The Hyundai Santa Fe is a mid-sized SUV and the largest in this class produced by the Korean automaker. It originally appeared in 2000 and the current model is the third generation of the product and was launched in 2014. I recently drove a 2017 model, which refreshes and updates the vehicle in many ways, making one of the company’s top sellers even more of a desirable proposition. To give it its full name, my Hyundai was an XL Ultimate AWD, which is as far up the spec sheet as you can go and a very luxurious vehicle. Incidentally, there’s a Sport variant of this product that’s 215 mm shorter.
As just about everybody knows by now, Hyundai started in Canada with humble beginnings and grew to become an automaker that’s now mentioned in the same breath as the best names in the business. The Santa Fe is quite a large vehicle, but doesn’t look that way from the outside. It’s one of those rare products that appears compact, but climb inside and the spaciousness is amazing. My tester came with three rows of seats but even that didn’t cramp the interior. The rear row of seats fold down in a few seconds by pulling a strap and since they fold flush with the rear load deck, you instantly get a vast and very usable cargo area.
Expectedly in this class, this vehicle has four doors and a big rear hatch which in the case of my Santa Fe, could be opened remotely with the key fob or from inside the vehicle. It closes with the touch of a button too, so if you’re loading a lot of cargo, you can open and close the hatch more or less “hands free.”
Exterior upgrades that are part of the 2017 package include new headlights, grille, taillights, bumpers, wheel design, LED daytime running lights and a lengthy list of other goodies. The basic body styling is very attractive without being “quirky” in any way. Hyundai calls it “Fluidic Sculpture.”
Power comes from a fuel-efficient and peppy 3.3-litre V-6 producing 290-horsepower. I used the Santa Fe for a long-weekend road trip into the Fraser Valley and taking in Harrison Hot Springs. I was driving some freeway, but also lots of winding roads off Hwy 7 and close to the mountains. On these twisty roads I found that handling was very good indeed and whether on the backroads or the freeway, fuel economy was excellent. Economy is pretty well at four-cylinder levels and I’d expected the V-6 to be a lot less fuel efficient given the power it developed.
The V-6 also means that the Santa Fe has very good towing capability. The 6-speed automatic took care of business with ease and was very smooth and seamless. All XL models are all-wheel drive, but I didn’t take my test vehicle off road or drive it in wet weather. I’d expect it to perform well in such conditions having had off-road experience with other Hyundai SUVs and crossovers.
The interior is very nicely done and everything is in the right place for ease of access. The XL Ultimate has a very long list of features and certainly nothing was missing from the example I drove, including a very easy to operate navigation system and a nicely intuitive hands-free mobile phone interface. Other Ultimate features include a multi-view camera, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lots of other good stuff. The whole vehicle has an aura of refinement about it – it’s comfortable to ride in, evens out road undulations effectively and shuts out exterior noise very well. The general feeling is that of a luxury vehicle.
The Santa Fe has lots of competition, but it does get overlooked sometimes by people shopping this market slot. It can hold its own with the best though and deserves a place on the shortlist of buyers looking for a lavishly-equipped, refined mid-size SUV with a reasonable price tag considering the equipment level.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE:Four-door, 7-seat hatchback
ENGINE: 3.3-litre V-6, 290-horsepower
TOWING CAPACITY:5,000 lb
FUEL ECONOMY:9.4-litres/100 km combined city/highway
PRICE:Base XL MSRP $32,199. As tested XL Ultimate $48,299