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The Santa Fe is a well-equipped and pleasant car-based SUV that rides comfortably and quietly. It also has a refined powertrain and a nicely finished cabin. Handling is not particularly agile, though secure. Further, weight takes a toll on acceleration and fuel economy, plus interior volume is less roomy than it might appear to be on the outside. A tip-up in government rollover tests is cause for concern.
Alerts
There are 4 recalls on this vehicle. Learn More.

Road Test Results

Performance
Acceleration Acceleration Acceleration tests are conducted on a smooth, flat pavement straightaway at the track. Time, speed, and distance measurements are taken with a precise GPS-based device that’s hooked to a data-logging computer.
0 to 60 mph 0 to 60 mph (sec.) The time in seconds that a vehicle takes to reach 60 mph from a standstill with the engine idling.
Transmission Transmission Transmission performance is determined by shifting smoothness, response, shifter action, and clutch actuation for manual transmissions.
Fuel Economy Fuel Economy We perform our own fuel-economy tests, independent of the government's often-quoted EPA figures and the manufacturers' claims. Using a precise fuel-flow measuring device spliced into the fuel line, we run two separate circuits to represent city and highway consumption.
CR's Overall Mileage CR's Overall Mileage CR's overall mileage is a composite of measured fuel usage on a prescribed city course and highway cruising; and CR's 150-mile test trip of mixed driving, if tested. In recent road tests, we've discontinued the 150-mile trip test.
CR's City Mileage CR's City Mileage Measured fuel usage on a prescribed city course.
CR's Highway Mileage CR's Highway Mileage Measured fuel usage on a prescribed highway cruising.
Annual Fuel Cost Annual Fuel Cost The cost and amount of fuel used in 12,000 miles and is calculated from CR's overall mileage.
Braking Braking The braking rating is a composite of wet and dry stopping distances and pedal feel. Braking distance is from 60 mph, with no wheels locked.
Emergency Handling Emergency Handling Several factors go into the rating, including the avoidance maneuver speed and confidence, as well as how the vehicle behaves when pushed to its limit,
Comfort / Convenience
Ride Ride Our expert judgment of how well the suspension isolates and absorbs road imperfections and how steady it keeps the body on various road surfaces.
Noise Noise Our expert judgment of the vehicle's interior noise level in everyday driving.
Front Seat Comfort Front Seat Comfort Our judgment of how comfortable the front seat is for drivers of various heights.
Rear Seat Comfort Rear Seat Comfort Our judgment of how comfortable the rear seat is for two passengers to sit across.
Interior Fit and Finish Interior Fit and Finish An expert evaluation of the interior quality and craftsmanship.
Trunk/Cargo Area Trunk/Cargo Area Our rating is based on the amount of luggage or cargo space that a vehicle has in the trunk or cargo area.

Owner Reports

Worse Better
Reliability History Reliability History The reliability charts are based on responses on hundreds of thousands of vehicles from our latest Annual Auto Survey. Consumer Reports subscribers reported on any serious problems they had with their vehicles during the past 12 months that they considered serious because of cost, failure, safety, or downtime, in any of the trouble spots included in the table below. The results are presented relative to the average model that year. Extra weight is given to the more serious areas such as major engine or transmission problems. Based on this data and further analysis, we predict reliability for the latest year. N/A indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.
2000
2001
NA
2002
NA
2003
2004
2005
2006
NA
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Reliability Trouble Spots
Engine Major Engine Major Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.
Engine Minor Engine Minor Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.
Engine Cooling Engine Cooling Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.
Transmission Major Transmission Major Transmission rebuild or replacement, torque converter, clutch replacement.
Owner Satisfaction Owner Satisfaction To learn about satisfaction, CR has collected survey data from our annual survey on more than half a million vehicles. Our subscribers provide great insights into their satisfaction by answering one simple question: If they had it to do all over again, would they definitely buy or lease the same model? In addition, respondents also rate their cars in six categories: driving experience, comfort, value, styling, audio, and climate systems. N/A indicates that we did not receive a large enough sample size to provide data for a specific year. An X indicates that the vehicle was not manufactured for a specific year.
2000
2001
NA
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
Driving Experience Driving Experience Includes acceleration and handling
NA
Comfort Comfort Includes seats, climate control, noise, and ride
NA
Value Value Did you get what you wanted relative to the price you paid?
NA
Styling Styling How it looks inside and out
NA
Safety Equipment
ABS available, standard from 2005. Side air bags standard from 2003. Head protection air bags and ESC standard from 2007.
Road Test

The Santa Fe is a well-equipped and pleasant car-based SUV that rides comfortably and quietly. It also has a refined powertrain and a nicely finished cabin. Handling is not particularly agile, though secure. Further, weight takes a toll on acceleration and fuel economy, plus interior volume is less roomy than it might appear to be on the outside. A tip-up in government rollover tests is cause for concern.

Seating
2 front, 3 rear
Drive Wheels
AWD , Front
Warranty

In most cases, automotive warranties are based on the vehicle identification number (VIN), and the warranty will be valid regardless of ownership. The dealership can tell you exactly how much warranty is left.

Read more about extended warranties
Body Styles
4-door SUV
Transmissions Available
  • 5-speed Manual
  • 5-speed Automatic
  • 4-speed Automatic
Engines Available
  • 2.4-liter 4 (138 hp)
  • 2.7-liter V6 (170 hp)
  • 3.5-liter V6 (200 hp)

Owner Reported Trouble Spots

The Reliability score is based on our latest subscriber survey of 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe owners. The owner comments describe problems respondents experienced with this vehicle.

Suspension

Shocks or struts, ball joints, tie rods, wheel bearings, alignment, steering linkage (includes rack and pinion), power steering (pumps and hoses, leaks), wheel balance, springs or torsion bars, bushings, electronic or air suspension.

What Owners Say

Alignment

“tie rod attachment required welding a support plate to secure the tie rod”

Ronald S., MI (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)
Ball joints

“Experienced broken ball joint”

Anonymous, SC (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)
Electronic or air suspension

“Erratic engine necessitated a new electronic engine control”

J L., QC (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 3.5-L V6)

“minor leak in power steering pump & hose. Not serious yet”

Anonymous, FL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“Steering pump and hose had to be replaced”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“was loosing fluid and the power steering would phase in and out”

Craig B., AR (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 2.7-L V6)

“original equipment pump stopped working after 13 years of service”

Bruce F., NH (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)

“premature. should have lasted longer”

Vincent A., NV (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“Various Service advisors showed me dry oil on side one rear shock and bumps on that tire and advised I had rear shocks replaced. Pep Boys installed Monroe shocks and they squeak on every bump. Probably 400 miles now and still squeak. Left at pep boys all day and nobody knows a thing about it”

Alan W., CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 3.5-L V6)
Springs or torsion bars

“Broken spring. Hyundai replaced under a safety recall. Added collars aroung springs to prevent broken spring from damaging tires”

Anonymous, NJ (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)

“One front spring broke. The broken spring pierced the associated tire. Car was towed to dealer. Both front springs were replaced on a recall unknown to me. I had to pay for the towing and for two new front tires”

J L., QC (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 3.5-L V6)
Steering linkage (includes rack and pinion)

“Tie rod anchored to frame rusted allowing wheel mis-alignment & tire wear”

Ronald S., MI (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“Replaced the rack and pinion unit due to hard steering”

Craig B., AR (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 2.7-L V6)

Climate System

Blower (fan) motor, A/C compressor, condenser, evaporator, heater system, automatic climate control, refrigerant leakage, electrical failure.

What Owners Say

“would not hold freon”

Anonymous, AZ (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure Unsure)

“No longer cooling, persistent coolant leak”

Debra B., AL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL Unsure)

“Started making a horrible continuous clanging sound but car was driveable. Compressor was replaced for $800 including parts and labor at the dealer”

Anonymous, NV (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“i think that having to replace the entire air conditioning system was way too costly and happened outside my warranty much inconvienient”

Vincent A., NV (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“Compressor locked up and had to be replaced”

David C., GA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 3.5-L V6)
Blower (fan) motor

“blower motor seized and blew fuse”

Sammy M., NY (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)

“The fan stopped working, apparently due to an electrical problem. My mechanic fixed it”

Traci B., NH (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“Replaced HP line”

Anonymous, WA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“Evap leaks, needs fixing”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

Paint/Trim

Paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling), loose interior and exterior trim or moldings, rust.

What Owners Say

Paint (fading, chalking, cracking, or peeling)

“black trim around windows, has faded, and rusted”

Anonymous, FL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 2.7-L V6)

“Disintegration of clear coat paint began prior to the year, but has increased rapidly”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“The paint completely failed starting at about 8 yeas of age. Primarily clear coat delamination”

Anonymous, NC (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“The paint on my car is totally messed up! It is peeling in too many places to mention”

Sandra N., IL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

“Oxydized outer clear coat resulting in paint peeling”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 3.5-L V6)

“I have had my car detailed once or twice a year since it was new. It is garaged at home. Yet I have fading in several places”

William W., CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“rust problem is so bad that the gas tank fell out onto to the drive shaft so it could not be moved at a gas station while getting gas. this vehicle was recalled by Hyundai for front springs and they give me a report saying it was unsafe to drive! bra”

Kurt V., NJ (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

Electric System

Alternator, starter, hybrid battery and related systems, regular battery, battery cables, engine harness, coil, ignition switch, electronic ignition, distributor or rotor failure, spark plugs and wires failure.

What Owners Say

Clock

“Runs but doesn't keep correct time and doesn't set”

Anonymous, ME (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

“Low beam bulbs burned out. High beams worked correctly”

Anonymous, NM (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

“Low voltage to one headlight,”

Gary P., FL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)
Interior lights

“Interior ligths do not come on when door is open.Might be bulbs but I haven't had them checked”

Anonymous, ME (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

Body Hardware

Power or manual windows, locks and latches, tailgate, hatch or trunk, doors or sliding doors, mirrors, seat controls, safety belts, sunroof, convertible top.

