Midsize SUV; Built in South Korea, USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $11,000 – $19,200*

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

2008 Hyundai Santa Fe

  • Cargo room
  • Control layout
  • Interior materials
  • Quietness
  • Seat comfort
  • Acceleration (GLS w/automatic)
  • Ride

Santa Fe offers impressive room, build quality, and standard safety features. Yet, new-vehicle prices match or beat many competitors. Hyundai’s generous warranty is another value plus. Santa Fe needs more zip and a better ride/handling balance, true. Even so, most people should find this a satisfying choice-especially since Hyundai’s scores in surveys of vehicle quality and customer satisfaction have been climbing.


Redesigned for 2007, the smaller of Hyundai’s two midsize sport-utility vehicles gained power and new features, including optional seven-passenger seating. Compared with the 2001-06 Santa Fe, the 2007 model added 3 inches to wheelbase and 7 inches to overall length. It was also almost 2 inches taller and an inch wider. Track width (distance between wheels) grew by 2.9 inches. Built on a new unibodied platform, this car-type wagon came in GLS, SE, and top-line Limited models. All versions offered front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, which lacked low-range gearing but allowed locking-in a 50/50 (front/rear) power split.

All Santa Fes had V6 engines; the GLS had 185 horsepower, while SE and Limited models got 242-hp engines. GLS buyers could choose a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic; others had a five-speed automatic. Both automatics incorporated Shiftronic manual gear selection. All models seated five, but an available Touring Package added a 50/50 split third-row bench seat. All-disc antilock braking and traction/antiskid control were standard. So were front side airbags and curtain side airbags. Dashboards featured blue-backlit gauges and switches. Limited models had leather upholstery and heated front seats. With the Santa Fe, Hyundai competed against such SUVs as the Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano, and Toyota Highlander.

Yearly Updates

2008 Santa Fe
Except for new standard features in the Limited model, changes were few for 2008. Limited added a 605-watt Infinity Logic 7 audio system and a power sunroof, plus an optional navigation system.
2009 Santa Fe
An auxiliary audio-input jack with USB port was newly standard on all 2009 Santa Fe models. The SE’s Touring Package now included a power driver seat.


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

Santa Fes come with either front-drive or all-wheel drive. Initially, GLS versions held a 2.7-liter V6 engine and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The SE and Limited editions used a 242-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 and a five-speed automatic. For 2010, those engine were replaced by a 175-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 276-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The four was offered with a 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic; the V6 came only with the automatic.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/146
Engine HP 175
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 169
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
6-speed automatic
dohc V61
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.7/162
Engine HP 185
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 183
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc V61
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/204
Engine HP 242
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 226
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.5/214
Engine HP 276
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 248
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed automatic


1. EPA Note: Figures shown are for 2008 models. The Environmental Protection Agency changed its procedure for 2008 to yield more realistic estimates. Therefore, estimated mileage is lower than for prior years.

Road Test

Acceleration varies according to engine. A Santa Fe GLS with the 2.7-liter V6 is slow to build speed and loses steam going up even moderate grades. The 242-hp, 3.3-liter V6 gives other models adequate pep and is the better all-round choice. Towing capacities are 2800 pounds for the GLS, 3500 pounds otherwise. We have not had the opportunity to drive Santa Fes with the new-for-2010 2.4-liter four or 3.5-liter V6. Manual-shift and AWD models were not tested for this report.

Fuel economy is about right for this class, but hardly frugal. A test 2WD Limited model averaged 18.8 to 19.2 mpg in mixed city/highway driving. Each Santa Fe uses regular-grade gasoline.

Ride quality depends on terrain. Small bumps are smothered well, regardless of tire size. Large bumps induce uncomfortable bounce and sideways rocking, plus some minor vibration through the floor and steering column.

Steering/handling is pleasant and competent, though less sporty, precise, or car-like than a Toyota Highlander, Nissan Murano, or Honda Pilot. A tight turning radius aids close-quarters maneuvering. Standard ABS and traction/antiskid control are laudable for the Santa Fe’s price class.

