2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS (466)

This week I returned to earth and test-drove the 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS. Coming out of the all-new 2004 Jaguar XJR was a leap of faith that I will continue to have no trouble returning the keys to such magnificent automobiles. But for the tidy sum of $60,000 more than this Santa Fe I can adapt quite well thank you.

n any case, whether in the Jaguar or in this delightful little SUV I\’m confident you’ll get where you’re going. Of course, it is all relative and some may feel a more expensive car is a must, and I don’t know about you but I can find a lot of things to do with $60K.

Then the following week I tested the Volvo XC90 AWD SUV for over $45,000. Guess what? This $21,000 Hyundai is looking better all the time. In context, you have to consider you won’t be going “From here to Eternity” in your car. You can only use the horsepower to propel you at the legal speed limit that both expensive and inexpensive will do exactly the same. You will need to carry people and property and both have similar volumes. You will be imperceptibly more comfortable in the Volvo. So what’s all the hoop-la about? Why pay double the price? Pride? Ego? I believe it is because we’re so hammered with ads that play up the rich and famous and beautiful people who drive the most expensive. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if it costs that much more it must be better. Hogwash. I’ve been testing cars unofficially and officially for decades, and it just ain’t so folks.

Living in a “Throw away” world, it just doesn’t make sense to spend more than you have to, to do the job essentially the same way. Consider the computer, cell phones, and other electronics… it is cheaper to replace them than repair them. The moral of that story is to buy less expensive and replace them often. Also consider the least expensive car today is safer, more powerful, has better brakes engine and transmission and gets better gas mileage than anything made just a couple of decades ago.

General Info:

Parts – N/A

Assembly – Korea (You can bet it’s not North Korea). Headquarters Seoul.

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: – Accent, Elantra, Santa Fe, Sonata, Tiburon and XG350.

Handling & Performance:

The base model is a 2.4 liter 138 hp inline 4-cylinder engine. I tested the 3.5 liter 195 hp V6 that has impressive acceleration. You’ll also feel very little difference in the ride from the most expensive SUV’s out there, and of the closest competition it is easily at the top of the list. Bravo South Korea, now ditch North Korea.


SUV… Almost nothing more need be said since they are all very similar. But I will explore one anomaly, which is the interesting comparison or likeness to the Star Wars Klingon (creature) culture. Certain design lines are suspect. Speaking of suspect, I got to tell you a funny story. While doing “Spell Check” the alternative word for Klingon was Clinton. Do you think they’re interchangeable?

Fit and Finish:

Very good considering the cost. You’ll be impressed and wonder why you need to spend up to twice the money to get an SUV that is so competitive and capable.


Very good. The list and kind of features is broad for the price, which translates into Value.


Luxury has its price and practical has its rewards as we see in the relative cost to function between the Jaguar XJR at $80,000 or the Volvo XC90 at $45,000 and this Hyundai Santa Fe at about $21,000.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you have unlimited resources buy a Rolls Royce, hire a chauffeur and pilot to jet you anywhere you want to go in your own airplane. But if you are like 99.9% of the rest of the world who have other needs, and believe there is more to life than an expensive mode of transportation buy the Hyundai and drive it yourself.

The Competition:

Base Models.

Hyundai Santa Fe $18,000, Chevrolet Tracker $20,000, Ford Escape $19,000, Honda CR-V $19,000, Jeep Liberty $18,000, Kia Sportage $15,000, Mazda Tribute $18,000, Mitsubishi Montero $32,000, Subaru Forester $21,000, Toyota RAV4 $17,000.

Good News:

Grouped with several under $20,000 to provide a good size SUV and lots of power with the 3.5-liter engine and a good array of standard equipment.

Bad News:

Korean – how stable with the current political climate in that country?

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 195 hp V6, 5-speed automatic trans, anti Lock braking system with traction control, power steering, alloy wheels, roof rack, remote keyless entry, in glass antenna, intermittent wipers, air conditioning, stereo with cassette and CD, power windows and locks, heated power mirrors, cruise control, tilt column, dual front and side airbags.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 22 Highway MPG.


MSRP $21,499.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2014 – An Automotive Love Affair.

Related Posts