We’ve recently had two opportunities to get behind the wheel of the all-new Santa Fe. The first time was in San Antonio as we took the new Santa Fe Sport off-road. The second round was during a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, where we had the chance to drive the Santa Fe GLS and Limited, the 3-row offerings. When it comes to crossover SUVs offered by Hyundai, I’ve never been that excited. The new Santa Fe, though, incorporates an all-new design that fits it within the current lineup and it looks good. There are a lot of good looking crossovers in this segment now though, so how does this vehicle stack up?
First, we’ll look at the Santa Fe Sport. This is the 2-row, 5-passenger model with a new sporty look and feel. We drove this vehicle at the Knibbe Ranch located in Spring Branch, just north of San Antonio, Texas. This was during our annual Texas Truck Rodeo where this little Santa Fe beat out the competition being awarded the title of Compact Crossover Utility Vehicle of Texas. This was a huge honor considering the tough competition, including the new Mazda CX-5 and the new Ford Escape. We drove both a Santa Fe Sport with all-wheel-drive and standard front-wheel-drive at the ranch and had the opportunity to take it both on the road and off-road. We were quite impressed with the overall sturdiness and solid feel of this crossover, even while tearing through an open field at over 50-mph.
After driving the Santa Fe Sport, I was really looking forward to seeing how Hyundai would unify this crossover with a bigger footprint and make a 3-row model. As of 2012, the Veracruz was their only offering in the 3-row segment, but it was discontinued and now the Santa Fe would serve as both a 2-row and 3-row offering. Just as we were ready and waiting to get in one of these new vehicles for review, I received a call from Hyundai inviting me to their media preview in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The 3-row models are distinguished as the GLS and the Limited model trims. Hyundai didn’t just throw seats into the rear of a Sport and call it a day. The GLS and Limited trims are almost 10-inches longer than the Sport. They’ve also given it some distinguishing styling cues like having a larger front grille with a 4-bar design instead of the 3-bars you get on the sport. The rear-quarter window has a less aggressive line allowing for more rear visibility as well.
Inside, both these cars are similarly aligned. You get more space and luxury with a Limited package, but all trims I sat in were of great quality. Obviously, in the sport, you only have seating for 5 with your 2-rows. In the GLS, you get a bench middle seat and 2-rear seats allowing for a full 7-passenger configuration. In the Limited trim, you can opt for captains chairs in the center row making the vehicle more spacious and only allowing for a 6-passenger configuration.
Everything inside the Santa Fe, no matter the trim, has kept family and lifestyle in mind. The seats are coated from the factory with stain resistant “YES Essentials” coating. You get Bluetooth connectivity standard on all trims as well as the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, and a multifunctional trip computer. Optional is a 12-way power driver seat, 8-inch touchscreen navigation, and Infinity Logic 7 premium audio system, panoramic sunroof, proximity key with electric push-button start, heated and cooled seats, and dual-zone automatic temperature control. Getting a Limited packed out leaves you wanting very little.
Under the hood, available in all trims, is the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine with dual continuously variable valve timing and direct injection for keeping good power and fuel economy. You get 190-horsepower and 181-lbs.-ft of torque at 4250 rpm. This option should also net you 21-mpg city and 20-mpg highway. The Sport can also be had with Hyundai’s 2.0-liter turbocharged engine which spins out a much more sporty 264-hp and 269-lbs.-ft of torque. This is the engine you want in the Sport trim as you really get some power pushing you along. For the GLS and Limited trims, you can also have a 3.3-liter V6 engine. This engine pushes a very respectable 290-hp and 252-lbs.-ft of torque. This option was chosen for the larger vehicles with fuel economy and towing in mind. The EPA figures on the V6 are 18-city and 25-highway. It also comes standard with a trailer-prep package with a flush-mounted tow hitch design capable of towing up to 5,000-lbs.
What does this all mean? Well, after driving the Santa Fe Sport down some trails at Knibbe Ranch and then spending some time in the GLS and Limited in the mountains of Virginia, I’m really left loving this crossover. It handled itself well in all instances. It’s comfortable and the interior is some of the best in the class. It’s as capable as anything else in its class with good ground clearance and a nice all-wheel-drive option. It’s the perfect size for growing families and at a base price of $24,700 for the Sport and $28,600 for the GLS, it’s priced competitively too. Of course, a fully equipped Limited trim with AWD and the Technology package can ring up to a max of $38,885 which seems like a lot for a Hyundai, but comparing it to vehicles like the Ford Explorer, it can be looked at as a really good deal.