2014 Santa Fe Limited AWD
Dates tested: 4/14/2014-4/28/14
Miles Driven: 396
Fuel Used: 23.4 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 16.9 mpg
Driving mix: 70% city, 30% highway
Base price: $35,450 (not including $855 destination charge)
Options on test car: Limited Technology Package ($4850), Carpeted floor mats ($135)
Price as tested: $41,290
The great: Better-than-expected power, quiet cabin, strong value
The good: Lots of headroom, decent ride/handing balance
The not so good: Middling observed fuel economy
You have to admire Hyundai’s pluck, the way it can offer high-value features at what might be coyly termed “value pricing.” The Santa Fe crossover sport-utility that we recently tested, a top-tier all-wheel-drive Limited, came with the following partial list of standard equipment included in its $35,450 base price:
• 3.3-liter V6 with 6-speed automatic transmission.
• fog lights.
• heated mirrors with turn-signal indicators.
• roof rails.
• windshield wiper deicer.
• power liftgate.
• proximity-entry key.
• leather upholstery.
• heated front seats.
• 2nd-row captain’s chairs.
• dual-zone climate control with an ionizer and rear-seat vents.
• driver-selectable steering modes.
• rearview camera
• AM/FM/satellite/HD radio.
• Bluetooth telephone connectivity.
• Blue Link telematics for voice text messaging, destination searches, and summoning roadside assistance.
Toss in the optional Technology Package (and stand-alone extra-cost carpeted floor mats) and now you’ve got a Santa Fe with 19-inch alloy wheels, high-intensity headlights, a panoramic sunroof, rear parking assist, heated steering wheel, driver’s memory seat, heated 2nd-row seats, navigation system on an 8-inch touchscreen, and improved audio system, all for $41,290 delivered. That’s less than some luxury-brand vehicles of this type start for—and they make you pay extra for some of those features, too.
It doesn’t hurt Hyundai’s case that the three-row Santa Fe is, overall, a very pleasant vehicle to drive and use. Its 290-horsepower gasoline direct-injection V6 is a smooth, powerful engine, even if the transmission seemed a little unsure of itself at times in mid-range acceleration situations. When I drove Consumer Guide’®s test Limited for 166 miles, 60 percent of the distance under city driving conditions, it returned 18.8 mpg.
The engine is quiet—enough so that you can hear some wind noise. Ride was acceptably cushy, but hits on pocked pavement were heard and felt—hard, too. That’s where it becomes obvious that the Santa Fe isn’t from one of the manufacturers with a reputation as big as its sticker prices.
Front and middle-row seats are comfortable, and offer good leg room. The third row, however, is no place for adults—cushions are low and leg room is very limited. Step-in height is a little taller than in most sedans, but still quite easy to use. Indeed, this driver’s official-test elderly parents were able to slide in and out of their seats fairly naturally.
Seat materials in CG’s test vehicle were nice; saddle upholstery warmed up an otherwise black interior. Plastics on top of the dash and doors have some give at the touch, and they are grained to harmonize with softer surfaces, so the overall look isn’t budget stark. Controls are easy to see and use, and visibility is not bad.
In terms of utility, big pockets with bottle holders are found in all four doors. Up front, the center console contains cup holders, a small open space ahead of the shift lever, a deep cubby with a lid that doubles as an arm rest, and a glove box that’s pretty well filled up just by owner’s manual. Middle-row passengers can stow their incidentals in pouches on the back of the front seats; the third row has a cup holder and shallow tray molded into each side panel.
With all three rows of seats in use, rear cargo space is slight. The 50/50 third-row seats fold flat at the easy tug of a cord to form an ample cargo hold. When the need arises for even more hauling space, the middle-row individual seats fold, though not flat in line with the rest of floor. Owners whose priority is seating capacity should know that the Santa Fe GLS holds up to 7 passengers thanks to its split-bench 2nd-row seat.
The 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe is a nicely executed midsize SUV that is designed for the way most buyers actually use their midsize SUVs. The cabin is classy and spacious, and the “just right” seating position offers both the visibility benefits of an elevated seating position and easy “step-in, step out” entry and exit. Hyundai does dashboard layouts well too, offering an array of up-to-the-minute connectivity features while still keeping things simple and easy to use.
Dynamically, the Santa Fe is quite satisfying overall. The 290-hp V6 provides ample acceleration in most driving situations. The accurate, nicely weighted steering helps with close-quarters maneuverability. However, the Santa Fe’s ride isn’t as absorbent or composed over sharp bumps and potholes as many of its rivals. Fuel economy is nothing to crow about either, though it’s not awful for an AWD three-row crossover with a healthy V6 like this one.
The top-line Limited model comes pretty generously equipped at $35,450, but if you want features such as ventilated front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, a navigation system, or an upgraded stereo, you’ll have to pony up another $4850 for the Technology Package, which includes all those features plus upgrades like a panoramic sunroof and 19-inch wheels in place of 19s. I wish Hyundai would offer some of the pricey Technology Package’s features separately. So, a loaded-up all-wheel-drive Limited like our test vehicle tops $41,000, but even that seems like a reasonable price for the power, space, capability, and polish the Santa Fe exhibits.