Both engines are moderately loud at full throttle, but acceptably quiet at routine cruising speeds. Road rumble is evident over some pavement surfaces, but wind noise is kept well in check.

Interior details belie the Santa Fe’s price, with smart cabin decor and upscale, Toyota-worthy workmanship. More soft-touch surfaces would be nice, but faux metal and wood trim is convincing, the headliner is handsome, and no plastics look cheap. Audio and climate controls are large, simple, and handy. They also share blue night lighting with easy-read gauges. A navigation system has been available only on Limited models.

Adult-size headroom and legroom complements front seats with good adjustment range. Entry/exit is easy, and all models include a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Styling slightly interferes with visibility to the right rear and directly astern, but views are good otherwise.

Pushing front seats well back means adults in the rear sit knees-up. Even so, they shouldn’t be cramped, and underseat foot space is good. Rear headroom suits six-footers. Three grownups can fit in the back, but only short trips are recommended. Entry/exit to the second row is untroubled, but a lot tougher to the skimpy, kid-size third-row seat.

All rear seats fold easily for extra cargo space. Dropping the third row forms a level floor, but not with the second row folded. Cargo volume is generous for this class, with claimed 78.3 cubic foot maximum, 34.2 behind the second row, and 10 behind the third row. The liftgate lacks opening glass. Cabin storage is good, but not exceptional.


Model Tested: 2007 Santa Fe 2WD GLS w/auto.

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 - 4
Fuel Economy - 5
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 5
Quietness - 6


Controls/Materials - 8
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
Cargo Room - 9


Value - 7

Total: 62


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.3 184.1 74.4 67.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
78.2 19.8 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.2 39.6 42.6 36.8
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2008 Santa Fe 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 5

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Rear Passenger Injury - 5


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

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

Trouble Spots

Description: The airbag light may illuminate due to a short in a wiring harness under the hood. (2007)
Engine misfire
Description: The engine may hesitate of misfire, and the check engine light may illuminate, due to one or both front oxygen sensors failing. (2007)
Steering noise
Description: Whining power steering is frequently caused by a restricted filter screen in the bottom of the fluid reservoir. (2007-09)
Transmission leak
Description: Oil leaks from between the transmission and transfer case unless an improved seal has been installed in the transmission. (2001-09)
Description: A snapping noise from the front wheels when changing directions (drive to reverse to drive) due to excessive clearance behind the front hubs requiring shims. (2007)
Transmission problems
Description: The shifter interlock module may fail making it impossible to shift out of park. (2007)
Transmission problems
Description: The engine may not start due to transmission inhibitor switch failure. (2006)
Turn signal
Description: The turn signals may not cancel after wide turns unless the steering column opening for the switch has been enlarged. (2009)

Recall History

2007 Santa Fe
Description: Improper wall thickness of right forward fuel-tank baffle may permit fuel leakage.
2007 Santa Fe
Description: The stop lamp switch in the affected vehicles may malfunction and cause the brake lights to not illuminate when the brake pedal is depressed or may cause the brake lights to remain illuminated when the brake pedal is released. A stop lamp switch malfunction may also affect the operation of the brake-transmission shift interlock feature so the transmission shifter would not be able to be shifted out of the park position..
2007-08 Santa Fe with trailer hitch
Description: Excessive heat at converter module of some wiring harnesses, due to high current leakage or short-circuit, could damage rear bumper area and possibly result in fire.
2007-2008 Santa Fe with P235/60R18 tires
Description: The black certification label, affixed to the driver-side center pillar, incorrectly lists the gross axle-weight rating (GAWR). Overloading the vehicle may adversely affect handling and braking which could cause tire damage.
2007-2008 Santa Fe
Description: The clock spring contact assembly for driver’s airbag supplemental restraint system may be damaged with use over time, potentially preventing the airbag from deploying.
2007-2009 Santa Fe
Description: Miscalibrated Occupant Classification System (OCS) may not detect small-statured adults and could affect airbag deployment.
2007-2011 Santa Fe
Description: Stop-lamp switch may malfunction, preventing brake lights from functioning and potentially interfering with cruise control and the push-button starter.

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.