2010 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS

The perfect era for the “Great Value Brand”. Practicality, frugality, standard features in bulk could be the new bling.

The 2009 – ’10 is the era when consumer spending habit changed the most. This is the era trailing the aftermath of the burst of the subprime mortgage bubble. People simply cannot spend the imaginary money from the magic of refinancing to exchange for fancy electronic gadgets, nor a bling-bling SUV in a blink just because parking it on a sloped driveway is the excursion, driving the kids around is the expedition, and caravanning to the Vegas’ concrete jungle is the great escape.

An observation at the wholesale club suggests that electronic gadgets no longer fill up the shopping carts. Instead, they are filled by the value brand toilet paper, tampons and any necessities for basic urban survival. SPAM is the most commonly purchased item.

If the car market is the wholesale club, Hyundai could very well be the SPAM. It is frugal. It is considerably green both environmentally and financially. Greens are what you need in your pocket to weather the financial storm. .

Background

The first generation Santa Fe was first introduced in 2000 to compete in the car-based compact SUV segment. A 2005 Santa Fe GLS AWD testdrive review can be found HERE.

This 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS is the second generation of the model series and was introduced to the U.S. in April 2006 as 2007 model. It has evolved from a compact size to mid-size statue, competing in a far more competitive and diverse segment include: the odd-ball Ford Flex, sporty Nissan Murano, rock-crawling capable Nissan Pathfinder, and car-based Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. In reality, Santa Fe’s main competitors are toward the mainstream car-based market where offroad ability is secondary.

Change of market segment equals to vast changes. The 2nd gen is now assembled by Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) in Montgomery, Alabama, alongside with Santa Fe’s mid-size sedan cousin, Sonata. Assembly is an understatement; the HMMA situated in over 1,700 acres of land and consists of its own stamping, welding, paint, and engine manufacturing facilities with 300,000 vehicles capacity annually. Nearby HMMA, you can find Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., Honda Mfg. of Alabama LLC, and Toyota Motor Mfg. Alabama, Inc. occupying the “Heart of Dixie”.

Our tester in Pearl White paint is the front wheel drive GLS trim with MSRP at $23,500.

Mid-Cycle Revolution

The car industry is trying to prolong the product cycle perhaps in attempt to delay and reduce research and development cost of a brand new model. To keep things fresh, a rather dramatic facelift is the key.

In response, the 2010 Santa Fe has also gone through a mid-production cycle facelift. Hyundai replaced the 2.7L V6 with a modern 4-cylinder engine and equipped a newly developed transmission. The exterior has received mild appearance enhancements: a new and color-coded front grille, new taillights, and 5-spoke alloy rims. Inside, it’s got the new theme gauge cluster with green “eco indicator” on automatic transmission models to indicate when driving habits are frugal and green, Bluetooth phone connectivity, steering wheel mounted controls, heated power side mirrors and USB/AUX/IPOD ports are all standard.

With the release of the 3rd gen not expected until 2012 – 2013, the 2nd gen has a great load on its shoulder. Not only the market is in disfavor of SUVs, more so, the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed more and more stringent emission and fuel consumption limits.

GEMA – The World Engine

The Santa Fe equips with Hyundai’s Theta II [Engine Code: G4KC] 2.4L I-4 aluminum 16-valves DOHC MFI engine with variable intake system and continuously variable valve timing (CVVT) on the intake camshaft. It generates a respectable 175hp@6,000rpm and 169Ib-ft of torque@3,750rpm. Engine is transversely mounted, driving the front wheels in our tester; all-wheel-drive is optional in the lineup.

This Theta II engine also features equal length and diameter stainless steel header type exhaust manifold with integral catalytic converter to provide both optimal efficiency in performance and reduction in emission output. It has 88x97mm under-square bore and stroke ratio, tuned to develop peak torque at lower speeds. Balance shafts are equipped to reduce engine noise and vibration.

The basis of the Theta engine was derived from the World Engine manufacture by Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance, LLC (GEMA). The GEMA engine was a joint venture of Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai for developing a line of communal engines. The GEMA engines can be found in twenty different vehicles of these three companies with variations to better suit and provide different characteristics for each manufacturer.

The Hyundai Theta engines are the current workhorse for Hyundai Kia Automotive Group. The diverse nature of the engine promotes to its vast usage from the spanking new Kia Forte to the performance oriented Hyundai Genesis Coupe to family hauling Kia Rondo mini-van.

One would assume the Santa Fe must have at the minimum a small V6 engine foremost due to Santa Fe’s size, and secondly since this 2nd gen Santa Fe was available to the market in 2006, it would suggest Hyundai carry on with its dated Delta 2.7L V6 [G6BA] engine rated with 185hp@6,000rpm and 183Ib-ft@4,000rpm. Lastly, with minimal noise, vibration and harshness, it has to be a V6 under the hood.

With confidence from the assumptions and observations, as we popped open the hood, to our very surprise, we found a little four banger squatting in this vast engine bay that is also the home for its optional bigger 3.5L V6 brother that is rated at mouth watery 276hp and 248Ib-ft.

The New Tranny

The shocker hasn’t exactly ended just yet. Who would ever imagine the Santa Fe has a 6-speed automatic transmission? In a Hyundai? In a product introduced 4 years ago?

What the Theta II mated to is a brand new 6-speed automatic transaxle (Codename: A6MF2) with SHIFTRONIC manual shift mode developed exclusively by Hyundai for Hyundai and also to compete with the proprietary 6-speed units from Toyota and the joint venture between Ford and General Motors. It demonstrated Hyundai’s engineering advancement capabilities.

This transaxle is 12 kg lighter, 41mm shorter and contains 62 fewer components than the previous 5-speed unit. The widened gear range promotes fuel economy up to 12% and maximizing engine performance. As the result, the EPA rated this Santa Fe at 20mpg City and 28mpg FWY with 23mpg combined. This new gearbox is sealed with lifetime transmission fluid to provide maintenance free operation.