Letting a vehicle hit the road successfully is similar to getting a book on the bookshelves. Once a model is released, there is no turning back, and it is either a success or a failure. But Hyundai seemed to know better, for when it released its first-ever sport utility vehicle, the Santa Fe, the model was cruising the US expressways and roads in no time. The model was such a sensation that it became the best-selling car of the company. In fact, Hyundai was unable to keep up with the demand for a time. Perhaps, the South Korean automaker knew the real secrets to car-making, but people would never know, so they would just become satisfied admirers of the Santa Fe wonders.
2001 – 2006: First generation (going all-out on performance features)
Santa Fe models in this generation were known for their quality ride and spaciousness. Two combinations of transmission and engine were available: one, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine matched with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic, and two, a Delta V6 four-cylinder mated with an automatic transmission. A standard front-wheel drive was offered, but customers could opt for a four-wheel drive. Later on, the engine tank was upsized to 19 gallons and the engine was upgraded to a 3.5-liter V6. Of course, luxury features in the interiors appealed to the customers; these included a Monsoon high-performance sound system, a six-disc CD changer, a manual climate control, and a keyless entry system. During the facelift in 2005, alterations to the taillights, rear bumper, grille, and instrument cluster were made. The last-year changes included only minor touch-ups, including the introduction of a dark emerald green color, a monochromatic paint scheme, safety air bags, an overhead compass, and a three-point seat belt.
2007 – 2012: Second generation (going more powerful and modern)
The second-generation Santa Fe models received a more contemporary look and more performance upgrades. Various engine displacement and transmission configurations were available, which allowed users to pick the model most appropriate for their driving needs. During this era, a focus on safety features was instituted. The units were equipped with Electronic Stability Control, a tire pressure monitor, anti-lock brakes, side-curtain air bags, and active front head restraints. The interiors also received some restyling, starting with the dashboard controls with blue lighting, shingled head rests, LATCH child seat anchors, and a navigation system. The interior changes were finalized with the addition of a new shift knob in 2012. Finally, before ending the production of these units, the colored grilles were straightened and accented with chrome plating, and the headlight strips shed off the amber color to show a clear shade.