We expected our Hyundai Santa Fe test vehicle to be well equipped – after all, that’s Hyundai’s stock in trade – but we weren’t prepared for the level of luxury built into the 2017 Santa Fe Limited Ultimate with all-wheel drive. From its panoramic sunroof to its 290-horsepower V-6 engine, this midsize crossover edges closer to “luxury” than “near-luxury.” And while it’s certainly not inexpensive, at $44,635, it emerges as a remarkable value when you add up everything it brings to the road.
Unlike the 5-seat Santa Fe Sport, the full-dress version of this popular model seats six or seven, depending on the layout, and packs up to 80 cubic feet of cargo when the second- and third-row seats are lowered. It’s faster, more refined and roomy than one would expect, given the Santa Fe’s beginnings as a rather noisy, oddly shaped CUV a decade and a half ago.
The Santa Fe is burning up the showrooms this year, besting last year’s pace by 2,700 through June. In June alone, 18,345 were sold in the U.S. market, beating out every Hyundai model except the compact Elantra sedan.
Hyundai’s formula is to equip its base models better than most competitors do, and to provide attractive pricing on higher-end units like our Iron Frost (silver) Santa Fe Limited Ultimate. For example, even the base SE has dual-zone climate control, heated outside mirrors, roof rails, rear-view camera, satellite radio and more. All Santa Fe models come with the 290-horsepower V-6 engine and 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission. The SE is priced from $30,800.
Space doesn’t allow us to list all the standard features built into our test car, so we’ll list the ones that surprised us by their absence: remote start and electronic rear sunshade. (The second-row side windows do have manually operated shades.) The telematics, sound system, fabrics and especially the high-tech safety features – smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, cross-traffic warning and blind-spot detection, standard in all but SE trim – were of the highest order.
The CUV’s interior is uncommonly roomy. Our tallest driver had the same complaint about the Santa Fe that he had with the 2016 Kia Optima sedan, another Korean product: The telescoping steering column should reach a little closer to the driver.
Legroom is ample in the second-row bucket seats, which can be levered forward to give third-row passengers more room. Nimble adults of small to medium stature can access the way-back and ride in reasonable comfort.
The Santa Fe’s major weak spot is fuel economy; it’s rated at 17 mpg city, 22 highway. But our test car regularly topped 25 mpg in mainly highway driving. It consumes regular unleaded gasoline.
Crash-test results have been improving, and the Santa Fe was given the top score of “Good” in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests in every category except the small-overlap crash – “Marginal” in 2013-16 models, unspecified for 2017.
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD
Engine: 3.3-liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 252 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,169 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19×7.5-in. alloy
Tires: P235/55R19 all-season
Ground clearance: 7.3 in.
Seating capacity: 6
Luggage capacity with third-row seat upright: 13.5 cu. ft.
Luggage capacity with third-row seat lowered: 40.9 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 80 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 5,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline