Known for value, Santa Fe is the biggest SUV in the Hyundai lineup, 8.5 inches longer than the Santa Fe Sport. All models have three rows of seating, although it’s not the roomiest third row.
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe isn’t significantly changed from 2017 when it was restyled, so it still looks fairly fresh. The current-generation Santa Fe was introduced as a 2013 model.
Santa Fe SE models get a second-row bench to seat seven total passengers, while Santa Fe Limited models get second-row captain’s chairs, seating six.
Santa Fe uses one engine, a 3.3-liter V6 that’s getting a bit long in the tooth, mated to a competent six-speed automatic transmission; some rivals (namely Dodge Durango and Honda Pilot) have eight- or nine-speed transmissions, although more gears isn’t necessarily better, depends on the smoothness of the transmissions and the torque of the engine. The V6 in the Santa Fe makes a strong 290 horsepower, and is tuned for torque.
Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive available. The Santa Fe can tow 5000 pounds.
With front-wheel drive, the Santa Fe SE gets an EPA-rated 18 miles per gallon City, 25 mpg Highway, 21 mpg Combined. All-wheel drive drops the rated mileage by one, same as the fully loaded front-wheel-drive Ultimate.
Santa Fe SE ($30,850) gets stain-resistant fabric upholstery, 12-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, AM/FM/XM/CD audio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, 7.0-inch touchscreen, power windows and doors, cruise control, rearview camera, automatic headlamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels. (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Santa Fe SE Ultimate ($38,850) adds surround-view cameras, parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, power passenger seat, 8.0-inch touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, hands-free liftgate, and 19-inch wheels. It also gets standard forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane-departure warnings.
Santa Fe Limited Ultimate ($39,550) includes leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, second-row captain’s chairs, electro-luminescent gauges, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-change assist.
All-wheel drive ($1750) is available.
Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics bring in a suite of services such as remote unlock and start. For 2018, Hyundai adds in three years of free BlueLink service.
On its 110-inch wheelbase, Hyundai’s biggest SUV is still smaller than some rivals in its class, yet it has the appearance of bigness. But no less stylish, with its 2017 touch-up keeping it competitive in the looks department. The new bumpers went a long way. On the Limited and Ultimate, LED foglamps flank a slim, wide mouth.
An undulating dashboard surface dips and rises for the centerstack and panel for the gauges. Audio and fan adjust with big easy knobs. Just ahead of the shift lever there’s a deep open storage cubby. The materials complement and fit each other well. SE owners have to live with more plastic.
Seats are shapely and supportive, helped by bolstering that’s not too firm. There’s ample legroom in front, but the headroom suffers under the panoramic sunroof that’s standard in the Ultimate. The comfortable headrests are at an ideal angle.
Thanks to the 110-inch wheelbase, the second row gets good legroom to go along with the comfortable bench seat, and even more comfortable captain’s chairs. The third row is for kids. The wheelbase isn’t long enough to make real room back there.
With the third row up, there’s 13.5 cubic feet of storage space in back, about the same as the trunk of a small sedan. But when the third row is folded flat, there’s more than 40 cubic feet behind the second row, and that’s quite healthy. And there’s more in a shallow bin beneath the cargo floor.
Acceleration with the 3.3-liter V6 engine is reasonable, thanks to the transmission’s willingness (after a brief pause) to kick down when you stomp the gas pedal. The transmission shifts quickly when it’s shifted by the driver in manual mode, using the lever on the console. No paddles.
The Santa Fe offers three driving modes. Normal is fine for most of the time, but Sport presents sharper steering on two-lanes, and Eco limits acceleration, slows the throttle response, and slackens the gear changes to deliver the best fuel mileage.
The electric power steering is taken from the Hyundai Elantra GT, and contributes to predictable handling. The suspension is calmer and the ride quieter than it used to be. Even with the 19-inch wheels on the Limited and Ultimate, the worst surfaces are effectively dampened.
Santa Fe engineers have made a big effort to reduce noise and vibration, and suspension sounds have been toned down, while barely a whir can be heard from the elderly drivetrain under acceleration.
The Santa Fe isn’t the best in its class, but it behaves well, performs respectably, and delivers strong value.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with staff reports.