Santa Fe plug-in allows you to tiptoe into electric vehicle revolution

Photos by Paul Borden

By Paul Borden

(October 15, 2023) If you are leaning to joining in the trend to electrified vehicles for your next purchase but are holding back because of an acute case of range anxiety, a plug-in model may be the cure you are looking for. Technically classified as PHEVs, options like the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in provides an all-electric driving experience over a limited range (30 miles according to the EPA) with a gasoline engine kicking in after that to extend that distance to 440 miles.

The South Korean automaker introduced the Plug-in version of the Santa Fe lineup last year to pair up with the standard gas-electric Hybrid version introduced the year before and the long-standing gas-only models that date back to 2001.

The 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV comes in two trim levels.  Both the SEL trim and the Limited, which this review is based on, feature an electric motor and a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gasoline that combined produce 261 horsepower, which is a jump of 35 hp over the 226 for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe HEV.

Torque for the Plug-in is 224 pound-feet, a jump of 29 lb.-ft. over the HEV drivetrain. By itself, the turbo-4 is rated at 178 hp and 195 pound-feet..

EPA ratings for the Plug-in are 76 MPGe when the gas engine and electric motor are operating in tandem and 33 miles-per-gallon in gasoline-only mode.

Hyundai has blessed the 2023 Santa Fe Plug-in with a fairly long list of features that on the SEL included a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, an electric parking brake with automatic vehicle hold, blind-spot warning, forward collision assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection, hill start assist, push-button start, 19-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, hands-free power liftgate, 8-way power driver’s seat with 2-way lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual automatic climate control, Smart (adaptive) cruise control, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and more.

The upgraded Limited trim gets a parking collision assist system with reverse parking collision avoidance, leather-trimmed seats, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, an 8-way power front passenger seat, panoramic sunroof, LED interior lights, and a Harman Kardan premium audio system, and a surround-view monitor.

New standard features added for 2023 on Santa Fe Limited models are Hyundai’s Highway Driving Assist that takes some of the stress out of long trips, 10.25-inch touchscreen navigation, and dynamic voice recognition.

Such features and a nicely designed, comfortable interior give the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV Limited a premium feel. There is little to quibble about when it comes to its interior.

Starting MSRP for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited is $48,005 included freight charges of $1,335. That’s a jump from the $44,205 for the Santa Fe Hybrid Limited.

The SEL trim for the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plugin starts at $43,745 including destination and delivery.

What I liked about the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited: It has a classy exterior and a roomy, well-appointed interior with lots of user-friendly tech features. With only two rows of seating, the rear cargo area is very accommodating. The ride is quiet and comfortable. Legroom in the second row is a generous 39.5 inches. All-wheel drive is a plus.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited: It would be nice if the plug-in offered a bit more in way of electric only driving range, say in the range of approaching 40 miles instead of the current 30. I would prefer a standard shift knob over the push-button selector on the console.

Would I buy the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Limited? If you have a convenient place to plug it in for overnight and your daily commutes are fairly short, the 2023 Santa Fe PHEV is a great buy. Stretching your budget for the Limited trim over the SEL pays benefits.