I purchased my Sante Fe Highlander 8 weeks ago and have so far traveled 4,500kms taking in a good mix of country roads and city driving. The Sante Fe was purchased after considering SUV's, regular sedans and wagons.
I own a small pop top caravan with an all up weight of 1420kg and a towball down weight of 120kg and I have a preference for diesel engines due to the torque they produce and the economy when towing. My other considerations were price, with a maximum spend of $55'000, a full size spare wheel, service price, ease of servicing (local service centre) and reasonable resale.
The towball down weight virtualy eliminated most European cars as did my desire for a full size spare wheel. Some of the Europeans do offer a full size spare wheel package but the one I looked at was close to $1,000! I finally settled on the Santa Fe as it offered the towing ability (150kg ball weight with the heavy duty rear spring pack), a nice sized comfortable cabin, good fuel economy and as a plus it handles really well for an SUV. I was not looking for a 7 seater car and I'd be surprised if the rear row of seats gets used more than once a year, but its good to know they are there and perhaps it will be an option people look for when it hits the second hand market.
My observations after the first 2 months of ownership are as follow:
Good - the seats are exceptionally comfortable and unlike many cars with leather seats, they are not slippery. The seat warms are great on these cold winter mornings in Melbourne. At very low speeds, you know it's a diesel, but at anything over 60kmh, and especially at highway cruising speeds, the Santa Fe is so quiet - it puts my mates Benz to shame. The fuel economy is brilliant. In the first 4,500km (70% city and 30% country) I have averaged 8.4L/100 km. A recent trip to Albury averaged 5.7L/100.
The bluetooth works well although it could be improved by running the phone through all of the speakers as Holden do with the Commodore. The stereo is top class and the SATNAV is easy to use. The headlights are very good with a good throw of light.
Areas for improvement - The steering reach adjustment could do with more adjustment. I am fairly tall and have the drivers seat at the furthest setting. However to make the steering wheel comfortable to hold I have had to set the seat back more upright than I would normally have. Hyundai should also make the headlight come on once the windscreen wipers are activated. The bluetooth phone clarity could be improved as discussed above.
Other than these few points the car has exceeded my expectations and I would (and have already) have no hesitation in recommending a Santa Fe to anybody looking for a mid sized SUV.