Product Reviews

Welcome to Consumer Reports.

We’re so glad to have you as a member. You now have access to benefits that can help you choose right, be safe and stay informed.
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.

Reliability

Reliability indicates how models have performed in the past, providing the basis for predicting how the vehicles will hold up in the year ahead. These charts provide the most comprehensive reliability information available to consumers. Based on information received from our latest subscriber survey, our reliability history charts give you a rundown on how used vehicles are holding up in 17 potential trouble spots, ranging from the engine, transmission, and brakes to power equipment and the electrical system.

Overall Reliability
Most Common Trouble Spots
Common Trouble Spot
Common Trouble Spot
The 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe has been recalled 4 times by NHTSA. View Recalls
Research Years *Redesign year
Worse Better
00
01*
02
03
04
05
06
07*
08
09
10
11
12
13*
14
15
16
17
18
Overall Reliability Verdict
NA
NA
NA
Potential Trouble Spots
Engine Major
NA
NA
NA
Engine Minor
NA
NA
NA
Engine Cooling
NA
NA
NA
Transmission Major
NA
NA
NA
Transmission Minor
NA
NA
NA
Drive System
NA
NA
NA
Fuel System
NA
NA
NA
Electric System
NA
NA
NA
Climate System
NA
NA
NA
Suspension
NA
NA
NA
Brakes
NA
NA
NA
Exhaust
NA
NA
NA
Paint/Trim
NA
NA
NA
Body Integrity
NA
NA
NA
Body Hardware
NA
NA
NA
Power Equipment
NA
NA
NA
In-car Electronics
NA
NA
NA
Reliability indicates how models have performed in the past, providing the basis for predicting how the vehicles will hold up in the year ahead. These charts provide the most comprehensive reliability information available to consumers. Based on information received from our latest subscriber survey for about 500,000 vehicles, our reliability history charts give you a rundown on how 2000 through 2018 vehicles are holding up in 17 potential trouble spots, ranging from the engine, transmission, and brakes to power equipment and the electrical system. NA 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.

Learn more about car Reliability.

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.

