2010 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

Expert Reviews Hyundai

By Peter Newton


  • Radio controls integrated into steering wheel (and integrated very well!)
  • Bluetooth® phone controls
  • iPod support
  • XM® Satellite Radio
  • Lots of storage compartments
  • Elegant trim touches
  • Good mileage for gas SUV at 22 mpg


  • Dated styling
  • Uninspired driving
  • Acceptable freeway on-ramp power

First Impressions
Over the last decade, Hyundai has made huge strides in improving their reputation for safety and quality. In 2006, they passed Toyota in the JD Powers and Associates quality ranking – a major change for a brand that had once been the poster child for low quality. Note that this was way before Toyota started recalling everything – they used to be the standard for quality! With the better reputation, long warranties and their low prices, Hyundai has grown sales in North America from about 250,000 cars in 2000 to 435,000 in 2009, grabbing share from their established rivals. The biggest part of that success has been the Santa Fe, a crossover SUV that has become commonplace here in import-friendly California. The gist of all of this background is that I was interested to check out the most popular SUV that the up-and-coming Hyundai has to offer.

2010 Hyundai Santa Fe

The 2010 is part of the second generation of this workhorse SUV. However, since the last major overhaul was in 2007, it’s getting time to update this one again. The styling of the Santa Fe is acceptable, but clearly a step behind the recently overhauled 2010 Tucson, which is a smaller and less expensive crossover. The Tucson is far edgier and exciting, making the Santa Fe come off looking behind the times. Walking up to it, I felt the age of the design and expected my time with the Santa Fe would reveal it to have some tweaks on an established platform, but nothing too exciting.

However, opening the door and sliding behind the wheel, I was surprised to find an array of controls integrated into the steering wheel. I’m a big fan of putting stereo controls into the steering wheel, but have usually only found them on much higher end cars. It makes no sense to me why car companies have put so much effort on putting cruise controls on the steering wheel and completely ignore the fact that people adjust their stereo a thousand times more often. Seeing both phone and stereo controls in the Santa Fe brightened my opinion immediately. In addition to the integrated stereo controls, the Santa Fe also comes standard with satellite radio and iPod integration, a surprising touch that I didn’t expect in a base model GLS that I drove.

2010 Hyundai Santa Fe integrated steering wheel controls2010 Hyundai Santa Fe front seating2010 Hyundai Santa Fe iPod integration

Hyundai has certainly learned about the American love affair with cup holders and has extended that to all kinds of storage space throughout the SUV. My son loved finding all the “secret compartments” as he called them, including a sizable one below the deck of the rear area. This would make a great place to stow a laptop out of sight. The extra storage was one benefit of not having the third row of seats, which is not available on this model year.

The drive experience of the Santa Fe was as expected for a mainstream SUV – a bit bouncy, but not overly much. For a crossover, it sure felt a lot like a truck. I guess there are some physics you can’t get around and having a heavy vehicle with a high center of gravity will lean and sway like a truck. Hyundai touts the power of the Santa Fe, but I was unimpressed. I was able to merge safely onto several freeway on-ramps, but the Santa Fe lacks the power to really put you back in your seat. The 2.4L 4-cylinder engine cranks out 175 horsepower, but I would think hard about towing a boat in the mountains with this. The 276 hp 3.5L V6, the standard engine in the SE and Limited trims, might be better suited to heavier duty.
2010 Hyundai Santa Fe

That said the most impressive feature of the Santa Fe was the price. I didn’t look at the sticker until after I had checked out the car. For $22,995, the GLS that I drove delivers a lot of value, reliability and features. The faux wood styling in the cabin makes it feel like a much more expensive SUV. With its value, generous list of standard equipment, and impressive safety ratings, I can see why more and more people are selecting a Hyundai as their car or SUV.

RATING 4.0 4.5 3.75 4.0 4.0 4.5 4.25/B+

2010 Hyundai Santa Fe Photo Gallery

Hyundai Santa Fe

2010 Hyundai Santa Fe Specs

Hyundai MotorsHyundai Motors America: Cars, Coupes, Sedans, CUVs, Touring – www.hyundaiusa.com

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  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    Just go away this is really still an ugly car made of plastic and it’s mileage is not at the level of the Equinox .

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