Pros—New plug-in feature. Handsome. Thrifty. Comfortable. Quick. Smooth ride. All-wheel drive.
Cons—Weight hurts performance. Occasional overly soft ride. Not sporty.
Bottom Line—Shines as roomy, comfortable and well-equipped.
Looking for a comfortable, thrifty mid-size SUV? You might try Hyundai’s 2022 Santa Fe PHEV Limited AWD hybrid SUV. It has a new plug in feature that makes it a new addition to the Santa Fe line. That feature allows a claimed 30-mile electrical-only drive.
The 261-horsepower gas-electric mid-size Santa Fe plug-in has a bold grille behind which sits a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A large battery allows the claimed 30-mile driving range, which I found to be pretty accurate as I sped past gas stations. The gas engine kicks in smoothly when strong acceleration is needed.
The 0-60 m.p.h. time with the efficient six-speed automatic transmission is an acceptable at 6.5 seconds, and there is no problem passing on highways or moving quickly through traffic. The transmission can be shifted manually via paddles, but I had little need for that feature.
Estimated fuel economy is 76 miles per gallon when both gasoline and electricity are used and 33 m.p.g. with gasoline only. While good, fuel economy would be better if the Santa Fe PHEV Limited AWD Plug In wasn’t pretty heavy at approximately 4,565 pounds
A driver can select “Eco,” “Sport” or “Smart” driving modes. Eco allows the best economy, although it affects performance and limits air conditioning efficiency a bit. Sport causes sharper handling but stiffens the ride a little and makes things noisier. Smart is your best overall bet because it combines Eco, Sport and general comfort. It cleverly adapts to a person’s driving style.There’s also a “Snow” mode that improves stability by minimizing wheel spin on slippery surfaces.
To my surprise, a sign on a gauge quickly told me to get some rest because I was constantly and rapidly checking out the various driving modes. That’s something an average driver isn’t likely to do. The warning is really there to remind drivers who are overtly tired and thus may be acting erratically.
No matter what drive mode, I could feel the Santa Fe plug-ins weight holding it back a little and helping cause noticeable body lean when negotiating fast curves, although a decent suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels and the four-wheel drive kept things stable.
The steering is precise, and the brake pedal allows smooth stops and allows regenerative braking to help keep the battery healthy.
While it looks sporty enough, at least for a rather large SUV, this Hyundai is not sporty. Rather, it’s a thrifty, comfortable, well-equipped vehicle perfect for long-distance cruising or urban utilitarian motoring.
The ride was supple but occasionally—and surprisingly—got overly soft, which almost made me feel as if I was suddenly in an old soft-sprung American car.
There’s room for four tall adults with long legs, although a third adult fits in the rear if he or she doesn’t mind sitting on a stiff center-seat section best left to the fold-down armrest with its dual cupholders. Occupants can enjoy the great outdoors because there is a power panoramic sunroof that opens completely above the front seats and has a power cover in case rain falls.
The large cargo area has low, wide opening beneath the power hatch. Flip the reclining rear seat backs forward and cargo capacity jumps from 36 feet to an impressive 72 feet.
The interior is quiet, thanks much to considerable sound-deadening. The power front seats are nicely cushioned, and the rears also are comfortable. Digital gauges can be quickly read in the 12.3-inch instrument cluster, and there is a 10.2-inch entertainment screen that can be easily mastered. Don’t want to fool with a touch screen? Well, there’s an array of manual dashboard area switches for functions ranging from dual-climate control to radio operation and heated steering wheel control.
My test Hyundai had lots of storage areas and numerous soft-touch areas. There was some hard plastic, but many features. They included heated and ventilated leather-trimmed seats, heated steering wheel and rear seats, automatic up/down windows, surround-view monitor, blind spot monitor, dual automatic temperature controls with rear air vents, tilt/telescoping wheel, rear side window sunshades, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, push-button start, Harman Kardon premium sound system, 12-volt power outlets, 115-volt AC power outlet, wireless device charging and remote smart park assist.
This is essentially a family vehicle, so safety items include forward collision-avoidance, blind spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, driver attention warning, smart cruise control with stop and go, ultrasonic rear occupant alert so you don’t leave your child or pet in back on a hot day and walk away, rear-view monitor and lane following and highway driving assists.
The side mirrors have turn signals and fold against the front glass to avoid damage in parking areas when the engine is turned off.
There are a variety of Santa Fe models, but the PHEV Limited AWD with the plug-in feature stands out.