Thanks to a lineup rich in affordable sedans, Hyundai survived the Great Recession in fine shape.
But when the Recession ended, buyers switched their loyalties en masse to crossovers. Overnight, Hyundai’s sedan-centric strategy lost its steam.
As it has proven over the years, Hyundai is resilient and quick on its feet. Since the Recession, it has restructured its fleet to include more crossovers. And it has invested heavily in its existing CUVs.
Last year, for example, the midsize, five-passenger Santa Fe ($26,995) was fully made-over. Previously a three-row rig, it dropped its third row in favor of more room for fewer people and a larger cargo hold.
The Santa Fe slots in the Hyundai lineup between the compact Tucson ($23,085) and a pair of three-row crossovers, The Santa Fe XL ($30,950) and the new-for-2018 Palisade ($31,775).
The Santa Fe excels in no one category — it’s not the fastest, the most frugal or most engaging midsize CUV — but it offers abundant value. Besides its extensive standard-features list, the Santa Fe showcases breakthrough technology.
A driver-attention warning system alerts and attempts to engage a drowsy or distracted driver. And a safe-exit function prevents rear-seat passengers from stepping out of the car if a vehicle is approaching from the rear.
Every Santa Fe is equipped with forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automated emergency braking; adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology; lane-departure warning; and lane-keeping assist.
All but the base SE trim come standard with blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors.
Firm and composed
Santa Fe’s cabin is quiet and well-equipped. The seats are comfortable and even rear-seat passengers enjoy abundant legroom and headroom. Its ride is firm and composed, body lean is well-controlled and the Santa Fe corners confidently.
The Santa Fe is agile in traffic and handles curves without excessive body lean.
Suspension settings are tuned for ride comfort, though 2.0T models have 19-inch wheels that tend to react with a jolt to large potholes and railroad crossings.
Inside, soft-touch surfaces and brushed-metal trim lend the cabin an upscale feel; our top-of-the-line Limited tester was finished in a handsome two-tone leather color scheme. Materials quality and fit-and-finish are very good.
The dashboard layout is busy, but all functions are ergonomically sound and the infotainment touchscreen is mounted on top of the dash, where it can be quickly scanned. An available heads-up display projects a host of useful information on the windshield ahead of the driver. Bright and colorful, it doesn’t wash out in sunlight like other, often more expensive, examples.
A pair of powertrains
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard and Qi wireless cellphone charging is available. Lower trims get a 7-inch touchscreen; models equipped with Hyundai’s AVN 5.0 navigation system get an 8-incher.
AVN’s menus are straightforward and key functions are easily accessed. Managing some operations — like choosing a radio station preset — can be difficult when the car is moving.
Large tuning and volume knobs flank the touchscreen.
Santa Fe is available with a pair of four-cylinder engines: The base 2.4-liter engine (185 horsepower, 178 lb-ft of torque), and an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (235 hp, 260 lb-ft).
The 2.0T is available for a $6,850 up-charge on all trims but the base SE.
Both engines are paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard, AWD is available.
Our Limited-trim tester was equipped with the 2.4-liter engine, which delivered its power smoothly and in sufficient amounts for trouble-free freeway merging. The turbocharged engine is more potent, but is pricey and is said to deliver its power unevenly, in surges.
The 2.0T powers the Santa Fe from 0-60 in 7.8 seconds and is rated to tow up to 3,500 lb. The naturally aspirated four needs 8.6 seconds and is tow-rated to 2,000 lb.
Steering is well-weighted and modestly responsive. A good on-center groove produces true straight-line tracking at highway speeds.
A solid crossover that does nearly everything well, Hyundai’s Santa Fe stands ready to meet the needs of American consumers.
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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.4 AWD
Vehicle base price: $26,995
Trim level base price: $37,350
As tested: $38,580 (includes destination and handling
Options: carpeted floor mats
Tow rating: 2,000/3,500 lb
EPA rating: 24 combined/21 city/27 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified