The 2nd Gen Hyundai Santa Fe was awarded 2008 Consumer Reports "top pick" and was among the top 10 vehicles for 2008 unveiled in the magazine's issue. The magazine's annual ratings, based on road tests and predicted safety and reliability, are considered highly influential among consumers.
In its first year in production, the Santa Fe was offered with one of two engine and transmission combinations. In North America, a fuel-efficient although underpowered 2.4L four cylinder engine was standard equipment and could be mated with either a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. A 2.7L (2656cc, 162cuin) Delta V6 offered more power than the four-cylinder but was only available with the automatic. Front wheel drive was standard (with traction control optional with the V6) and 4WD was optional. A 2.0L Common Rail Turbo Diesel (CRTD) was offered outside the United States. Australian Santa Fes went on sale in November 2000 with only one engine/transmission choice - a 2.7L V6 mated to a four-speed semi-automatic transmission. 4WD was standard. A cheaper 2.4L four cylinder joined the range several months later in 2001, but was only available with a manual transmission.
The Santa Fe entered its second year without any changes. Demand for the Santa Fe continued to be up but owners had several suggested changes for Hyundai.
In a rare mid-year model change, Hyundai increased the size of the fuel tank from 17 to 19 U.S. gallons and reorganized the location of the badges on the tailgate. The interior layout of the console and the position of the clock were also changed.
In 2003, Hyundai responded to some of the customer complaints and suggestions such as the fact that the hood used a prop and not gas struts, there was no light in the glove compartment, and the car itself did not have enough power. In 2003, Hyundai introduced the 3.5 liter V6 in addition to the other two gas engines in North America. The bigger engine came with a computer-controlled four-wheel drive system. Automatic transmission models were given a chrome shift gate surround as opposed to the matte silver plastic style used in the 2001 and 2002 models. A Monsoon high-performance sound system came standard on the mid-level GLS model and came with a 6-disc CD changer on the top-tier LX. Rounding out the changes in the 2003 model was the discontinuation of the highly unpopular Pine Green which in some owner circles has gained the nickname 'Yucky Green'. In Australia, the four cylinder Santa Fe was dropped in 2003, due to slow sales, leaving the 2.7L V6 automatic as the only model.