Home » Ads That Made Me Giggle: 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe vs 1999 Subaru Forester

Ads That Made Me Giggle: 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe vs 1999 Subaru Forester

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Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown! It’s Wednesday, which means we’re halfway to the weekend. Today’s cars have ads with something that amused me in them. Nothing more, nothing less. Before we get to them, let’s see what you did with yesterday’s convertibles:

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Whoo! This one’s tighter than an Arizona Senate race. But as of this writing, the Sky has the win by four votes. Personally, I’d prefer the Sebring. I have a fun sports car; a relaxed cruiser sounds nice, and not boring at all.

Anyway, moving on: Despite how it may seem, there is very little art and almost no science involved in choosing the cars for this feature. I find one car that catches my fancy, then go looking for a mate for it. Today’s choices were inspired by a typo (or possibly auto-correct?) that literally made me laugh out loud. Let’s take a look.

2001 Hyundai Santa Fe – $1,899

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.7 liter DOHC V6, 4 speed automatic, AWD

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Odometer reading: 187,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep

Hyundai’s long road to being taken seriously took a big step forward in 2001 when the brand introduced the Santa Fe, its first SUV, technically a crossover because of its car-derived platform. While it was a bit crude and plain compared to the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV, it was cheaper. It was a formula that had worked for Hyundai in the past, and it worked again. The Santa Fe was a hit.

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This is a pretty fancy Santa Fe, with the V6 engine, what look like leather/suede seats, power windows and locks, functional air conditioning, and that’s not nearly all: “tainted windows.” Sometimes I feel I’ve got to (clap, clap) roll you down…

[Editor’s Note: I don’t get the joke. -DT]

[Editor’s Note: I’m so not surprised. – JT]

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References to ’80s Brit-pop notwithstanding [Editor’s Note: Ah, that explains it. -DT], this ad definitely is not giving us the “Soft Sell.” The listing has lots of capitalization, more than one double exclamation point, and yet glosses over a failing transmission solenoid pack as “needs TLC.” Yeah, that’s a bit more involved than a bath and an oil change. And I bet there’s a warning light or two on the dash because of it. But the seller says they drive it daily “AS IS,” bald tires and all.

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Anyway, if you want a little gold-colored Korean SUV crossover thingy, here you go. I give you all an author can give you.

1999 Subaru Forester – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.5 liter SOHC flat 4, 4 speed automatic, AWD

Location: Healdsburg, CA

Odometer reading: 204,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes indeed

This is a car I’ve never owned, and almost certainly never will own, but I feel like I know it, or at least I know everything I feel I need to know. First-generation Subaru Foresters are still everywhere here in Portland; you can’t throw a rock without hitting one. (Believe me, I’ve tried). Looking at this car, I can practically see the cloud of vape smoke billowing out of the window, and smell the faint whiff of leaking coolant.

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They do seem to be good cars, though. This one boasts over 200,000 miles on its odometer and just made an uneventful trip from Colorado to northern California. It has new tires, and a working tape deck. And it sounds like they’re throwing in some cassettes for it as well, “if you consider this a bonus.” No word on what they are, but any fan of Good Omens knows that by now, they’re all Queen’s Greatest Hits anyway.

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Inside, it actually looks pretty good for such an old car. It could use a cleaning, but the upholstery is intact, and nothing looks egregiously broken. The outside isn’t quite as impressive; it has some nasty corrosion in the rear wheel arches, and probably elsewhere as well. That graying black plastic cladding is likely hiding some ugliness. I wonder if one of the included tapes is Rust Never Sleeps?

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I confess I am not a fan of Subaru in general, but the people who have these things seem to really love them. I’m not sure this one has two thousand dollars’ worth of life left in it, but I guess if somebody does, more power to them.

And that’s what we’ve got to work with: a questionable transmission or early-stage terminal rust. Choose carefully.


(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)


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49 Responses

  1. Easy win for the Forester. These are just rock solid cars…Mr. Regular’s time with Goldie has told me all I need to know about them, although I do take his fawning with a grain of salt as he’s a Japanese car fanboy to the core. But at the end of the day these are simple, attractive, well built cars.

    There are also infinite pages of forums to pour over whenever something goes wrong and a plethora of parts out there. It won’t be a fun car, but it’ll be a car. Even as a current Hyundai owner there’s no way in hell I’d touch a 20 year old one. This gen of Santa Fe has aged better than I thought it would be it’s still a precursor to the overstyled blob crossover hell world we inhabit today, and therefore I dislike it.

