The Santa Fe is an incredibly well-rounded SUV with mature styling inside and out and a surprisingly low price tag. It performed exceptionally in all crash tests and has available advanced safety technology that’s better than most. Loaded with standard features and one of the most reliable SUVs in its class, the Santa Fe is a sensible choice for your next SUV.
Hyundai and Kia are America’s fastest growing brands. For good reason, their blend of quality and affordability with upmarket design has struck a chord with American buyers. The Santa Fe is no exception. It looks better than many of the bland SUVs at its budget price point and offers exceptional safety and convenience technology without breaking the budget. A competent SUV at every trim level, the Santa Fe offers exceptional value for your dollar.
The Santa Fe is equipped with 3.3 Liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm and 252 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm. It’s mated to smooth shifting six speed automatic that does a great job of keeping the SUV in its power band. The combination is good for zero to sixty in the low 7 second range, quick but not as quick as direct competitors like the Honda Pilot and GMC Acadia that are nearly a second quicker. However, that acceleration should be quick enough for most drivers and the Santa Fe’s ride quality is superior to these competitors. In fact, the quiet, composed Santa Fe will surprise many with its deft handling and quick steering.
The electronically assisted steering system lacks the feel found in the Ford Edge or Mazda CX-9 but allows the driver to choose from multiple settings to suit their driving tastes. The brakes performed very well in both wet and dry conditions and will instill confidence that you can stop when you need to. The V6 is also rated to tow up to 5,000lbs, which is much more than many of its competitors and enough to tow a boat or medium sized trailer. If towing is a priority, the V8 equipped Dodge Durango offers higher capacity and more competent towing. The EPA rating of 17 miles per gallon city and 22 miles per gallon highway is adequate for the midsize class, but not great. However, many may prefer the V6’s additional power over some competitors’ fuel sipping 4 cylinders. The Santa Fe does an excellent job of blending performance with comfort in this midsize SUV and is a solid choice for most families.
Inside the Santa Fe, you’ll be coddled by a premium interior with premium materials. The faux wood and metal trim will fool all but the keenest eyes. There’s leather-esque material on the dash, doors, and armrests with contrasting colors and stitching. The leather seating surfaces most trims receive are generously padded and quite supportive. The second row seats are some of the most spacious in the midsize class, there are ample headroom and legroom. The bench reclines and slides to offer exceptional adjustability and superior comfort. However, even with the second row all the way forward, adults won’t find the third row comfortable. If you need a useable third row for anyone but children or sub fifteen minute trips, we’d consider the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, and Chevy Traverse. Speaking of, all these midsize SUVs also have more cargo capacity than the Santa Fe’s minimal 13.5 cubes behind the third row and respectable but smaller overall 80 cubic ft with second and third row folded.
The dash controls are large and simple with a comically large fan speed dial that will confuse no one. A common gripe from reviewers is the hard to find fuel cap release: it’s tucked beneath the driver’s armrest. The infotainment system supports Android Auto but not Apple CarPlay, curious because other Hyundai models with the same system do. Upon further research, we found Hyundai owners can add apple CarPlay with a software update done by themselves or at their dealer. IPhones can also be connected without much fuss via USB, Bluetooth, or Auxiliary input. Hyundai’s Blue Link allows you to connect your smartphone with your vehicle and use remote start or access vehicle maintenance information. A teen driver function included with this system is more advanced than most, allowing you to receive automated alerts if they go to a restricted area, surpass velocity limits, and even if they’re too far to arrive home before curfew.
“Is that the new GLE?” “Nah, actually, it’s a Hyundai Santa Fe…” “NO WAY!” We weren’t surprised by how many times we had this same conversation as our first impression of the Santa Fe was similar. The optional 19 inch wheels are stone cold replicas of the iconic AMG wheels found on many Benzes over the last decade or so. Compare the rear of the Santa Fe to the GLE and they’re very similar, the taillights are even the same shape with an inversion being the only difference. The side profiles are similar to, with the Santa Fe’s being a bit cleaner, if anything. At the front, the oversized grille flanked by LED trimmed headlamps evokes Audi-esque comparison more than the Benz but many can tell the German inspired design language is definitely there. We don’t mind, the Santa Fe is one good-looking SUV for the price, let us know if you agree in the comments below.
The 2017 model hasn’t been crash tested by the NHTSA as of the time of this writing. However, since little has changed since 2012 except for some cosmetic alterations to the interior and exterior, it’s safe to assume the 2016 model’s 5-star overall rating still applies. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has tested the 2017 model and offers its highest marks for the results, including the coveted “Top Safety Pick+” designation. The front crash prevention technology available on the Santa Fe received a “Superior” rating, the highest available. This means Hyundai’s advanced safety technology is some of the best around.
The headlights received a “Good” rating, the highest possible and one of the only vehicles we’ve reviewed that has done so. Most SUVs were awarded a “Poor” or “Marginal” rating. It’s worth noting that earlier Santa Fe models received a “Marginal” rating in the small overlap front crash test. Though these models are equipped with side curtain airbags, the dummy's head snuck through the gap between the front airbag and side curtain airbag after making brief contact with the former. The result is increased the possibility of a head injury. Many other SUVs suffer the same design flaw, so we can’t really fault Hyundai for it and they've resolved the issue for the 2017 model year. We think the Santa Fe is one of the safest midsize SUVs you can buy, so you can have peace of mind knowing you and your family are safe.
JD Power awards the Hyundai Santa Fe with 3.5 out of 5 predicted reliability rating, indicating slightly above average predicted reliability. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports offers a 4 out of 5 predicted reliability rating for 2015, 2016, and 2017 models, with very few minor complaints reported from consumers. Most were for a display screen on the infotainment system that works intermittently, a common problem across Hyundai’s line that has been more or less resolved in latest models. 2014 and earlier models suffered problems with wind noise isolation and body squeaks and rattles. Fuel systems in these models also require regular maintenance to prevent the buildup of carbons, causing a poor mix of air and fuel that leads to poor engine performance.
