The Santa Fe soldiers on essentially unchanged for the current model year.
While they both ride on a sturdy, lightweight version of the platform used by the Kia Sorento (Kia is partially owned by Hyundai), the Santa Fe has a four-inch longer wheelbase than the Sport and is nearly nine inches lengthier overall. That additional space is sufficient to house a third-row seat, which ups passenger capacity to six or seven depending on whether a bench seat or captain's chairs are specified for the second row.
Up front, the driver faces a flowing, organically-shaped dashboard that can be fitted with an optional eight-inch touchscreen navigation system. Second-row passengers enjoy stretch-out space, including more legroom than the full-size Chevrolet Traverse. The third-row seats, however, are best reserved for children, though they can fit small adults for short journeys.
Cargo space is ample for a midsize 'ute: 13.4 cubic feet are available behind the third-row seat, 41 with the third-row folded, and 80 with all but the first-row seats folded flat. Extra carrying capacity for all kinds of smaller items is provided by an oversized central storage console, a front storage bin and an under-floor storage space, and a cooled glovebox and numerous cupholders are present for beverage hauling.
In addition to the aforementioned navigation system, the Santa Fe offers technology features such as a standard Bluetooth hands-free phone system with audio streaming and an optional Blue Link telematics service with voice text messaging, points-of-interest web search download, automatic collision notification and more. Four different sound systems are available, ranging from a basic six-speaker unit to a 12-speaker, 550-watt Infinity Logic 7 setup.
The Santa Fe comes standard with a direct-injection 3.3-liter V6 that produces a healthy 290 horsepower to go along with 252 lb-ft of torque. This engine mates to a six-speed automatic transmission, and the pair is good for 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway with front-wheel-drive.
Those looking for extra foul-weather security can opt for all-wheel-drive, which provides extra traction in return for a drop in fuel economy. The AWD system is a sophisticated unit with an "intelligent control unit" and a multi-clutch plate that can distribute torque to any wheel as necessitated by driving conditions, and brake force can also be sent to any single wheel through the software system. Together, these features help to ensure optimal traction as well as neutral handling.
New to the Santa Fe is a driver selectable steering system, which allows the driver to tailor steering heft to suit his or her preferences.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Santa Fe is available in SE and Limited trims, with an "Ultimate" upgrade available for both. Additional option packages are also available depending on grade.
The SE model comes in a seven-seat configuration. Standard equipment on the SE includes a rearview camera, hill start assist, roof cargo side rails, heated exterior mirrors, a rear wiper/washer, automatic projector headlamps with LED accents, LED DRLs, dual automatic climate control with filtering, stain-resistant cloth seating surfaces, an eight-way power driver's seat and four-way power passenger seat, a 40/20/40-split-folding and sliding center row, 4 12V power outlets (2 front, 1 center, 1 cargo), driver/passenger auto up/down power windows, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, sunvisors with illuminated vanity mirrors and an AM/FM/CD/HD/USB/MP3 six-speaker audio system with auxiliary input and a 7" color display.
A Premium package is available for SE-trim cars, and it adds a suite of advanced safety features (blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane change assist), leather seating surfaces (with heated seats in front), a hands-free smart liftgate, an auto-dimming interior mirror, rear side window sunshades, a six-way power passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a third-row USB outlet and front LED fog lights.
The SE Ultimate adds 19" wheels, rear parking sensors, a multi-view camera system, standard leather seats, seating and side mirror memory, standard heated seats in the front and second row and ventilated seats in the front row, a heated and leather-wrapped wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob and an Infinity premium audio system upgrade with an 8" touchscreen display.
A tech package for the SE Ultimate adds more advanced safety features, including smart cruise control with stop/start, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, an electronic parking brake with auto-hold and dynamic HID headlamps with high beam assist.
The Limited grade follows the same pattern as the SE (Limited + Premium, Limited Ultimate, Limited Ultimate + Tech), but comes in a six-seat configuration with second-row captain's chairs.
All Santa Fe models are fitted as standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to a driver's knee airbag, traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Advanced safety features, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change assist, including smart cruise control with stop/start, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, an electronic parking brake with auto-hold and dynamic HID headlamps with high beam assist are available in packages.
As a mid-size crossover with three rows of seating, the Hyundai Santa Fe's primary competitor is the popular Toyota Highlander, which offers a larger cabin and an efficient hybrid model. Those looking for maximum interior space can also step up to full-size 'utes such as the burly Dodge Durango, which offers an optional HEMI V8, the refined Nissan Pathfinder or the spacious and distinctive Ford Flex.