Compare 2003 Models

Similar Cars
Acura MDX
Chevrolet TrailBlazer
Ford Explorer
GMC Envoy
Honda Pilot
Hyundai Santa Fe
Lexus RX
Mercury Mountaineer
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Highlander
This score shows whether the model had more or fewer problems overall than the average model of that year, calculated from the total number of problems reported by subscribers in all 17 trouble spots.
Recalls
PROVIDED BY
SUSPENSION:FRONT:SPRINGS:COIL SPRINGS
Jul 18 2014
If the front coil spring fractures due to corrosion it could cause the coil spring to make contact with the tire, possibly puncturing the tire and increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.
Summary:
Hyundai Motor Company (Hyundai) is recalling certain model Year 2001-2006 Santa Fe vehicles manufactured from March 31, 2000, through February 15, 2006, that are registered and operated, or which were originally sold and registered, in the following 20 ¿salt belt" states and the District of Columbia: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The affected vehicles may experience front coil spring corrosion from road salt, causing the coil spring to fracture and make contact with the tire.
What should you do:
Hyundai will notify owners, and dealers will inspect and if necessary replace the coil spring, free of charge. The recall began on October 24, 2014. Owners may contact Hyundai customer service at 1-800-633-5151. Hyundai's number for this recall is 124.
For more information:
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 14V435000
Potential Number of Units Affected: 271773
SUSPENSION:REAR
Apr 16 2009
IF THE CORROSION IS ALLOWED TO PROGRESS, THE REAR TRAILING ARM MAY FRACTURE WHILE DRIVING, THEREBY INCREASING THE RISK OF A VEHICLE CRASH.
Summary:
HYUNDAI IS RECALLING 83,355 MY 2001-2003 SANTA FE VEHICLES ORIGINALLY SOLD IN OR CURRENTLY REGISTERED IN THE STATES OF CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSOURI, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, VERMONT, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN, AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. ROAD SALT APPLIED IN THESE JURISDICTIONS DURING THE WINTER MONTHS MAY RESULT IN PROGRESSIVE, INTERNAL CORROSION OF THE REAR TRAILING ARMS, WHICH COULD LEAD TO THINNING OR PERFORATION OF THE REAR TRAILING ARM STEEL. OWNERS MAY SEE OR FEEL SLIGHT TO MODERATE CHANGES IN VEHICLE OPERATION WHICH WILL INCREASE IF THE VEHICLE IS NOT REPAIRED. THESE CHANGES INCLUDE A LOWERING OF VEHICLE HEIGHT THAT CAN LEAD TO TIRE MISALIGNMENT AND STEERING PULL. OWNERS MAY ALSO NOTICE A CREAKING SOUND.
What should you do:
DEALERS WILL INSPECT THE REAR TRAILING ARMS FOR INTERNAL CORROSION DAMAGE. IF SPECIFIED LEVELS OF CORROSION DAMAGE ARE FOUND, THE REAR TRAILING ARMS WILL BE REPLACED. REAR TRAILING ARMS THAT DO NOT REQUIRE REPLACEMENT WILL HAVE DRAINAGE HOLES ADDED AND WILL BE TREATED WITH RUST-PROOFING MATERIAL TO ARREST THE CORROSION PROCESS. INSPECTION, TREATMENT AND REPLACEMENT PROCEDURES WILL BE CONDUCTED AT NO COST TO OWNERS. THE RECALL IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN DURING MAY 2009. OWNERS MAY CONTACT THE HYUNDAI CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE CENTER AT 1-800-633-5151.
For more information:
HYUNDAI RECALL NO. 090.OWNERS MAY ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), OR GO TO <A HREF=HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV>HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV</A> .
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 09V123000
Potential Number of Units Affected: 83355
SERVICE BRAKES, HYDRAULIC:ANTILOCK:CONTROL UNIT/MODULE
Mar 16 2004
IF AN EXTENDED STOPPING DISTANCE OCCURS, IT COULD RESULT IN A CRASH.
Summary:
ON CERTAIN SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES EQUIPPED WITH 3.5 LITER V-6 ENGINES, 4-WHEEL DRIVE AND ANTILOCK BRAKING SYSTEMS (ABS), IF THE BRAKE PEDAL IS DEPRESSED AT SPEEDS BETWEEN 3 AND 12 MPH WHEN THE BRAKE PAD FRICTION SURFACES ARE WET, A VIBRATION MAY OCCUR BETWEEN THE BRAKE DISCS AND PADS CAUSING ABS SENSOR ELECTRONIC SIGNAL NOISE TO DEVELOP. AT SPEEDS BELOW 5 MPH, THE ABS SENSOR SIGNAL NOISE MAY CAUSE THE ABS ELECTRONIC CONTROL UNIT (ECU) TO ACTIVATE THE ABS, EXTENDING THE STOPPING DISTANCE.
What should you do:
DEALERS WILL REPROGRAM THE ABS ECU. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON MARCH 24, 2004. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT HYUNDAI AT 1-800-633-5151.
For more information:
HYUNDAI RECALL NO. 065. CUSTOMERS CAN ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S AUTO SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236).
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 04V131000
Potential Number of Units Affected: 17401
EQUIPMENT:OTHER:LABELS
Dec 18 2003
THE TIRE PRESSURE LABELS DO NOT CONTAIN THE INFORMATION REQUIRED BY THE STANDARD.
Summary:
CERTAIN SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES FAIL TO COMPLY WITH THE REQUIREMENTS OF FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARD NO. 120, "TIRE SELECTION AND RIMS FOR MOTOR VEHICLES OTHER THAN PASSENGER CARS."
What should you do:
OWNERS WILL BE PROVIDED WITH A CORRECT LABEL AND INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS. OWNER NOTIFICATION BEGAN ON OCTOBER 29, 2003. OWNERS SHOULD CONTACT HYUNDAI AT 1-800-633-5151.
For more information:
HYUNDAI RECALL NO. 064.CUSTOMERS CAN ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S AUTO SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-DASH-2-DOT (1-888-327-4236).
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number: 03V520000
Potential Number of Units Affected: 249309
Check Vehicle for Unrepaired Recalls
Enter a valid 17-character VIN
Enter a valid 17-character VIN
Change Vehicle