    But really…if you’re going to buy a Hyundai buy it new. Their current designs are pretty neat across the board and they have some captivating enthusiast options (ask my how I know) in addition to some endearingly weird stuff…but they’re not out of the reliability woods yet by any stretch of the imagination.

    1. I’m fairly certain the pre-GDI Hyundais, especially the V6s in the 2000s, are known for being pretty stout and firmly reliable with a minimal amount of maintenance. Sure, it won’t have been as nicely put together as the Subaru, but for daily transport it looks way less rough and I don’t see why it wouldn’t just keep going with some cheap gas and consistent oil changes. It’s the 2009-2019 Hyundai/Kia products that I’m extremely wary of and wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

  2. I just finished my morning coffee, so I might be ready to make a hard decision, which this certainly is.

    For some reason, I’ve always enjoyed the design of the 1st gen (SF) Forester. To me, it really captured the look of one of the 90s Japanese SUVs, but with a smaller footprint and better mileage (if only slightly). The basic interior design was a good fit and also something I appreciated, even the wacky upholstery. But man, although this is definitely saveable, it’s pretty far gone. I’d have go to junkyard diving to properly fix up that worn front fascia. I don’t know if the seller liked to tail gravel trucks or what, but geez, that face. Hopefully it’s already had its first HG repair done.

    This generation Hyundai Santa Fe never did much to ever quicken my pulse while the interior design manages to be obtrusively plain and boring. That said, I’ve known a few people who’ve owned and operated these for years with hardly any trouble at all. So if you have no passion but still need transportation, well, this is it. Plus, it’s got lower mileage and is cheaper.

    Sigh. A begrudging vote for…the Hyundai. Damn.

  3. As a native Coloradan, I went with the Forester. Plenty of them in junkyards around here and I can always sell it in one of the college towns if need be. Plus I wouldn’t dare bring home the Santa Fe as Mrs. Go is a diehard fan of early Toyota Highlanders (hers is a 2004).

  4. Forester all day every day…
    I had a 2003, great car, leather, sunroof well optioned all the way around. My wife drove it for some time before she got a used Baja turbo (yes we’re in the cult) and the boy drove the Forester. These cars have their foibles but answers are always just a click away, and in the Forester maintenance space is generous. Then the cam tensioner let go.. Rather than scrap a great body and interior for a potentially wrecked engine , I found this shabby ex-Air Force mechanic and his smelly bother to rebuild the engine. The house smelled of old hamburger, cigarettes and cat, but the shop was immaculate and every tool was in its place and clean. I received no fewer than 250 photos of the tear down/ rebuild all for the princely sum of $1900. The car continued trouble free, only needing wear items until the kid totaled it. When I arrived at the scene I asked where the third car was because the Forester had a dented hood, a crumpled fender and maybe a broken control arm, no air bag deployment. “There isn’t a third car” Then what did THAT? I asked pointing to the absolutely ruined Infinity, the entire front section of the car was destroyed. The car was totaled because all the forces that destroyed the Infinity went into the frame and suspension, and the insurance company wasn’t going to touch the frame. (I did think about it.. ) Subarus are definitely the devil you know sort of vehicle, pretty sure I won’t own another car, after your 6th you kind of forget that you could, I suppose buy another brand of car. But why?

  5. My wife and I test drove those both in 2001. The only reason we didn’t get the Santa Fe was that we were still hesitant about the long term reliability. In 2009 we got a new Santa Fe and we still have it.

    The Forester was surprisingly snug inside and our elbows were constantly bumping on the test drive. We decided to get a Subaru Legacy wagon instead, and got the joys of head gasket failure without elbows bumping. Has the head gasket been replaced? Do they have records on what materials they used?

    The Hyundai V6 of that era has a timing belt with a 60,000 mile service interval. Has it been done recently? If not, discount appropriately. The seat covers look like they were professionally installed, even if they look wacky. Also get it inspected to see if it is just a transmission solenoid.

    I would stay away from the Forester just for the head gasket issue. If the Hyundai has had a recent timing belt service, if it is just a transmission solenoid, and the interior and exterior are as clean as it looks, then get it.

  6. The pos Santa Fe could be priced 1/3 of the Subie. Even with the rust it’s a no brainer. Would rather help Tracy wrench for a month in the Outback than consider this lame reject from the BHPH lot….

