The Santa Fe is a comfortable midsize crossover that’s great for families. It got redesigned for 2013, refreshed for 2017 and gets a few tweaks for the 2018 model year. The Santa Fe will be all-new for 2019, arriving at dealers this summer, so shoppers may find some good deals on the outgoing models.
The Santa Fe has three rows of seating while the smaller Santa Fe Sport has two rows. The Santa Fe can accommodate six or seven passengers, depending on whether you get bench seating or captain’s chairs in the second row.
The Santa Fe comes in three trims: SE, SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate. Starting prices range from $30,850 to $41,300. Front-wheel-drive is standard on all trims; all-wheel-drive is an option on all trims for an additional $1,750.
All Santa Fe models are powered by the same engine, a 3.3-liter V6 that makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Drive Mode Select lets you pick form Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes.
The Santa Fe has decent handling for a midsize crossover; in fact, it handles much like a sedan. Acceleration is brisk for a three-row crossover and the six-speed transmission makes quick gear changes when needed. Body lean is minimal. The ride is a bit firm. The cabin is quiet with most engine and road noise kept at bay.
Admittedly, driving the Santa Fe is not exactly going to get your blood pumping, but it’s a comfortable ride that will get you and your family to work, school and riding lessons.
Fuel efficiency is about average for a three-row crossover. EPA ratings for my tester are 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for a combined rating of 19 mpg. I got 19.7 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is spacious and the huge panoramic sunroof gives the cabin an even more airy feel. Passengers in the first two rows enjoy good leg- and head-room. The Captain’s chairs in the second row slide forward and back, making it easy to get into the third row. As is usually the case, the third row is tight and best suited for kids or small adults.
My tester has a two-tone color scheme, giving an upscale look. The steering wheel is heated, front seats are heated and ventilated, and the rear seats are heated. The 360-degree camera system makes it easy to maneuver the Santa Fe in tight parking lots.
Every Santa Fe comes with a rearview camera, automatic on/off headlights, remote keyless entry with alarm, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise control, satellite radio, HD Radio, a six-speaker sound system, USB port, and seven-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Bluetooth.
Controls are logically laid out and easy to reach. The infotainment system has knobs for volume and tuning, and there are also handy buttons for climate control so you can quickly change settings without having to use the touchscreen.
Navigation, an Infinity premium audio system, and USB ports in the third row are optional. Many driver assistance technologies are available including lane change assist, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert, multi-view camera, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive headlights, and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection.
The Santa Fe has less cargo room than many midsize crossovers. There are 13.5 cubic feet behind the third row, 40.9 cubes with the third row folded, and 80 cubes with the first and second rows folded. The second row seats fold flat, and the third-row seatbacks also fold flat 50/50, providing flexibility in hauling passengers and cargo.
My tester has the optional Hands-Free Smart Liftgate with Auto Open. This system opens the rear cargo area in a few seconds if you stand behind the vehicle with the proximity key in your purse or pocket. You don’t have to wave or move your foot. This is a great feature to have when your arms are full with grocery bags!
When properly equipped, the Santa Fe can tow up 5,000 pounds.
The 2018 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport get top overall ratings in NHTSA crash tests of five out of five stars. Both models receive Top Safety Pick+ ratings by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Santa Fe has Hyundai’s five-year/60,000-mile warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Competitors include the Ford Edge and Explorer, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, Mazda Cx-9, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas.
Good value for the money
Backed by Hyundai’s excellent warranty
Decent performance for a three-row crossover
User-friendly infotainment system
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available
Less cargo space than many competitors
Third row is cramped for all but small kids
My tester starts at $41,300. The Ultimate Tech Package is $2,100 and adds Smart Cruise Control with Stop/Start, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, Electronic parking Brake with Auto Vehicle Hold, HID headlights, Dynamic Bending Light and High Beam Assist. Carpeted floor mats are $150. Destination fee is $950, bringing the grand total to $44,500.
The 2018 Santa Fe is good choice for families. It’s a versatile, roomy and comfortable rig and gives buyers a lot of value for the money. However, other mid-size crossovers offer zippier performance, nicer interiors, better fuel efficiency and/or more cargo room, so it’s good to shop around in this very competitive segment.