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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Hyundai Santa Fe: System tweaks enhance three-row crossover’s appeal

Hyundai’s pitch for the 2015 Santa Fe is mercifully succinct.

Updates to the three-row crossover’s steering and suspension systems are reported. The standard-features list grows to include daytime running lights, a driver-side blind-spot mirror and a one-touch up/down passenger window.

There’s also a trick new liftgate. Stand within a few feet of the rear bumper, key fob in hand, purse or pocket, and the liftgate opens automatically. “The system makes it easy for the driver to keep both feet on the ground, simply waiting for the liftgate to open,” crows Hyundai in a dig at Ford’s pioneering foot-activated liftgate.

A series of suspension and steering-system tweaks yield newly confident handling and a well-damped and compliant ride. The chassis filters the impact of potholes and railroad crossings without imposing a layer of gauzy isolation. The Santa Fe drives like smaller car and has a newfound sense of control. 

Steering-system enhancements produce a more direct feel and more precision. On-center feel is solid, boding well for comfortable long-distance driving, and the Santa Fe tracks well on broken pavement. 

Cabin layout and design have long been a Hyundai strength. The Santa Fe’s controls are well organized and easy to understand and use. A well-considered assortment of buttons supplement the touchscreen controls.  Sophisticated digital graphics are nicely integrated into the overall layout. 

Materials are of uniformly high quality and fit and finish is very good. Switchgear has good heft and fluid action.

Seat quality is also good, though I’d prefer deeper side bolsters. The base GLS trim ($31,045, including destination) incorporates second- and third-row folding benches to accommodate eight; in the up-level Limited has second-row captains’ chairs, limiting seating to seven. 

The third-row bench offers more legroom than some competitors, but at the expense of cargo space aft of the third row.

Driving the 3,900 crossover is 3.3-liter V-6 that makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration is quicker than average for the class and a properly equipped Santa Fe will tow up to 5,000 pounds. Power goes to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system counters traction loss by applying braking power to either rear wheel as needed.

EPA fuel-economy estimates are 21 mpg combined (18 city/25 highway) on FWD models and 20 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway) with AWD. 

A high-end Ultimate package (panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, driver memory settings, a navigation system, 8-inch touchscreen and a 115-volt outlet) adds sufficient weight to reduce efficiency by a mile or two a gallon.

As per Hyundai’s <ital>modus operandi<.ital>, even the GLS is extensively equipped, with such standard features as windshield wiper deicers, full power accessories, eight-way power driver’s seat, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics. 

Folks shopping three-row crossovers generally have well-defined needs: a roomy cabin, available all-wheel-drive and enough power to tow a boat or trailer. 

This year’s upgrade list may be short but, for Santa Fe, the bar is hit and raised.

Contact Don Adair at

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe LTD AWD
Vehicle base price: $30,150
Trim level base price: $36,000
As tested: $41,695
Options included HID headlights; LED taillights; panoramic sunroof; navigation system with 8-inch touchscreen; 550-watt Infinity audio system; heated/ventilated front seats; heated rear seats; driver-seat memory; heated steering wheel.
Tow rating: 5,000 pounds
EPA rating: 19 combined/17 city/22 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified 

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.