For 2017, Hyundai updated its Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport models to bring the SUVs closer in line with the design language set forward by the Sonata and Elantra a few years ago—and most recently in the smaller Tucson.
Based off what we saw at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, where the SUVs made their bow, we'd say the Santa Fe Sport wears the look a little better—but the Santa Fe isn't bad.
It earns a generous (and perhaps short-lived) 7 out of 10 on our styling scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Now there's a clear resemblance throughout the Hyundai SUV lineup and they're all the better for it. The Sport may hit the Goldilocks spot in the middle, but the Santa Fe's new front and rear bumpers smarten up the look. For the first time, the Santa Fe sports LED fog lights on Limited and higher trims that bookend a slim, wide lower opening.
The Santa Fe's fashion faux pas is really only in its proportions—there's no way to hide all that sheet metal. Hyundai says it's essentially a minivan replacement anyway, and we can't think of one three-row crossover with outre styling that's been a big hit.
Inside, the Santa Fe carries a shield of controls at its center, and flanks them with big air vents—just like the Santa Fe Sport. It happens to go well with the exterior styling. The dash surface undulates, dipping low in front of passengers and bubbling up for gauges and the center stack, and large knobs control fan speed and audio volume. On SUVs with navigation, an 8.0-inch screen glows under a matte surface, and electroluminescent gauges toss in a few more subdued lumens.
New for 2017, Hyundai has added matte finished wood grain accents along the dash that help break up a sea of plastic from last year.
The Santa Fe's styling update brings it smartly in line with the rest of the Hyundai lineup.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is only offered with a V-6—no turbocharged inline-4 to be found, for now.
The only engine is a 3.3-liter engine from the Azera sedan, with 290 horsepower teamed to a 6-speed automatic, with front- or all-wheel drive, and a base curb weight of about 4,000 pounds. Rolling on standard 18-inch wheels (19-inchers are on SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate), the Santa Fe comes out of the box, ready to tow 5,000 pounds, its powertrain made more rugged and retuned for lower-powerband torque.
The Santa Fe has a good ride and handling, but just an average powertrain and a transmission that may be holding it back. It earns a 6 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 6-speed automatic sports a manual-shift mode available off the console-mounted lever. The shift quality's well sorted and the manual mode answers the call quickly, though deep calls for power can catch the gearbox napping. Step into the gas fully from a light throttle, and after a brief pause, the automatic shifts down eagerly, with a mild rebound felt through the drivetrain. You don't have to concentrate on being a smoother driver for the Santa Fe, though—an Active ECO mode will blur over shifts and throttle responses, saving very small amounts of gas at the same time.
Electric power steering has been a learning curve for all automakers, and Hyundai's path has taken it from the Sonata to the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport with incremental improvements in feel and design. All these vehicles use a column-mounted motor, but the Santa Fe and Sport have the latest three-mode, driver-selectable steering that bowed on the Elantra GT. The "Normal" mode has worked for us in the past, while the "Sport" settings helped the car car track better on the highway stretches. In previous experience, "Comfort" has been just too slow for us, but that has been ditched this year in favor of "Eco." We'll let you know how that mode is after we give it a long drive.
All Santa Fe crossovers adopted a new suspension design, and a calmer, quieter ride is obvious after just a few miles of driving. The front struts and multiple links in the rear are fitted with bigger bushings and packaged more precisely inside the wheel wells, which Hyundai says frees up more cargo space and helps improve wheel control. The physics don't have to elude you—the silence from the wheel wells is proof enough, and the Santa Fe uses its extra wheelbase to its advantage, damping even the worst surfaces well, even when those 19-inch wheels are specified.
With V-6 power and predictable handling, the Santa Fe is a reasonable performer.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is the larger of the two Santa Fe models, and the biggest SUV made by the automaker.
The three-row Santa Fe has a 110.2-inch wheelbase that's 3.9 inches longer than the span on the Santa Fe Sport. It's slightly wider, too, and 193.1 inches long, 8.5 inches longer than the Sport. The Santa Fe SE and SE Ultimate seats seven; the Santa Fe Limited and Limited Ultimate seats six. Its overall interior volume of 146.6 cubic feet and 13.5 cubic feet of storage space behind third row make it more space-efficient than the Toyota Highlander—but smaller inside than a Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, and Ford Explorer.
The Santa Fe encroaches on minivan country here and it's no surprise: good seating all the way around, a spacious cargo area, and third row make it just as versatile. It earns a near-perfect 9 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In front of the Santa Fe, the size advantage over the smaller crossovers is clear. There's ample knee room and leg room, though head room for tall passenger will be slim with the panoramic sunroof in SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate models. The seats are more shapely and supportive than in the last Santa Fe, with very good bolstering on the bottom cushion that's not overly firm. Most versions have a power driver seat, and richly optioned models have a power passenger seat and heating for both. It's worth noting that Hyundai's headrests sit back at an ideal angle—they don't jut too far forward, as some active headrests do.
There's storage for small items in the glove box and console, and for drinks in the door pockets and dual cupholders. A deep, open-sided storage area ahead of the shift lever can swallow a medium-sized purse—but that will block the USB port and auxiliary jack.
On the Santa Fe, the second-row seat can be a 40/20/40-split folding affair, or two captain's thrones. With the longer wheelbase comes more rear-seat leg room to go with the very good seat comfort already in place. That's especially true of the Limited's second-row captain's chairs, which have properly placed armrests and an inch or so of head room still in place, even with panoramic roof. Adults will find a couple of inches of knee room to spare—and a warm cushion, if it's fitted with heated second-row seats.
The third-row bench is only for very young passengers, because older people will get cranky at the thought of climbing through the Santa Fe's small passenger opening—even though the seats slide forward, there's still only a foot or so of wedgy space provided to get to the rearmost seat. It's capped at the knees and overhead, too.
When cargo rules the Santa Fe's cargo area may be on the small side, at 13.5 cubic feet behind the third row, but it expands to more than 40 cubic feet when the third row is folded flat—accomplished by pulling on straps to fold it down or to raise it in place. From the cargo hold—accessed by a power tailgate—the Santa Fe's second-row seats can be lowered, too, via a lever. There's some shallow storage in a plastic bin beneath the cargo floor, too.
The textures and materials inside the Santa Fe are drawn from a wider bin, and most pieces are fitted well. The SE Ultimate and higher grades are fitted with matte-finish interior wood grain pieces that shore up one of our nitpicks from last year's model: some of the interior pieces can look downright plasticky in lower and older models.
Hyundai's gone to more effort in this Santa Fe to damp out noise and vibration. Suspension noise has been tamed with better isolation, and the V-6 drivetrain hardly makes a distant whir as it climbs through the revs. The isolation in the cockpit is a magnitude better than in the last Sonata sedan with nearly identical powertrains. On the three-row Santa Fe, there's some additional tire noise from second row back, which can make it a strain to hear first-row conversations.
It's Hyundai's biggest SUV, but the Santa Fe is smaller than some of its rivals.
In IIHS testing, the 2017 Santa Fe improved over last year's model and was awarded the agency's Top Safety Pick+ designation for across-the-board "Good" scores in every crash test and available advanced safety features.
Federal testers weighed in and gave the Santa Fe a solid overall five-star scores (out of five), with a four-star rating on the calculated rollover score.
Because of those impressive scores, and the availability of advanced safety measures, the Santa Fe earns a 9 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
On the technology front, Bluetooth is standard across the lineup. A rearview camera was made standard on all Santa Fe models for 2017.
Federal testers and the IIHS agree: the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is among the safest crossovers on the road.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is the largest SUV in the automaker's lineup with seating for six or seven, depending on trim. The Santa Fe shares much of its features and equipment with the smaller Santa Fe Sport, however there are a few extra features for the larger version.
All Santa Fe models include a rearview camera, automatic headlights, keyless entry, cruise control, steering wheel-mounted controls, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, cloth seating, dual climate control, eight-way power driver's seat, four 12-volt power outlets, AM/FM/XM/CD radio with six speakers and aux input, and 7.0-inch Display touchscreen for audio. On base, SE models, 18-inch alloy wheels are standard.
Good base infotainment, features, and plenty of options gets the Santa Fe an 8 out 10 on our feature scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A Premium Package for the SE trim includes blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, keyless ignition, six-way power passenger's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, hands-free rear liftgate, lane-change assist, and fog lights.
On Limited and higher trims, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, keyless ignition, hands-free liftgate, heated front seats and steering wheel, third-row USB ports, leather interior, an electroluminescent gauge cluster, and a power passenger chair is standard. The Limited trim also adds second-row captain's chairs, and LED taillights.
An SE Ultimate trim (new for this year) opts for a second-row bench seat, rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, heated and ventilated front seats, premium stereo with 8.0-inch display, and 19-inch wheels. The SE Ultimate trim adds a slew of available safety features such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning.
The Limited Ultimate trim is packaged roughly the same as the SE Ultimate trim, but opts for second-row captain's chairs instead of the bench.
Hyundai's BlueLink is standard across all trims and offers remote start and door unlock, and can also track the SUV if it's stolen. On navigation-equipped models, BlueLink also provides destination assistance.
To Hyundai's credit, all four trims (SE, Limited, SE Ultimate, and Limited Ultimate) can be fitted with all-wheel drive for $1,750.
Despite being a heat-seeking three-row crossover aimed squarely at family duty, the Santa Fe still doesn't offer rear-seat entertainment.
Prices start at around $30,000 for a base, front-drive Santa Fe SE and run to only $40,000 for an all-wheel-drive Santa Fe Limited Ultimate.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe can range from a base, seven-seat family hauler to opulent six-seater—with all-wheel drive available at every step in between.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is especially frugal in front-drive, but is only average when equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD).
According to the EPA, the Santa Fe manages 18 mpg city, 25 highway, 21 combined in front-drive. That's with it's 3.3-liter V-6 and a 6-speed automatic. Add AWD, and that number dips to 18/24/20 mpg. That's not an especially sharp decline, but an AWD-equipped Audi Q7—which is much heavier—actually does better: 19/25/21 mpg.
The Santa Fe nets a 6 out of 10 on our new fuel economy scale, which is respectable for its class. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Honda Pilot with AWD and its 9-speed automatic manages 19/26/22 mpg, and even the Dodge Durango's V-6 and 8-speed automatic and AWD manage 18/25/21 mpg.
Simply put: the Santa Fe may do much better with more forward cogs.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe is about average in front-drive, below average in all-wheel drive due to its 6-speed automatic.