2023 Hyundai Santa Fe review: Could this be the perfect family crossover?

2023 Hyundai Santa Fe review: Could this be the perfect family crossover?

Hyundai Santa Fe 2023 line | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

Written by Aaron Bragman

June 19, 2023

Verdict: The gas-powered Hyundai Santa Fe is practically the perfect family SUV, with first-class space, comfort, technology and driving dynamics, and only struggles when it comes to fuel economy with the turbo engine.

vs competition: You can make a real case for the Santa Fe being the benchmark in this class, and that’s a very good one – few rivals can match the Santa Fe’s refinement, space and performance, especially at this price.

It’s not often that I throw around the “B” word when talking about cars, because using the term “standard” is too bold a claim. This means that this is the standard by which all other cars should be judged, which is a huge achievement for any automaker. But as I spent more and more time driving and using the 2023 Hyundai Santa Fe over the course of a week, the gas-only (not hybrid) version of the top-of-the-line model is the word that kept coming to mind. There are few cars I can think of that don’t have many things I can point to and say, “That’s not cool.” It’s this latest Santa Fe that really struggled to bring up items in the “what we don’t like” category for our search page. Simply put, it’s very, very good in every category I can think of. It’s one of the few vehicles I’ve ever driven I cannot Point to a bunch of stuff and say, “That’s not cool,” because a lot of it, well, exactly As it should be.

Related: What has changed in Hyundai Santa Fe 2023?

Ditch the fake Frippery

Now, this doesn’t mean that the Hyundai Santa Fe is the “perfect car.” It is not suitable for a track day event, climbing the Rubicon Trail, or towing a boat. But for its intended purpose as a regular family car that can seat five people comfortably and safely and has the means to entertain them during the journey, it comes very close to that goal. It starts with the design, the latest version of which is a nice mix of Hyundai’s latest avant-garde looks (there’s never really a ‘corporate’ Hyundai look, as all its vehicles look different but more or less the same) that combines some interesting lighting elements with flowing, futuristic sheetmetal. . What you can say about the Santa Fe’s design is that it is interesting Without being weird. The car looks futuristic, with distinctive fang-like lighting elements at the front and slim taillights at the rear that have become a hallmark of Hyundai design – using the lighting elements themselves as important design features rather than hiding them or using them as afterthoughts. On the lower side, the wheel arches are emphasized with oversized patterns that match the openings, making the already large wheels and tires (20 inches on this top-spec model) appear even larger. The whole look is fresh, modern and attractive, making the traditional two-box SUV look attractive without resorting to faux off-roading.

Elegant and not rude

Inside the Santa Fe, you’re greeted with a clean, modern design without resorting to that very annoying new trend that takes you to the touchscreen. Yes, there’s indeed a large 10.25-inch touchscreen atop the center console, but there’s also a huge array of buttons and switches underneath that provide plenty of redundant control over systems from climate to audio. there too many buttons? Well, maybe, but they’re all large, well-marked and have the advantage of always being in the same place, so they’re easy to use quickly without resorting to multiple touches of a virtual screen button. The shifter is also a push button, and we’re less happy about that, but at least it’s not tilted away from you like it is in Hyundai’s smaller Tucson, so while it’s not as easy to use as a shift lever, it could be worse.

But it’s the combination of outstanding comfort in any of the Santa Fe’s five seating positions and the truly premium materials used throughout the cabin that really sets it apart. It’s really nice, with soft-touch plastics in elegant shapes that match the tightly assembled panels, knobs and switches. There’s plenty of hip and shoulder room for first- and second-row passengers, and there’s plenty of legroom, too. Even with the panoramic sunroof, there’s plenty of headroom thanks to the excellent adjustability of the front seats. My only complaint? Monotonous color palette. It’s a sea of ​​dreary gray out there, and while some call this chic and elegant, I think it’s a bit unnecessarily boring. Many automakers are bringing colors back to interiors, with blues and greens making a fresh appearance; The Santa Fe could do with a hot spray to break up the funereal gray look.

Technology leader

On-board technology is another reason I use the “b” word about the Santa Fe – really, no one does multimedia and graphic displays better than Hyundai. The 10.25-inch touchscreen is packed with features, information, graphics and customization options that allow you to have any number of options for how you control the car’s systems and what they want to show you. The digital gauge cluster can be placed in one of four different themes, one of which is… truly It’s up there in terms of uniqueness (cubes?!), but again, the level of customization combined with the bright clarity of the displays themselves is great. Many automakers have digital displays and don’t do anything interesting with them; Hyundai sees it as another canvas for creative looks and manages to make some interesting things without making users try to figure out how everything works. The only complaint about this system is a common complaint in all Hyundai vehicles with this large screen: there is still no wireless Apple CarPlay available. It was an electronic decision Hyundai made years ago in developing the 10.25-inch system and has yet to correct, but it’s already notable by its absence… especially when… maybe Get wireless Apple CarPlay with Hyundai’s smaller, less expensive systems on less expensive models. Strange, eh?

Zippy, not sippy

The powertrain for this premium model from Calligraphy is a larger turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission driving all four wheels through permanent all-wheel drive. It pumps out a whopping 281 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough to get the Santa Fe hurtling through traffic with a full load of people and luggage, and with more vigor if it’s just a driver aboard. Acceleration is quick, making freeway entry ramps a breeze, and the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is surprisingly smooth and unobtrusive, providing easy, quick shifts up or down the gear range when needed. The Santa Fe’s base engine is considerably less powerful: a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder that produces just 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, which doesn’t sound very exciting. There are also two hybrid versions, one a plug-in with a dedicated electric range, for people who care more about fuel economy. The downside to this powerful turbo engine is that fuel economy isn’t great: it’s EPA-rated at 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined, but tested over the course of a week (not Even with all that really (heavy footing) the Santa Fe only saw an average of 18 mpg return, which is a pitiful showing for a vehicle.

The rest of the driving experience is excellent, thanks to the outstanding balance between ride and handling. I wouldn’t call the Santa Fe sporty (although its powertrain might be no different), with the steering feeling acceptable (not as numb as many other crossovers) and a ride tuned more for comfort than sport, but sport isn’t the car’s job. ; The family transport is well controlled and confident. At that task, the Santa Fe excels. The cabin is quiet at highway speeds or even under full acceleration, with very little wind or road noise reaching the occupants’ ears. The ride is surprisingly smooth and bouncy even with the large 20-inch wheels wearing low-profile all-season tires. The brakes are strong and progressive and show no fade after repeated hard stops. It’s just so damned good Attractive In almost every way, there’s nothing to fault with the exception of lackluster fuel economy.

Packed, but not expensive

What seals the new Santa Fe deal? They are reasonable prices. At the low end, the Santa Fe’s base entry price is just a tick over $30,000 (all prices include destination charge) for the front-wheel-drive SE model with the base 2.5-liter engine. That extends to the loaded Calligraphy 2.5T AWD I tested with a delivery price of $45,255. This actually makes the price of a fully equipped, gas-loaded luxury Santa Fe several thousand dollars less than the average transaction price of a new car in the United States. Even the fully loaded hybrid version of the Santa Fe is only $50,000. , which is kind of unusual.

So it has value, comfort, style, technology, space and efficiency. And if fuel economy is an issue, choose the hybrid. The ’23 Santa Fe ticks all the right boxes, and I confidently consider it the new standard for a family crossover.

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The Cars.com Editorial Department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In keeping with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers do not accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The editorial department is independent of the advertising, sales and sponsored content departments of Cars.com.

Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has more than 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone by the time he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiley faces. Today he is a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/rude. Email Aaron Bragman

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