Go see the world. Eat different foods. Drive different cars. I am doing my best to abide by these simple suggestions. An opportunity came up to visit the Phoenix, Arizona area - I didn’t hesitate to book a flight. Upon arrival I decided to choose something I’d never rented before, a Hyundai. A Tucson would have made sense, but I ended up with the one from New Mexico.
I Have Never Been A Fan Of Hyundai.
The memories, they haunt me. The early Excel, Accent, and Sonata... they aren’t good. They make me cringe at mention of them. For years after their entry into the US market they were throw away vehicles. Buy one for cheap, drive it until it dies, and park it at the dump. Kia did not escape the same fate being so intertwined together with Hyundai. People were automatically assumed to be the polar opposite of a ‘car guy’ if they drove a Hyundai or Kia.
However, in the last ten years, I’ve had to take another look at Hyundai. I first noticed the Tiburon - the South Korean Integra. It was an interesting take on the import tuner movement. The Elantra came into my radar when I began seeing it competing with the commuter juggernauts in the Accord and Camry.
Finally the Veloster came along with it’s three door madness and the Genesis with a proper transmission and rear-wheel-drive. I needed to drive something out of the Hyundai stable to see if this fun factor translated down into the more mundane offerings... like a Santa Fe!
So Modern, Chic, Risque...?
The modern South Korean car company feels more Germanic than it’s Japanese rivals. It has it’s quirks and such like the Japanese but the lay out, and build quality feel more German. There is a more purposeful layout in the dash, buttons, and the tactile bits than you’d think.
The Japanese seem to slap something interesting into every car just to appease ‘that guy’ on the design team. The Koreans by contrast seem to all learn design at the same school. Their version of interesting is an unusual pocket on the dash to hold... a phone? Well it worked for me... in the absence of GPS... damn stripped out rental cars!
You Went On Vacation... There?
We arrived in Phoenix to the best weather possible, 85 degrees F during the day and in the 60s at night. The desert is not always hot. The images of sweat dripping down the crack of my ass like Niagara are mostly relegated to the months of May-August. Being October, it was only 5-7 degrees F hotter than my home in Northern California.
We ended up staying in the north part of Scottsdale to be specific. If you’ve never been to the specific area let me explain - Everything is new, modern, pretty, lots of glass, trendy everything, and mostly good looking people who drive a Tesla or Range Rover. That about sums it up.
Automotive Food Poisoning Or Automotive-Culinary Exploration?
There was an array of rentals available but when I saw the Hyundai, I knew I had to try this 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. I felt like I was in a restaurant. I knew what I liked and what tasted good (read: they had a new Wrangler) but no, I needed to culture my automotive tastes. The Hyundai was a dish I thought might taste better than it had in the past but would I be satisfied with my order? I hate paying for crappy food.
This particular Santa Fe is the SPORT trim. Anyone who orders it because of the badge is insane or inept. It has a SPORT button but I found it only raised the RPM level around town to keep it in the power band a bit longer. Did it feel as sporty as the badge? No. It has enough power but get you and your kin around.
In One Word: Par.
The Santa Fe is par for the course. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Par means it is on point with all the other compact SUVs on the market. To come from an early generation Santa Fe to this is as different as living on the moon versus living in a tree house. They don’t compare.
I enjoyed many things about it, namely the build quality seems much better than I’d thought. This is a worthy competitor to any other CUV. This is another easy to live with, family friendly, and pocket book gentle, people mover. It does everything mostly very well.
I found myself still content with my minivan purchase at the end of our trip. The minivan does everything much better than the CUV. We averaged a similar combined MPG (~25) as our minivan. I’m sure I could squeeze a bit more out of it but who drives a rental car nice? A rental is the fastest car in the world after all.
Would I buy a Hyundai Santa Fe...?
Maybe. I previously owned a 2014 Mazda CX-5 and this Santa Fe felt very similar. If I was looking at a new CUV I would definitely do more research into the Hyundai and go drive it! I don’t think the Hyundai will lose or retain much more value than a Mazda but it will probably be worth less than any Toyota or Honda. For that reason it will always need to be cheaper than the others to make any financial sense.
And I did learn one important lesson:
The Hyundai of now is not the same Hyundai as the past.
I’m thinking that next time I’m exploring the world it’s time for a sedan... or a properly big SUV... maybe something more exotic? Thoughts?