Our research of the NHTSA’s manufacturer communications and common complaints turned up more of the same, along with a common complaint about poor acceleration from a stop and slow speeds. Hyundai claims the problem can be resolved by a simple transmission software update available from any Hyundai dealer. The 2017 Santa Fe is subject to 4 recalls. The first is an absence of a seat belt audible warning which will be resolved by rewiring the seat belt buckle harnesses free of charge. The second is for models equipped with an accessory trailer hitch. An error in the wiring causes trailer brakes to stay illuminated, increasing the risk of an accident. Hyundai dealers will replace this hitch assembly free of charge. The third actually only affects the Santa Fe Sport model but is listed nonetheless.
It’s for a faulty tire pressure monitoring system sensor that may fail to alert the driver of a tire with low pressure. Just 190 units were affected and Hyundai will replace the sensors at no cost to the owner. The last and most recent recall affected about have a million Hyundais, the secondary hood latch may fail to keep the hood closed, causing the hood to fly up unexpectedly if the first latch is released. Hyundai will notify the affected owners and resolve the issue for free. Despite the voluminous amount of small issues, we think the Santa Fe is still more reliable than your average SUV and would recommend it to prospective buyers. We’d advise purchasing the latest year model possible to ensure many of these issues have been resolved.
The closest competitor to the Santa Fe is its corporate cousin, the Kia Sorento. While the two SUVs share many components, they’re offered with different drivetrains. The Sorento has three available engines, while the Santa Fe is only available with the 3.3 Liter V6. The V6 equipped Sorento base trim mimics the Santa Fe’s base trim rather closely in terms of features at about $2,000 dollars less. As you move up the trim levels, the Sorento continues to undercut by an increasing margin with the same features costing roughly $4,000 dollars less. Given that they share the same platform, they’re nearly identical in many aspects. They share the same safety ratings, same handling characteristics, and the same technology for the most part.
The Santa Fe receives a better standard infotainment system in its base trim. Both come with stellar reliability ratings and the same best-in-class warranty. The 4 cylinder Sorento will save you money at the pump but may disappoint many drivers with its sluggish performance. These two SUVs are so closely matched that deciding between the two will probably come down to taste preference. The Hyundai has a more conservative exterior design with a higher quality interior, while the Kia sports an edgier design. We have a tough time deciding, which would you choose and why? Let us know in the comments below.
The SE trim Santa Fe starts at $30,800 and includes a 3.3 Liter Dual Overhead Cam 24 valve V6, 6-speed automatic transmission with Shiftronic and Active ECO system, 18 inch alloy wheels, rearview camera, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Driver’s knee airbag, side curtain airbags, rollover sensors, premium rear fascia, roof rack side rails, body color dual power manual folding side mirrors, heated side mirrors, body color rear spoiler with LED center high mount stop light, chrome door handles, chrome tipped dual exhaust, front solar glass, rear privacy glass, projector headlights with LED accents, automatic headlight control, LED daytime running lights, dual front automatic temperature control with CleanAir Ionizer, rear seat ventilation, YES essentials stain-resistant cloth seating, 8-way power driver seat with 4-way power lumbar support, seat back pockets, 40/20/20 split folding 2nd-row seating, split-folding 3rd-row seating, cargo area releases, tilt and telescopic steering column, sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, illuminated ignition, Hyundai Blue Link connected car system, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, 6-speaker audio system, SiriusXM, HD radio with multicasting, Smartphone USB and auxiliary jacks, Android Auto, 7 inch display audio system, and America’s best warranty. All Wheel Drive is an extra $1,700.
The sole Premium Package for SE runs $3,650 and installs Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, dual power side mirrors with turn signal indicators, hands-free smart liftgate with auto open, proximity key entry with push button start, 6-way power front passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, auto-dimming interior mirror with HomeLink, compass, electroluminescent gauge cluster with driver information display, manual rear side window sunshades, premium door sill plates, 3rd-row USB outlet, and front LED fog lights.
The Limited trim begins at $34,950 and adds Blind Spot Detection, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist, side mirror turn signal indicators, LED taillights, LED fog lights, proximity key entry with push button start, hands-free smart liftgate with auto open, leather seating surfaces, 6 passenger seating with 2nd-row captain’s chairs, 4-way power front passenger seat with power height adjustment, heated front seats, 3rd-row USB, premium door sill plates, manual rear side window sunshades, an electroluminescent gauge cluster with color LCD multi-information display. No additional packages can be added but All Wheel Drive can be equipped for $1,750.
The $38,700 SE Ultimate trim equips 19 inch alloys, rear parking sensors, multi-view camera system, panoramic sunroof, 7 passenger seating, integrated memory system for driver seat and side mirrors, heated 2nd-row seats, ventilated front seats, 115 volt power inverter, heated steering wheel, Infinity premium audio with Quantum Logic surround and Clari-fi music restoration technology, and 8 inch touchscreen navigation. All Wheel Drive can be installed for $1,750. The $2,100 Tech Package for SE Ultimate supplies Smart Cruise Control with stop/start, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake with automatic vehicle hold, High Intensity Discharge headlights, Dynamic Bending Light, and High Beam Assist.
The Limited Ultimate trim lever provides premium exterior door trim with silver painted accents, LED taillights, and 6 passenger seating with second-row captain’s chairs for $39,400. The Tech Package for Limited Ultimate supplies Smart Cruise Control with stop/start, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic Parking Brake with automatic vehicle hold, High Intensity Discharge headlights, Dynamic Bending Light, and High Beam Assist for $2,100.