Class: Midsize Crossover
Miles driven: 367
Fuel used: 20.0 gallons
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||A-|
|Power and Performance||B|
|Fit and Finish||B|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Real-world fuel economy: 18.4 mpg
Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 17/22/19 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $41,300 (not including $950 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Ultimate Tech Package ($2100), carpeted floor mats ($150)
Price as tested: $44,500
The great: Spacious, comfortable interior; pleasant road manners
The good: Satisfying acceleration
The not so good: So-so fuel economy
When it comes to its midsize crossover SUV, Hyundai has decided to leave well enough alone for 2018. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Aside from adding free service time to the Blue Link telematics system—three whole years now, gang!—the V6-powered 3-row Santa Fe is essentially unchanged from ’17, when it got a cosmetic freshening and some new safety features. Oh, and the model hierarchy is slightly simplified. SE, SE Ultimate, and Limited Ultimate trim levels carry on, but the intermediary Limited has been discontinued. Fine powertrain performance, a pleasing ride, and a comfortable cabin continue unabated.
Speaking of the status quo, Consumer Guide® editors’ latest Santa Fe test vehicle was even like the 2017 version they drove—an all-wheel-drive Limited Ultimate. With delivery, this top-of-the-heap model starts at $42,250. That buys 19-inch alloy wheels, silver-painted door-trim accents, fog lights, LED taillights, rear parking sensors, panoramic sunroof, a surround-view camera, memory driver’s seat and mirrors, ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, heated steering wheel, 115-volt power outlet in the cargo area, Infinity sound system, satellite radio, and navigation on an 8-inch touchscreen. An Ultimate Tech Package option for the Limited Ultimate delivers items such as adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, forward-collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, and adaptive headlights with automatic high beams.
The 3.3-liter V6 makes 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. There’s confident strength in this powerplant. With it, the Santa Fe is snappy getting away from stoplights, and an easy highway cruiser with plenty of midrange punch. Punch the throttle on the expressway and the 6-speed automatic transmission is quick to kick down to make passing a breeze. With this powerteam, the Santa Fe can tow 5000 pounds. It’s fairly quiet, too. A “Drive Mode Select” button on the instrument panel modifies throttle response (and steering effort) between “Eco,” “Normal,” and “Sport,” but the differences are minimal at best.
EPA fuel-economy ratings for the AWD Santa Fe are 17 mpg in the city, 22 on the highway, and 19 combined. This reviewer drove the test truck 114.9 miles, 61 percent of that in city-type operation, and averaged 17.82 mpg. That’s pretty consistent with his 2017 Santa Fe experience that produced slightly better mileage with a bit more highway driving.
From the driver’s seat, the family-size Hyundai still favors ease of operation over precision, but that is just a matter of degrees. There’s nothing truly objectionable about steering or handling. Ride is nicely composed without getting too soft or wallowing.
Front- and middle-row seats are comfortable. The second-row captain’s chairs have inboard flip-down armrests. Legroom is good but the long sunroof cuts down some headroom. The Limited Ultimate is a 6-passenger vehicle; other Santa Fes have a bench that serves an additional passenger. The captain’s chairs slide forward to create a tight path to and from the third-row seats. It’s also possible to squeeze between the seats to reach the back row. No matter how it’s done, in the end it is a dubious achievement; very tight legroom and a low cushion make the third-row seats inhospitable for all but preteens. Driver sightlines aren’t bad, save for some obstruction at the rear corners.
Surfaces atop the dash and doors have some give, and armrests are padded, but many other panels are hard plastic. Main gauges in the instrument cluster are easy to read. Audio presets are easily stored and accessed via the large touchscreen, but a considerable complement of buttons for audio, climate, and other functions are arrayed beneath the screen. Third-row occupants can adjust the climate settings to their liking through a control panel on the right-rear sidewall.
For personal-item storage, the glove box is roomy but it is positioned low enough that the lid will dump onto a passenger’s knees. There is a pocket with a bottle holder in each door, though the ones in front are larger than those in the rear. The center console contains a deep covered box, a pair of open cup holders, and a small open bin ahead of the shift lever where a power point and digital-device ports (all lighted at night) are sited. Storage pouches on the back of both front seats serve middle-row passengers, and cup holders extend from the back of the console. A cup holder and shallow tray are molded into each side panel for the benefit of third-row occupants.
It’s official: Automatic liftgates hate me. This test Santa Fe was the latest crossover or SUV to clam up in my presence. In theory, the cargo hatch raises itself if you stand within three feet of the vehicle for more than three seconds when the key fob is in your possession. With seating fully deployed, cargo space is severely restricted, so even the little bit of additional cargo space under the floor is welcome. A simple tug on a cord drops the 50/50 third-row seat backs flush with the load floor to form a decidedly more generous cargo space. For even more room, the middle-row seats fold, but they do so at a level a few inches higher than the rest of the cargo floor, and there are gaps around the seats.
Competition in the three-row midsize SUV class has gotten even hotter for 2018 with the introduction of the all-new Volkswagen Atlas and the redesigned Chevrolet Traverse–and the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander continue to be formidable rivals. Still, the Santa Fe has enough going for it to hold its own in this popular category.