full blast, it's quiet on the highway and comfortable to drive. It feels like a whole lot more car than what you probably pay for it. Quality - it just feels like quality. Somebody who cares designed and built this vehicle.
Good: Fuel economy is surprisingly good for a big Sport Ute. It's larger than a number of it's competitors, and even in mostly city driving I was surprised at how little fuel it used. Still, if I didn't have to commute in this vehicle, I would probably prefer something a little smaller. But for soccer moms and hockey dads, the flexibility and size doesn't have to come with an excessive trade-off in operating costs.
Room for Growth? It feels like they intentionally built blind spots into the design. Backing up with the high back seats and headrests combined with tinted windows was uncomfortable in a parking garage. I always felt like I was guessing. I wouldn't even attempt to back up out of the family driveway without knowing where every little kid in the neighbourhood was for fear of running over someone I couldn't see. Maybe a back-up camera is needed? So an excellent family oriented design on the inside of the vehicle and wonderful performance under the hood fails a little, in my opinion, in the lack of consideration of all that's happening outside and around the vehicle.
Would I Buy One? Frankly, I'd like to test drive it in the snow first. But if it was as great as it looks like it might be, and if we were back in the days of three young active kids, and if we could afford more than we could back then, we most definitely would have put this vehicle on the list.
Even today, maybe a hybrid Santa Fe could be on the list of future vehicles.
Here's my One Minute Review of the 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe