2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe - Hyundai's family hauler offers a nice mix at affordable pricing.


The Hyundai Santa Fe is a midsize crossover sport-utility vehicle. It comes with front- or all-wheel drive and three rows of seats. Passenger capacity is six or seven, depending on configuration. Competitors include the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Touareg. Santa Fe is mechanically similar to the Kia Sorento and is also sold in a shortened, five-passenger version called the Santa Fe Sport.

For 2017, Santa Fe sees minor changes to the front and rear fascias as well as the addition of safety and convenience features. Four trim levels are offered: SE, Limited, SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate. All models come standard with a 3.3-liter V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower and a six-speed automatic transmission. Properly equipped, Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds,

Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, rear-view camera, front-seat active head restraints and dual-front, front-side and side-curtain airbags. Also standard is Blue Link, Hyundai's telematics system, which provides services such as remote access, emergency assistance, theft recovery and geo-fencing. Available safety features include rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warning and frontal collision mitigation.

Prices start at $30,800 for the SE and climb to $39,400 for the Limited Ultimate. All-wheel drive adds $1,750 to the price of the vehicle. All Santa Fe models have a $895 destination charge and are assembled in Georgia or Alabama.

The 3.3-liter V6 strikes a good balance between performance and efficiency. With a 0 to 60 mph time of about 8 seconds, it provides class-adequate acceleration. Passing punch is also on par with competitors. However, acceleration takes a hit with a full load of passengers or cargo. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and downshifts promptly when called upon.

The available all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. However, several electronic aids are available to improve traction on slippery surfaces including hill-start assist, electronic limited-slip differential and electronically locking transfer case.

All-wheel drive Santa Fe models are EPA rated at 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Those numbers are respectable for the class. According to Hyundai, regular-grade gasoline is fine for Santa Fe. Real-world driving will likely yield about 20 mpg overall. If you spend a good deal of time commuting on open highway, those numbers might climb to 25 mpg.

Dynamically, Santa Fe feels solid and secure with neutral handling characteristics. The softly-spring suspension does an excellent job of filtering out road imperfections and limiting excessive bounding or head toss on bumpy roads. That said, there's a fair amount of body lean in quick maneuvers and some brake squat in hard stops. The steering, while accurate and nicely weighted, lacks road feel when the pace quickens. Brakes are strong and provide good stopping power.

Wind and road noise are nicely muted at any speed and the engine never intrudes - even in hard acceleration.

The interior of the Santa Fe is awash in high-class materials and soft-touch surfaces. It puts a premium on high style but does an excellent job of placing switchgear within easy reach. Drivers face a traditional twin-dial setup and a large 7-inch touch screen dominates the center stack. Most controls are clearly marked though a few a hidden behind and to the left of the steering wheel. Hyundai's BlueLink infotainment system does a good job of attempting to reduce driver distraction and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is standard.

Front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of head and leg room for large adults. Getting in and out is a snap with a low step over and large door openings. Outward visibility is great thanks to the higher build and large windows throughout. Second-row seats offer good room and comfort as well, but the third-row seats are smaller than most others in the class and can only be used by adults in a pinch.

All seats in use, Santa Fe offers a paltry 13.5-cubic feet of cargo capacity. Folding all seats expands capacity to 80 cubic feet. Both numbers fall a bit short of most competitors. Interior storage is ample with lots of open and covered bins throughout.

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a highly competent midsize crossover that offers a great mix of comfort, safety, technology, efficiency and refinement. The smooth and refined engine and transmission are welcome bonuses. Rear-seat room, cargo space and, to some extent, fuel economy could be better. Overall, it's a worthy player in a crowded and competitive segment. Shop around for the vehicle you like best and make sure to look for discounts on just about any midsize crossover.

Mark Bilek

Mark Bilek is the Senior Director of Communications and Technology for the Chicago Auto Trade Association and the General Manager for DriveChicago.com. He is also responsible for developing and maintaining the Chicago Auto Show Web site.

Mark has been reviewing vehicles for more than two decades. Previously, he was associate publisher at Consumer Guide, where he oversaw publication of Consumer Guide Car & Truck Test, Consumer Guide's Used Car Book, and ConsumerGuide.com. He was also responsible for publication of "Collectible Automobile" and various hardcover automotive titles. In 2001 and 2002 he served as president of a Midwest Automotive Media Association. Mark has appeared on NBC TV, ABC TV, Fox News, WGN and MotorTrend TV as an automotive consultant. He hosts the Drive Chicago radio show on WLS 890 AM and was a regular guest on WGN Radio's Steve & Johnnie show. Mark lives in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three sons.