Compact SUV; Built in South Korea
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,500 – $10,000*

2001 Hyudnai Santa Fe

2001 Hyundai Santa Fe interior

2002 Hyundai Santa Fe

2003 Hyundai Santa Fe

2003 Hyundai Santa Fe interior

  • Cargo room
  • Entry/exit
  • Instruments/controls
  • Ride/handling
  • Acceleration
  • Interior materials

Hyundai’s SUV needs more V6 muscle and better interior detailing, but Santa Fe is a high features-per-dollar vehicle with a generous 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and 10/100,000-mile powertrain coverage.


The first sport utility vehicle from South Korea’s leading automaker was a four-door, five-passenger wagon. Loosely based on the compact Sonata sedan’s platform, the Santa Fe was priced to compete with compact car-based SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and new Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute. Hyundai’s version was wider and heavier, with the biggest cargo capacity in its class.

Santa Fes came with front-wheel drive or permanently engaged four-wheel drive. The base GL model used the Sonata sedan’s four-cylinder engine and manual transmission, or an optional automatic transmission with Hyundai’s Shiftronic manual shift gate. Automatic was the sole choice for the GL V6, the GLS, and the top-of-the-line LX, which used a version of the Sonata’s V6.

Not intended for severe off-roading, the Santa Fe’s 4WD system lacked low-range gearing. The system normally split power 60/40 front/rear, but could redirect it to the wheels with the greatest traction. Traction control that worked with both front-drive and 4WD was optional on the GLS and LX.

All Santa Fes had 16-inch alloy wheels, a separate-opening tailgate window, air conditioning, power windows, a CD stereo, and a 60/40 split-folding rear seat. A sensor could deactivate the front airbag if a small child or no occupant was detected. Front side airbags were not offered. Antilock brakes were optional, adding rear discs instead of drums on four-cylinder models. Leather upholstery was exclusive to the Santa Fe LX.

Yearly Updates

2002 Santa Fe
Nothing noteworthy changed for 2002, except that the four-cylinder GL exchanged front-disc/rear-drum brakes for the four-wheel discs of the V6 models.
The V6-powered GLS and top-line LX models came with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Traction control was optional on the GLS, but standard on the LX. ABS was standard on the LX and optional for other models. The right-side dashboard airbag automatically shut off if a sensor detected a child or no occupant, but side airbags were not available.
2003 Santa Fe
Front side airbags became standard for 2003, and all Santa Fes now had all-disc brakes. New options included a six-disc CD changer and a Homelink remote control unit.
2004 Santa Fe
No new changes were made to the Santa Fe in 2004.
2005 Santa Fe
Hyundai gives Santa Fe a slight facelift for 2005 and drops its 4-cyl engine. The lineup now includes GLS and uplevel LX models, both with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive without low-range gearing.
2006 Santa Fe
Santa Fe is unchanged.


transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Santa Fes came with a choice of dual-overhead-cam engines. In 2001-02, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder was rated at 149 horsepower, versus 181 hp for the 2.7-liter V6. Hyundai reduced the output rating for 2003, to 138 and 170 up, respectively. Four-cylinder models could have a five-speed manual gearbox or optional four-speed automatic transmission, but V6 Santa Fes were automatic-only. For ’05, Hyundai dropped the 4-cyl engine.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/143
Engine HP 138-149
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 147-156
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc V61
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.7/165
Engine HP 170-181
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 181-187
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/212
Engine HP 290
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 219
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

1. EPA rating with V6 and two-wheel drive is 19/26 mpg.

Road Test

Santa Fes function well in several areas, but performance is not among them. A test AWD LX accelerated to 60 mph in a middling 10.3 seconds, and was low on passing muscle, suggesting that this V6 won’t have much in reserve with a sizable load. Slightly lighter weight makes the 2WD GLS feel marginally quicker.

