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Hyundai first entrant for the booming sport utility vehicle market, the Santa Fe was introduced in 2001 specifically to appeal to the North American consumers. Configured for five-passenger capacity, the 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe was offered as a front-wheel drive or with a Fulltime 4WD system. The 2001 Santa Fes base powerplant was a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 149 horsepower and arrived standard with a five-speed manual transmission. An optional 181-horsepower 2.7-liter V-6 engine was also provided on the Hyundai Santa Fe coupled to a Shiftronic four-speed automatic transmission with manual shift override.
Standard features found on the 2001 Santa Fe included 16-inch aluminum wheels, dual front airbags, air conditioning and a stereo system with CD player. In 2003, the Hyundai Santa Fe was revised in reaction to customer demands. Changing minor items such as the way the hood opened and the size of air conditioning vents, more sizable changes to the 2003 Santa Fe resulted in standard inclusion of side impact airbags and four-wheel disc brakes. The next major change came to the Hyundai Santa Fe in 2005 with a sophisticated refresh. Along with a new grille and taillight design, the 2005 Santa Fe dropped its four-cylinder engine. The 2.7-liter V-6 became the base engine while a new 200-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 was introduced standard on the LX model.
The Hyundai Santa Fe underwent its first complete reengineering for 2007 featuring an upscale appearance and enhanced six-cylinder engine technology topped by a new 3.3-liter engine generating 242-horsepower. For 2010, the four-cylinder engine was reintroduced to the Santa Fe line-up while a six-speed automatic transmission was included on all models. For 2013, a new generation Santa Fe utilizing Hyundais Fluidic Sculpture design language and a new frame that greatly reduced the overall weight of the crossover utility vehicle. A turbocharged Santa Fe Sport model debuted for 2013 as a performance-themed version.