The Hyundai Santa Fe is a midsize crossover CUV that has been a significant success for Hyundai. It has grown from a strange-looking entry-level SUV to an award-winning crossover in a completely saturated segment.
When it debuted in 2001, the Santa Fe was the first SUV that Hyundai offered. The Santa Fe currently sits between the smaller Tuscon and larger Palisade in size. It is currently in its fourth generation of production.
When it was first introduced, Hyundai was known as a value brand that was on the upswing, but that also could not compete with the likes of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan for sales and quality.
The Santa Fe was the catalyst that forced those perceptions to change. As the Santa Fe evolved along with its parent company, it has shown that making the necessary improvements over the years pays off. It currently ranks as one of the top twenty SUVs by sales in America, and most top automotive publications consistently place the Santa Fe near the top of their vehicle lists as one of the best SUVs on the market.
2019-Present Hyundai Santa Fe (4th Generation)
The current generation Hyundai Santa Fe capitalized on the previous generation's success when it was redesigned for the 2019 model year. The current Santa Fe looks more modern than previous versions of the SUV with even more luxury features than before.
Similar to the third-generation Santa Fe, the fourth generation underwent a name change that distinguishes the smaller five-passenger version from the larger seven-passenger version. The Santa Fe Sport model took over the regular Santa Fe name. As a result, the current generation Santa Fe is a five-passenger midsize SUV and is not available with a third row. The Santa Fe XL – what used to be the Santa Fe – is the larger, seven-passenger version of the SUV. It was discontinued and replaced by the larger Palisade.
Engine options were updated to exclude the previously-offered 3.3-liter V6. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder, producing 185 horsepower, is the base engine and is carried over from the previous generation. Additionally, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also carried over from the previously-named Santa Fe Sport. It produces 235 horsepower.
Standard features are increased in number from the outgoing model and include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a 7-inch touchscreen, rear cross-traffic alert, driver attention warning, forward-collision assist, and stop-and-go cruise control. Features included on higher trim levels include a head-up display, wireless device charging, hands-free liftgate, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Changes for the 2020 model year include the return to three trim levels from the expanded six for fourth-generation models. The Santa Fe XL has also been discontinued to make room for the new Palisade.
For 2021, Hyundai gave the Santa Fe a significant update.
The available powertrains were significantly shuffled. The base 2.4-liter engine and the optional 2.0-liter turbo are gone, replaced by a base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 191 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
A new 2.5-liter turbo four is the optional gas engine now. It makes 277 horsepower and 311 pound-feet of torque, and it's paired with a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Finally, a new hybrid model has been added to the lineup for 2021. It uses an electric motor, paired with a 1.6-liter turbo four-cylinder that makes a total of 225 horsepower. A unique six-speed automatic transmission is paired with it.
Other updates for 2021 include changes to the exterior styling of the Santa Fe: a diamond-patterned grille, unique LED daytime running lights, and new rim options.
Inside, higher-end leather and amenities were offered as options, and a new top-end Calligraphy trim was added. All models get a redesigned dashboard with a larger touchscreen infotainment screen.
Other safety equipment was also upgraded for the 2021 model year.
For 2022 a plug-in hybrid model joined the lineup. It uses the same 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine as the normal hybrid, and pairs it up with a 66.9 kW electric motor for 261 total horsepower and a 30-mile all-electric range (total range is 440 miles). All-wheel-drive and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard.
This PHEV Sante Fe is rated by the EPA at 33 MPG combined when using the gas engine and 76 MPGe when using the system as a whole.
2013-2018 Hyundai Santa Fe (3rd Generation)
The third-generation Santa Fe came out in the summer of 2012 as a 2013 model year vehicle. It was drastically redesigned to look more modern and grown-up from the outgoing generation. Additionally, it was redesigned to take the place of both the larger Veracruz and the previous-generation Santa Fe. As a result, it was now offered in two configurations with two trim levels each. The larger Santa Fe was offered in GLS and Limited trims, both capable of seating six or seven passengers. The smaller version, the Santa Fe Sport, was offered in base and 2.0T trim levels.
Base model Santa Fe Sports are powered by the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, this year making 190 horsepower. 2.0T trims are powered by a predictable 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 264 horsepower. Both the Santa Fe GLS and Limited come standard with a larger 3.3-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard on all trim levels. All-wheel-drive is optional. The manual-transmission option was completely dropped for the third-generation Santa Fe, leaving only a six-speed automatic as standard across all trims.