  7. The subie has a lot of problems (rust? in CO? hmmm), but all of these are fixable, and more importantly have a history of being successfully solved via forum posts. Also any of the major issues like head gaskets would have already happened if they were going to happen, so its probably got basic reliability sorted for a while.

    The Hyundai is just a an expensive bomb waiting to go off, and a bad transmission solenoid is the hissing of the fuse. Hyundai might have their stuff sorted out now, but turn of the millenium Hyundai? Not a chance. Forester here, easily.

    1. The Forester may not have really been a CO car. The plate number indicates the car was registered in CO relatively recently, either from a new owner or the existing owner moving to CO.

  8. the rust out back on the subie scares me. also turn of the century Subaru reliability is definitely something to question. but honestly both are pretty scary in that arena.

  9. I don’t know how it is in Colorado. But here in Massachusetts, the worst drivers are Forrester drivers. The people who are driving slow in places where it’s inappropriate (like the left lane). Or driving way over to the right side of the lane because they’re afraid of oncoming traffic. Or swerving off into the shoulder when the person in front of them steps on the brakes because they’re scared of crashing even though they have plenty of time and room to stop safely. Or stopping to let people turn left in front of them when they have a line of traffic behind them and the right of way. Or just generally being unaware of the world around them. Those people. That’s who Forrester people are.

    And for that reason alone, this thing should BURN.

    1. Ahh, a fellow Masshole. Know what’s worse than the asshats with Scoobies? The damn Honda drivers with the clapped out Civics, and Acuras with the ultra loud exhaust, slammed stance.

      And they all drive around with their high beams on at all times, with their 8k HIDs on full blinding blast. But I get flashed and honked at if I throw on my high beams, use the cool little headlight adjustment feature on my Tundra to point em right in their face

  10. Forrester for me. I’m familiar with Subaru, and their automatics are fairly stout. That said, the Santa Fe is not a throwaway vehicle like the 80s & 90s Hyundais appeared to be (half of them seemed to have sooted/oiled rear bumpers by their 3rd oil change). I helped with a timing belt on an early one like this, and came away thinking that, if I needed a cuv, it would be fine

  11. I feel like the Santa Fe is the safer bet of the two, but my problem here is that for me, “tainted windows” evoked an image of windows that had been stained by someone’s taint. I don’t think there’s enough Windex in the universe to wash that away.

  12. There was a weird point of time, I think around the mid-’00s, where cars with in-dash cassette decks were mildly coveted. It was that point where people were starting to ditch their CDs and listen to music mainly on MP3 players and phones but Bluetooth and even aux-in jacks weren’t yet ubiquitous. If your car only had an in-dash CD player, there was no easy way* to stream your tunes from your MP3 player / phone to your car speakers, but if you had an in-dash tape deck, you could use one of those funny cassette adapters** with a headphone jack “tail”. Just plug it into your music device of choice (in the early ’90s it was a Discman, but in the mid-’00s it was an MP3 player) and rock out.

    That’s to say that the Subaru seller’s cassette tape collection isn’t necessarily a plus, but the tape deck could be, depending upon your perspective.

    I don’t have an intelligent opinion on which car I like over the other. I just wanted to reminisce about car audio and assorted janky adapters for a bit.

    *You could get one of those FM transmitter deals, but my experience with them has been pretty frustrating.
    **For the longest time, I never really understood how these worked and assumed them to be some type of black magic. Technology Connections did a nice video relatively recently about just how simply they operate.

  13. Rust is the devil, but in this case it’s the devil I know. The Santa Fe needs transmission work and new tires. If you have the scratch to take care of those issues, you’d be much better off using that money on a car that is less fucked up. So I’d take the fully functioning Forester and drive it until the rust makes it unfit for further use.

  14. That’s a lot of rust for the west coast! That Forester is worse than my 98 on the east coast!

    Starting in 2001, the Forester became available with a giant sunroof, which they still offer to this day. If I were to get another Forester, it’d be a 01-02 with the sunroof

    1. Careful with that roof if you don’t maintain it properly it will get stuck open. NEVER EVER open it when cold … even cool can cause it to bind and lube it twice a year.

    1. Well played for a Wednesday.

      Here in the States, I always thought they turn into Van Halen (“not Van Haggar!!”) somehow, especially if left in a domestic. And no…if it’s a Camaro or Mustang, that’s how they came in.

          1. When I get high I get high on speed
            Top fuel funny car’s a drug for me
            My heart, my heart
            Kick start my heart
            Always got the cops coming after me
            Custom-built bike doing 103
            My heart, my heart
            Kick start my heart

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