By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Having reviewed Hyundai cars and SUVs since shortly after they went on sale in the U.S. in 1986, we’ve been continually impressed by the constantly improving design, quality, technology and value.
We recently spend a week driving the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and can report that the trend continues. The Santa Fe shows significant improvements as the mid-level SUV enters its fifth year of the third generation.
The Hyundai SUV is available in two sizes, the three-row Santa Fe, which we drove this time and the smaller two-row Santa Fe Sport. The larger Santa Fe has a four-inch longer wheelbase and is eight inches longer making room for the third row of seating or as we call it, “the way back.” Like most third rows, this one is a challenge to get into if for no other reason than limited headroom on the way back. Once ensconced in the third row it’s tight, and best suited for slim flexible people or children.
On the outside, the 2017 Santa Fe gets a minor front and rear facelift along with new headlights and exhaust outlets. We think the Santa Fe styling has held up well and is still one of the more attractive SUVs in the category.
Hyundai engineers have done a first-rate job on the controls. We like that most all the controls are buttons and knobs. That makes them more user friendly than touch systems that often require the driver to look away from the road to operate. We also like the large icons and quick response of the touch infotainment screen. This is one of the most user-friendly systems we’ve used.
Cargo space with three rows in place is 13.5 cubic feet, or about same as that in a mid-size sedan. With the third and second rows folded, that space can grow to 80 cubic feet – that’s room for lots of sporting equipment, shopping treasures or building materials. The hands-free power liftgate makes access from the rear much easier. Rather than having to go through a juggling act while holding something and kicking a foot under the rear of the vehicle like many systems, the Hyundai Santa Fe only requires the key fob in your pocket or purse and to be standing a few feet from the rear bumper for a few seconds.
A 290-hp 3.3-liter Lambda II V-6 engine powers all versions of the larger Santa Fe and it’s more powerful than those offered by competitive models. The engine has high-pressure direct injection and Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing (D-CVVT). Hyundai’s own efficient six-speed automatic transmission drives the front wheels in the standard configuration of all trim levels, but they all have available all-wheel drive ($1,750).
Buff magazine testing reports a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.1 seconds for the Hyundai Santa Fe. The EPA lists fuel economy at 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. We averaged 18.7 mpg during our week’s test. The towing capacity is 5,000 pounds making it perfect for pulling a couple adult toys (motor cycles, snow machines or personal water craft) or camping trailer.
All-wheel drive models come with a windshield wiper deicer built into the lower part of the windshield. Each also has an Active Cornering Control system that transfers more power to the rear wheel with the best grip on a corner adding to the driver’s confidence. The electric power steering has driver-selectable steering modes that allow her or him to select a steering feel between Sport, Eco and Normal settings.
The Hyundai Santa Fe comes in four trim levels: SE, Limited, SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate. Each trim has a high level of standard features that increase with the trim level. Pricing of the four models with front-wheel drive and including the destination charge is $31,695; $35,845; $39,595 and $40,295 respectively. The Limited Ultimate price with all the available options is $44,145.
Our Limited Ultimate test vehicle included standard equipment like navigation with an eight-inch touch screen, 19-inch alloy wheels, leather seating surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and much more. Standard safety features included Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Change Assist, rearview camera, rear parking sensors and Multiview camera system. An optional ($2,100) Tech Package adds Smart Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Warning, an electronic parking brake, Dynamic Bending Lights and High Beam Assist.
Infotainment and communications enhancements on all models include Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio along with USB, audio ports and the Blue Link® connection system (optional on the Sport trim). Blue Link uses embedded telematics to gather vehicle Car Care information such as Monthly Vehicle Health Report and Automatic Crash Notifications. The system also uses mobile apps to allow the customer to remote start, stop, lock or unlock their Hyundai. It also can immobilize the vehicle if it is stolen.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe has a smooth manner and is quieter inside than many other SUVs we’ve driven. We especially like the comfortable seats and the extensive equipment level. Handling was very good, but not the best. It’s better suited for cruising then romps over mountain roads, and that seems appropriate for this kind of vehicle. It rates a must drive for anyone considering a mid-level SUV/crossover.