2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Review

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe - Santa Fe now stands distinctively on its own merits as Hyundai's two-row mid-sized crossover boasting five-passenger comfort.


Sounds simple and in some ways, Santa Fe returns to a designation first honed during its 2001 debut as a competitively priced, high-volume two-row offering. During its third-generation platform update in 2013, Santa Fe took on dual roles with two distinct lengths and personalities.

From 2013 to 2018, Santa Fe 'Sport' represented Hyundai's two-row crossover, set apart from the three-row 'Santa Fe.' Then, for one year, the script flipped. In the outgoing 2019 model year, the short-lived 'Santa Fe XL' (extra-long) severed as Hyundai's three-row crossover, while 'Santa Fe' designated two rows.  

Hyundai's impressive, all-new Palisade crossover debuts in the 2020 model year with three rows of seats standard, grabbing the mantle as Hyundai's largest crossover. Now, Hyundai enjoys two easier defined models celebrating their size differences: the two-row Santa Fe and three-row Palisade.

Both build upon lighter weight uni-body, car-like underpinnings designed for paved road experiences.  The South Korean automaker promotes a quickly expanding number of multi-sized, five-door crossovers including the all-new 2020 sub-compact Venue and two compact offerings: the long-established Tuscan and slightly smaller, urban-ready Kona.  Don't leave out Hyundai's quirky Veloster; part wagon and part conversation piece with two passenger side doors, one driver-side door plus a back hatch.  

But wait... there is more. Hyundai's 'Think-Green' Ioniq crossover offers three alternative-fueled builds.  A gas-electric hybrid (HEV) sans a plug debuted in 2017 followed shortly thereafter by a pure electric plug-in version (EV). A plug-in hybrid electric version (PHEV) recently joined the fray.  As of this writing, Ioniq EV volume sales have yet to reach the Windy City or the Midwest in mass with coastal cities grabbing first dibs. Hyundai's lineup is currently sans a heavier truck-based sport-utility vehicle or a conventional pickup truck.

Pivoting back to Santa Fe, Hyundai slims trim level structures from five to three in 2020, eliminating SEL Plus and Ultimate trims.  Going forward, SE, SEL and Limited trims take hold with the mid-level SEL offering two option packages; Convenience (a $2,250 extra) and Premium (add $2,750).  Those vying for the Premium package must first buy into the prerequisite Convenience package.

The 2020 model year Santa-Fe is largely a carryover from the 2019 version which experienced a major Gen Four update, growing in length by more than two inches.  

Limited comes stoked with equipment with no optional factory packaging needed. Expect a few a-la-carte goodies amounting largely to dealer add-ons.  Entry SE trims come decently equipped, with no available option packages. All three offer front-wheel drive standard with Hyundai's HTRAC all-wheel drive a $1,700 option.

The SEL convenience package includes rear parking sensors, power lift gate, dual temperature zones, roof rails, leather-wrapped steering wheels and shift knobs. Premium packaging adds a sunroof, eight-way power adjustable passenger seat, LED head/tail lights and chrome exterior door handles. Limited trims absorb most of these listed options and throws in heated rear seats, a navigation finder built into the eight-inch touch screen, ventilated rear seats and full-color heads up display projected onto the front windshield.  

A front-wheel drive SE starts at $25,900.  Our front-drive Limited tester checked in at $37,500.  The bottom line landed at $38,730 with a $1,095 destination charge and $135 carpeted floor mats.

Another important added value when considering a Santa Fe specifically or Hyundais in general; an industry leading 10-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, one of the longest-durations offered;  a no-charge peace-of-mind  helping Santa Fe stand apart in a crowded segment.  

At highway speeds, expect some wind noise with a pleasant overall on-road driving presence.  Touch screen tutorials are easily followed and cabin material quality rates superb for a mainstream choice. It's a value-driven product with a goodly amount of standard equipment delivering average four-cylinder fuel economy.

Inside, a flat, wireless charging area built into the lower dash continues standard Limited trims, and optional when opting for the SEL convenience packages.  Only newer Smartphone versions accept and/or adapt to wireless charging.  Just ask my wire-dependent Jurassic period iPhone 5.

The modern, easy-glance instrument panel combines sizeable animation and static analog gauges. The center animated portion contains one static (non-multi-panel) speedometer circle and inside digital readout flanked by a left-side vertical tachometer and right side quarter gauges (fuel and temperature).

Limited trims now include as standard fare a visual 'blind-view monitor' working along with a blind-spot collision avoidance assist supplying a real-time live-action feed of pesky side spot activities. Tiny cameras mounted within side-view mirrors send in-motion feedback to the IP's animated center, doubling as a screen feed.  It's activated when summoning the left turn signal (providing a color report of port views) or the right (starboard in-motion feedback).  Once deactivating the signal, the animated circular speedometer returns.

The eight-inch, multi-function flat screen extends up from the lower middle dash (rather than an in-dash design) flanked by columns of push buttons.   Apple Car Play and Android Auto, two popular interplays, come standard, allowing Smartphone Apps and saved phone numbers to interact with the screen and audio speakers. Ventilation functions operate from a rectangular region below with dual climate zone dials (Limited editions) flanking buttons commanding fan direction, speed, window defrosters and air conditioning.

Secondary volume and station pre-set steering wheel tabs locate at nine-o-clock, while cruise control functions occupy the three-o-clock time frame.

Mid-size dimensions provide ample room for five adults.  Row two backrests fold flat with a 60/40 split providing an extended cargo opportunity when just the first row is occupied.  Both SE and SEL trims add a rear occupant alert dinging inside the instrument panel if sensors suspect any weighted object, encouraging frontsters to look over-shoulder.  It continues standard in Limited

Santa Fe carries on with two four-cylinder engines returning from 2019. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo cranks out 235 horsepower while a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) four generates 185 horses.  Both connect with an eight-speed automatic transmission.  The 2.4-liter comes standard in all trims while the 2.0 turbo is offered in SE and Limited.  

Our turbo four included start/stop technology; quieting the engine at prolonged stops before snapping to life once the right foot lifts from the brake pedal. Three drive modes select from a push-button adjacent to the vertically sliding transmission shifter. A nearby button disengages start/stop if desired.

Limited trims boast new dark-chrome exterior trim. Protective composite cladding frames round wheel wells, door bottoms and front/rear bumpers.  A large cascade-type grille gets flanked by split-lamp 'Twin Headlight' design with narrow squinting type atop two vertical bulbs below.

2020 Santa Fe

Price as tested: $38,730

Engine: 2.0-liter turbo

Horsepower:  235

Wheelbase:  108.9 inches

Overall length:  187.8 inches

Overall width:   74.4 inches

Overall height:   66.1inches

Curb weight:   3,591 pounds

Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway

Powertrain warranty:  10-year/100,000 mile

Assembly: Montgomery, Alabama

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.