Hyundai Santa Fe — A great family value

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(April 9, 2023) The Hyundai Santa Fe, which was all-new for the 2019 model year, is a stylish and practical crossover that offers a roomy two-row cabin, an ample selection of features, decent performance and gas mileage from three engine choices, and very competitive pricing. And all Hyundai vehicles come with one of the most generous warranties in the industry.

The Santa Fe entered its fourth generation in 2019 and received a thorough refreshening in 2022. There are a few minor changes for 2023. They include a reshuffling of standard equipment, for instance the SEL trim level now includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear sunshades, navigation-based adaptive cruise control, and a 10.3-inch center touchscreen.

In  2022, the Santa Fe was the recipient of  exterior styling upgrades getting a bolder, new face highlighted by a wider, three-dimensional grille and a T-shaped lighting package that includes daytime running lights. The silhouette sports a horizontal cabin profile, scalloped lower door panels and a long, highly defined hood, with character lines extending from front to rear.

The interior was reworked featuring a high-position console design adding a more spacious feel throughout the cabin. Hyundai has done a good job putting soft-touch padding in strategic places wherever an arm touches. The infotainment screen has grown from 8 inches to 10.25 inches.

The Santa Fe’s overall proportions are slightly more SUV-like than in the previous generation, with a longer hood, a more upright windshield, and a trimmer front overhang. The Santa Fe has a slightly wider stance than its predecessor and at 187.8 inches is longer by 2.8 inches, giving it a bolder, more aggressive profile.

The Santa Fe now offers three powertrain options. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission produces 191 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 181 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm.  The optional engine, and the one we recommend for satisfying performance, is a  turbocharged 2.5-liter four making 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque.  It's mated to the eight-speed automatic and has been clocked at 6.0 seconds from 0-to-60 with a quarter mile time of 14.5 seconds at 99 mph.

The third powertrain comes in Santa Fe's hybrid pairing a 178-horsepower 1.6-liter four cylinder engine with a 59-horsepower electric motor for a total output of 225 horsepower mated to a six-speed automatic. Although trailing some of its segment competitors, the hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 34 mpg in combined driving. With the current elevated gas prices the excellent mileage is a good reason for investing in the hybrid.

We drove the standard 191 hp 2.5-liter last year and found it adequate for all the chores of life. But it might prove a bit lacking with a full load of passengers and cargo. This time around we were behind the wheel of the turbocharged 2.5-liter making with 281 ponies and it didn't take too many miles to discover a distinct advantage in overall performance compared to the non-turbocharged engine.

There are five trim levels — SE, SEL, XRT, Limited and Calligraphy — with the first three getting the standard engine and the Limited and Calligraphy the bigger powerplant. If you can stand the price, the Limited starting at $41,935 will give you a wide range of desirable equipment as well as the turbocharged engine. If you want less expensive, the SEL starts at $33,785 and brings a comprehensive level of safety as well as such goodies as blindspot monitor with cross-traffic alert, power driver's seat, heated front seats, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, and roof rails.

Our top-of-the-line Calligraphy AWD test vehicle was loaded with everything Hyundai offers carrying a bottom line of $45,255. Included were such things as a 13.2-inch digital instrument cluster, touchscreen navigation, Harman Kardon premium audio, nappa leather, and 20-inch Calligraphy wheels.

The Santa Fe's interior quarters are relatively spacious, especially in legroom. The available panoramic sunroof does eat into headroom in both rows, but the rear seat's ability to recline serves to off-set that. All controls are laid out well and within easy reach, and the most often-used controls are real buttons and knobs.

Storage space abounds up front with a large area under the center console good for laptops and big handbags. A nice touch is a long rubberized tray in front of the passenger that we found an excellent space to keep a cellphone handy.

The large door openings make it easy to get in and out, and both front and rear rows offer plenty of space and legroom. Visibility is good too, with a decent-size rear window and very little obstruction from the rear headrests. The door-mounted sideview mirrors help you avoid blind spots, and the optional surround-view camera system makes parking a breeze.

Our test vehicle had the optional 10.25-inch screen, which did a good jobs for readouts such as satellite radio. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is included, though CarPlay only uses about two-thirds of the 10.25-inch screen.

Hyundai's advanced driver aids are some of the best around. The adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist work smoothly and ease the stress of rush-hour traffic. The blind-spot monitoring and forward collision mitigation also work well.

If you have no need for third-row seats and value cargo space, the Santa Fe rewards with 36.4 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seats, and a maximum of 72.1 cubic feet with the second-row setbacks forced down.

The generous warranties mentioned above include a 5-year/60,000-mile comprehensive warrant and a 10-year/100,000-mile drivetrain warranty.

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe


Base price: $33,785; as driven, $45,255
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 281 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque: 311 foot-pounds @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 108.9 inches
Length: 188.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,076 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 36.4 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 72.1 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 21 city, 28 highway, 24 combined
Also consider: Toyota RAV4, Kia Sorrento, Honda CR-V

The Good
• Roomy interior
• Good performance
• Abundant safety features

The Bad
• Mediocre fuel economy

The Ugly
• Turbocharged engine reserved for top trims