The base model Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe GLS offer comparable standard equipment. Both feature Bluetooth connectivity, cloth upholstery, satellite radio, power windows, power locks, air conditioning, disc brakes, and a six-speaker sound system. The GLS features larger alloy wheels and foglights in addition to the Sport's base equipment. Features added to the 2.0T include larger alloy wheels and keyless ignition, while more luxurious features such as a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, and heated second-row seats are added to the Limited trim. Other options included a panoramic sunroof, an 8-inch touchscreen display, and a blind-spot monitoring system.
There were few changes made to the Santa Fe during its third generation of production. A few minor feature additions for 2014 included optional ventilated front seats, a rear parking assistance system, and the addition of blind-spot monitoring across all trims rather than just the Limited. The GLS trim was renamed to the SE in 2016. A slight exterior design refresh was given the Santa Fe for 2017.
2007-2013 Hyundai Santa Fe (2nd Generation)
The second-generation Santa Fe debuted as a 2007 model year SUV. Though it was built on a new unibody platform and its exterior was thoroughly modified to look much cleaner and less bulbous than the previous generation styling, its upscale interior, additional features, and continued value-focused pricing continued to ensure its success. One of the largest updates to the Santa Fe was its physical growth as it was now offered with more headroom and an optional third-row seat.
The base 2.7-liter V6 engine was carried over from the first-generation Santa Fe. It produced 185 horsepower. The 3.5-liter V6 previously offered in first-generation Santa Fes was replaced with a more powerful 3.3-liter V6 producing 242 horsepower. Both front and all-wheel-drive options were available with both engines, and a five-speed manual transmission came standard on the smaller V6. A four-speed automatic was optional on the 2.7-liter in place of the manual while the 3.3-liter engine came standard with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Three trim levels were offered for second-generation vehicles: the base GLS, middle-tier SE, and top-of-the-line Limited, which replaced the previously-named LX trim. Standard features included keyless entry, heated mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, CD player, and cruise control. The SE included upgraded features like 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror while the Limited added leather seating and heated front seats to the SE's amenities. A sunroof, third-row seat, and an upgraded Infinity sound system highlight the optional features. ABS, traction control, and side curtain airbags came standard on all trim levels.
Though there were only slight changes for the 2008 and 2009 model years, 2010 came with a mid-cycle refresh. A redesigned grille, redesigned taillights, standard Bluetooth connectivity, two new engine options, and the removal of the third-row seating option highlighted these changes. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine made its return to the lineup, replacing the 2.7-liter V6 and produced 175 horsepower. A new 3.5-liter V6 producing 276 horsepower replaced the 3.3-liter V6, came standard on the SE trim, and was made optional on the Limited. All previous automatic transmission choices were replaced with six-speed automatics, and a new six-speed manual transmission came standard on base GLS models.
2001-2007 Hyundai Santa Fe (1st Generation)
The first-generation Hyundai Santa Fe was known for two things at the time. The first was its surprisingly good reviews as it was Hyundai's first-ever SUV offered for sale. The second was its strange styling. Despite both of these potential obstacles, the Santa Fe impressed with its comfortable ride, roomy interior, and good value, a characteristic for which Hyundai is traditionally known.
Additionally, the Santa Fe was equipped with a good amount of features for the time, which boosted its ratings and helped make its transition into the market easier.
Two engine choices and two transmission choices were available. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 138 horsepower came standard with a five-speed manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic transmission. A larger 2.7-liter V6 was available with the four-speed automatic as standard, making 173 horsepower. Front-wheel-drive was standard with an optional full-time all-wheel-drive system.
The Santa Fe was offered in three trim levels: GLS, GLX, and LX. All three trims were available with the more powerful V6 engine, which made the four-cylinder much less popular. Standard features included alloy wheels, air conditioning, power windows, driver's seat lumbar support, and disc brakes on all four corners in V6 models. Higher trim levels added extra equipment such as fog lights, remote keyless entry, ABS, CD player, and a limited-slip differential, but reviewers note that because of option bundling, some desired features came with added cost.
For 2003, Hyundai added standard side-impact airbags and disc brakes to all Santa Fe models. 2004 came with more changes, including a small interior and exterior refresh and an additional engine option. A 3.5-liter V6 was added that produced 195 horsepower. 2005 saw the deletion of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, a small boost in horsepower for the 3.5-liter V6 to 200, and slight styling changes to the grille, taillights, and gauge cluster. Additionally, the GLX trim was deleted, leaving the base GLS and top-level LX trims for choice.