On the plus side, an AWD LX averaged a commendable 22.3 mpg, despite gas-eating performance runs. A 2WD GLS averaged 14.5 to 19.3 mpg, with more city driving.

Although the ride is comfortably absorbent on undemanding surfaces, sharp ridges and expansion joints can jolt. Body lean is apparent in tight, fast corners, but far from alarming. Front-drive versions have surprisingly poor traction on wet surfaces, but all-wheel drive provides good all-weather grip.

With ABS, a test LX made short work of simulated emergency stops, but sluggish, mushy pedal action does not inspire confidence. The V6 engine groans at full throttle, but is decently quiet otherwise. Wind rush and tire roar are well-controlled.

Instruments are clear and controls accessible, but shorter drivers might find some gauges obscured. Also, some switches have unusual shapes. Similarly, the dashboard and door panels are molded with needless contours. The grade of interior materials is nothing special.

Front room/comfort is at least class-competitive, especially in head room. Step-in is decently low, despite a tall stance, which contributes to fine visibility. Limited rearward seat travel, on the other hand, spoils a basically good driving position, and some seat adjustments are tedious.

In the rear, the Santa Fe rivals many midsize SUVs for leg space, even with the front seats pushed back. Still, space is too narrow for three adults. Slim door bottoms impede entry/exit.

Cargo room challenges some midsize SUVs, but there’s not much floor length behind the rear seat. A standard separate-opening tailgate window is convenient. That’s not true of the wind-down spare tire, which is mounted beneath the body.


Model Tested: 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 6
Room/Comfort Rear - 5
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 4

Total: 48


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.1 177.2 72.6 65.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
78.0 17.2 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.6 39.2 41.6 36.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Santa Fe AWD 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: On early production models with V6 engines, the crankshaft-position sensor was failing and was being replaced under recall. (2001)
Engine noise
Description: The 2.4-liter engine’s hydraulic lash adjusters, although functional, may be too noisy for some people and quieter replacements are available with larger oil holes. (2001-02)
Engine stalling
Description: The 2.7-liter V6 engine may stall and not restart when idling for extended times with the air conditioner running requiring reprogramming of the engine control module and/or replacement of the oxygen sensors. (2001-02)
Poor transmission shift
Description: The transmission may not shift when the “D” mode is selected or may not upshift or downshift when the “sport” mode is selected due to a faulty switch in the console shifter housing. (2001-02)
Poor transmission shift
Description: The shift from park to reverse or drive is harsh in many models, but if it is extremely harsh, a revised transmission control module may be required. Likewise, harsh shifts in other gears may also require a new module. (2001-02)
Description: On vehicles with an automatic transmission, a clamp for the battery cable may wear through the lower radiator hose and the clamp should be replaced with a plastic cable tie. (2001)
Transmission leak
Description: Fluid may leak from the four-wheel-drive transfer case breather plug requiring a length of hose be installed. (2001-02)

Recall History

2001-02 V-6
Description: Two separate recalls for improperly manufactured crankshaft-position sensors could result in engine stalling while driving. Dealers will replace affected parts.
Description: (vehicles sold in or registered in
Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. ) Road salt applied in these jurisdictions during the winter months may result in progressive, internal corrosion of the rear trailing arms, which could lead to thinning or perforation of the rear trailing arm steel. Owners may see or feel a lowering of vehicle height or a creaking sound. If the corrosion is allowed to progress, the rear trailing arm may fracture while driving, thereby increasing the risk of a vehicle crash. Dealers will inspect the rear trailing arms for internal corrosion damage.
Description: Certain vehicles are missing tire-pressure labels, or have incorrect labels. Dealers will distribute correct tire labels.
Description: 3.5L engines with 4WD and ABS may experience a malfunction of the brakes at speeds from 3 mph to 12 mph. Dealers will inspect and replace affected parts.
Description: Occupant classification system in right front seat may mistakenly classify a small child on the front edge of the seat as an adult, allowing the front or side airbag to deploy in a crash.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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