What Owners Say

“Doors will not reliably lock or unlock when interior lock/unlock buttons are pushed”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“My driver's side front door had intermittent failure of automatic locking from the beginning. Naturally, it never occurred when the service department checked it out. It quit working on that door completely about 3 years ago”

William W., CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“Had to replace tailgate lift pistons”

Anonymous, NC (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)

“Had to remove cover to manual unlock trunk”

Anonymous, VT (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 2.7-L V6)

Brakes

Antilock system (ABS), parking brake, master cylinder, calipers, rotors, pulsation or vibration, squeaking, brake failure or wear.

What Owners Say

“Left front Caliper seized and needed replacing”

Anonymous, IL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.7-L V6)
Normal routine brake wear

“Normal break wear - had to get new pads and shoes this year”

Traci B., NH (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“Replaced brakes after 100,000 kl”

Anonymous, ON (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure Unsure)
Parking brake

“brake linings fell off shoes and jamed in rotor a lot of fun getting it apart. and it destroyed the rotor. also factory pads are no good bonding comes apart. in 73000 miles I have replaced 3 sets of rotors!”

Kurt V., NJ (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

Body Integrity

Squeaks, rattles, wind noises, loose or cracked seals and/or weather-stripping, air and water leaks.

What Owners Say

“My car has always squeaked and rattled, but since it is over 12 years old now, it is so much worse”

Sandra N., IL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.7-L V6)

“Exhaust issues”

Kathryn H., CO (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)
Air or water leaks

“Water pump failure”

Anonymous, VA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 2.7-L V6)

Engine Minor

Accessory belts and pulleys, engine computer, engine mounts, engine knock or ping, oil leaks.

What Owners Say

Oil leaks

“Thanks to a hidden small part wearing down on the oil pump, it had to be taken apart and repaired, resulting in costly labor charges. Poor design”

James H., OH (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)

“The cost to repair was approx $600 parts and labor”

Anonymous, TX (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“Oil pan developed a bad leak and was replaced with new pan and gasket”

Anonymous, MA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)

Exhaust

Muffler, pipes, catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, leaks.

What Owners Say

“Catalytic converter had to me replaced. Very expensive”

Anonymous, VA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)

“Noise”

Kathryn H., CO (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)
Pipes

“rusted out between converters”

Lee S., MI (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)

Fuel System

Check engine light, sensors (includes O2 or oxygen sensor), emission control devices (includes EGR), engine computer, engine computer, fuel cap, fuel gauge/sender, fuel injection system, fuel pump, fuel leaks, stalling or hesitation.

What Owners Say

Emission control devices (includes EGR)

“The 'Check Engine' light has come on 4 different times all centering around the Emission System”

Anonymous, FL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)
Fuel gauge/sender

“Mearures higher than actual”

Anonymous, SC (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 2.3-L 4 Cyl)

“I couldn't pass the emission test and I needed 4 sensors replaced. Finally I passed”

Anonymous, IN (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe Unsure 3.5-L V6)

Power Equipment

Cruise control, clock, warning lights, body control module, keyless entry, wiper motor or washer, tire pressure monitor, interior or exterior lights, horn, gauges, 12V power plug, remote engine start, alarm or security system

What Owners Say

Coil

“This engine has three dual coils, each providing spark to two cylinders. I have no recollection of replacing any of them in 170000 miles, but the $900 tuneup was hefty. Amortized over 11 years? Not so bad, I guess”

James H., OH (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)

“N/A”

Alberto G., CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 2.7-L V6)
Starter

“Starter went out gradually. Caused battery failure. Alternator went out at about the same time”

Anonymous, CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 3.5-L V6)

Drive System

Driveshaft or axle, CV joint, differential, transfer case, 4WD/AWD components, driveline vibration, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC), electrical failure.

What Owners Say

“N/A”

Alberto G., CA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 2.7-L V6)
CV joint

“leaking”

Mary V., FL (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe LX 3.5-L V6)

Engine Cooling

Radiator, cooling fan, antifreeze leaks, water pump, thermostat, overheating.

What Owners Say

Radiator

“Had the radiator replaced and thermostat”

Stephen M., WA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)

Transmission Minor

Gear selector or linkage, leaks, transmission computer, transmission sensor or solenoid, clutch adjustment, rough shifting, slipping transmission.

What Owners Say

Rough shifting

“Between 2nd and 3rd gear”

Anonymous, VT (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GL 2.7-L V6)

Engine Major

Engine rebuild or replacement, cylinder head, head gasket, turbo or supercharger, timing chain or timing belt.

What Owners Say

Cylinder head

“Bad intake cam lobe on #2 cylinder two dealers couldn't figure it out finally took it to my independent shop and they didn't give up until they found the problem”

Stephen M., WA (2003 Hyundai Santa Fe GLS 3.5-L V6)

In-car Electronics

CD or DVD players, radio, speakers, GPS, communication system (e.g., OnStar), display screen freezes or goes blank, phone pairing (e.g. Bluetooth), voice control commands, steering wheel controls, portable music device interface (e.g., iPod/MP3 player), backup or other camera/sensors.

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