WHAT IT IS: Hyundai is now producing five distinct SUV models, and the Santa Fe slots in as the fourth largest of the offerings. The Santa Fe was previously available as the ‘Santa Fe XL’ with a third row of seats, but with Hyundai launching an all-new three-row SUV called the Palisade, the Santa Fe is now available only in two-row form.
The current Santa Fe was introduced as a 2019 model, so it’s very much a fresh offering. The styling fits right in line with Hyundai’s other offerings and actually looks rather aggressive from the front. My Limited 2.0T FWD test model looks remarkably similar to the base SE trim with the exception of larger wheels and roof rails added. Most of the upgrades come in the form of the interior, the technology and the engine under the hood.
The base engine is the 2.4-liter four-cylinder that generates a respectable 185 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque, while the upgraded 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder generates a heftier 235 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. As expected, the turbocharged engine is significantly faster, but only comes with a slight hit on fuel economy … assuming you can keep your foot off of the pedal. The turbo engine is available on both the SEL and Limited trims, but it’s mandatorily packaged with other options on the SEL. The cheapest SEL trim is $27,875, but the cheapest SEL 2.0T is $34,725 (which includes a bevy of niceties).
My test model was the top trim, Limited, and starts at $35,875 with the 2.4 or $37,725 for the turbo 2.0, so only a $1,850 premium. The only option available on the Limited trim is AWD, which is $1,700 extra.
The driving experience of the Santa Fe is really good. It has comfortable seats, a quiet cabin and all sorts of technology. One of my favorite safety features is Safe Exit Assist (SEA). It is an electronic child safety lock that uses radar to double-check the driver who is allowing a rear-seat passenger to exit the car. If a car is approaching, the system will actually prevent the door from opening, keeping the child safe. Other high-tech safety features, like a 360-degree, surround-view monitor, lane-keep assist, and adaptive cruise control are included as well.
One complaint about the Santa Fe is that it has slightly less cargo area than other two-row SUVs, but I didn’t really notice it lacking. The second-row seating area is comfortable for adults and folds flat to give a temporary increase in cargo space. Would it be tough to do a long-distance vacation with four adults? Maybe. But in every other situation you would be fine.
MPG: 23 combined/20 city/27 highway
PRICE: $26,125 base price. $38,7300 as-tested.
UPSIDES: Lots of tech. Comfortable ride.
WRAP-UP: There are large numbers of people out there that want an SUV but don’t need a third row and prefer a car that is more car-like in how it parks and handles, and the Santa Fe is a great choice. It’s not going to have the extreme off-road prowess that some other truck-like SUVs provide, but people rarely, if ever, use those capabilities. If I were to buy a Santa Fe, it would be hard to choose between the SEL and Limited trims, I like the flexibility of choosing what options I want, and the Limited is a trim where all of the boxes come checked by default.