The Hyundai Santa Fe is not a ‘new’ model nor is it considered a ‘new’ upgrade. Hyundai took their very popular Santa Fe, a Crossover SUV, and re-hashed it with tons of improvements for the 2013 model. That was the last time I had reviewed it as a journalist and it was the Sport model. So, when I was furnished a new 2015 Santa Fe Limited, I was somewhat excited – at least I was looking forward to the experience and was not disappointed.
The name ‘Santa Fe’ conjures up images of the Southwest or at least some type of special vacation location. Possibly the name has helped propel this mid-sized SUV into its market position. The company probably thinks the popularity is due to it being a good bargain, well-priced, friendly to families, and a well-built vehicle. The great warranty is definitely an added benefit.
There is not a lot of difference between the 2014 and 2015 models. Mostly, there was some company improvements to marketing optional packages of add-on’s. For the latest model year, the Santa Fe did get a few additional standard features, such as a revised electric power steering system. The suspension was re-tuned as well.
The Santa Fe comes in either a Sport model or Limited Model. The furnished test-drive vehicle was the Limited with front-wheel-drive, three rows of seating, powered by a 3.3-liter gas engine matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The exterior was called ‘Monaco White’, and I really have not figured out the difference between a normal white color and something white from Monaco. The interior was listed as Black/Black. With my discerning eyes, the inside just looked like a normal black. White and black was a very attractive color match and the vehicle was very attractive, despite how it was referred to on the spec sheet.
The test-drive was called a 6-passenger model that offered three rows of seating with two seats in each row. A 7-passenger configuration is available that puts a bench seat in the second row instead of two captain’s chairs. I liked those captain’s chairs and they were very comfortable. The third row is easily accessible, but is designed more for children or very small people. It is really cramped for a regular size adult except for very short trips.
At first glance, or even in a crowded parking lot, the Santa Fe looks good and could even be described as ‘sleek.’ It does not have a ‘boxy’ appearance but is curved and appears more aerodynamic.
The power-plant is a V-6, direct-injection, 3.3-liter gasoline engine. It provides a reasonable 290 horsepower and is mated with a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission. It has an active ECO system that allows the driver to maximize the mileage. The Santa Fe is sporty to drive, has sufficient peppy-ness and handles and turns almost effortlessly. The driving ‘feel’ is very solid. There are three different driving modes for the driver to choose: Normal, Sport, and Comfort. Switching to the Sport mode provided a discernible change in the handling and the steering was slightly more tight.
On the inside, the area is arranged nicely for the convenience of both driver and passengers. The dashboard flows easily for eye-contact and ease of operation of the vehicle systems. A 4.3 inch color touch-screen is standard, but the test model had the optional 8-inch screen with a great backup camera view and navigation system. There is plenty of ‘stretch’ room for first and second-row passengers. Cargo room in the back area is fairly standard for a mid-sized SUV, but don’t expect to carry too much. The third row seats fold down very easily and lay flat for carrying cargo. There are a multitude of small bins and holders for everyone’s ‘stuff’. There is even under-floor storage space, a cooled glove-box, and plenty of beverage holders.
The test model was the standard front-wheel-drive, but an All-Wheel-Drive system is available which is good for areas that encounter a lot of severe weather. The AWD system has what is called an ‘intelligent control unit’ that allows torque to be distributed to any wheel as the road conditions might indicate. Also, braking can be ‘sent’ to any single wheel.
I really like the Hyundai Santa Fe and believe it has so much to offer. The test model had a MSRP of $34,250 and that included fog lamps, heated exterior mirrors, smart-open hands-free lift-gate, leather seats, heated seats, rear side window sunshades, rear climate controls, and much more. An “Ultimate” package was added for $4,650 that increased the view screen from 4.3 inches to 8 inches, added a panoramic sunroof, navigation, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, roof rails, and a lot more. Bottom sticker price with delivery charges: $39,945.
The 2015 Santa Fe Limited had an EPA rating of 20 mpg average and 23 mpg highway. At the end of the week, the test-drive model registered 27 mpg overall average, but I was fairly conservative in my driving habits and attempted to maximize the ECO mode as much as possible.
There is really a lot to like about the Santa Fe: the backup camera, smooth handling, blind-spot monitoring, above-average fuel economy, car-seat friendly, good acceleration, comfortable and practical interior configuration, and plenty of people and cargo room. The dislikes include: a cramped third row and high-priced packages of options rather than individual options.
Small and mid-sized crossover SUV’s are generally quiet on the road and offer so much flexibility for a family. There are competitors, but the Hyundai Santa Fe might just be the best choice for meeting your cargo and people-hauling needs. If you are looking at a mid-size SUV, check out the Santa Fe at a nearby Hyundai dealership.