2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD
New Santa Fe a luxury sleigh ride …
Leading up to Christmas I spent a week luxuriating in Santa’s sleigh.
Say what? It was Hyundai’s Santa Fe? Well then, never mind!
Yet then again Hyundai’s mid-size SUV is certainly big enough to haul a lot of goodies to good girls and boys all over southeast Wisconsin. The Santa Fe is a luxurious ute that if it had sliding side doors could pass for a minivan. In the tested Limited Ultimate AWD trim it would haul six adults with its two second-row captain’s seats and twin fold-down third row seats.
If you opt for a bench seat in the second row, Santa Fe will seat seven, which matches most minivans. And the cargo space behind the second row for gear, suitcases and such is sizeable. Even with the third row in place there’s plenty of room for grocery bags and odds and ends.
The AWD makes the Santa Fe a champ in sloppy weather too, giving it even better footing than say a heard of reindeer.
Hyundai revamped this ute for 2017 and drastically improved its looks, moving it away from boxy minivan and old ute styling to a fresher, more muscular stance that gives it a bit of a BMW’s swagger.
Handling is among the best for mid-size crossovers and utes too. Santa Fe feels responsive and corners well with just a slight lean in fast tight turns. Steering feedback is on the heavy side in Normal drive mode, of which there are three, including Eco and Dynamic.
Punch the Drive Mode button for Dynamic and the wheel firms up even more, maybe more than most drivers would want to deal with. But it also allows the 6-speed automatic transmission to hold the lower gears longer in order to boost acceleration. So in this mode the Santa Fe jumps, not up onto house tops, but onto the freeway like an aggressive sport sedan.
Power is good even in Normal mode as the Hyundai packs a 3.3-liter GDi V6 with 290 horsepower. That’s near the top in this segment. Such power comes at a price, fuel economy. I was disappointed at managing just 16.2 mpg in about 80% city driving.
I shouldn’t have been surprised though because in my last Santa Fe drive I got just 19.2 in a mix that was heavier on highway miles and in warm summer driving. The EPA rates this ute at 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.
There was an improvement in ride quality in this model vs. the last one I’d tested. Possible the earlier one was a preproduction model whose suspension hadn’t been fully refined. But this one rode well with smooth comfortable springing that seemed well damped to avoid any harsh thumps on severe bumps. Santa Fe makes for fine family transport.
Of course Hyundai has loaded the Santa Fe up with its full complement of safety devices, many standard, but a Tech package here adds smart cruise control, a lane departure warning system, Automatic Emergency Braking with pedestrian awareness and fancy HID headlights with bending high beams to illuminate around corners. All that adds $2,100. But there’s also a blind-spot warning system, cross-traffic alert, and fancy 360-degree camera system that are standard on the Limited Ultimate.
That multi-view system uses four cameras to show you a birds-eye view of the vehicle and makes parking in tight spots, or exiting them, much easier.
The silvery gray test vehicle came with a handsome gray leather interior with seats featuring a lighter gray stitching and perforated leather seats. The dash was two-tone gray and featured slight wood trim, a new Hyundai feature this year. There’s pewter-look metallic trim around the air vents and elsewhere on the dash, console and doors. The steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope number with the usual selection of buttons on its hub.
Seats are extremely comfortable with moderate hip support and good back support. They’re snug without being tight. The driver’s seat has two memory settings and the front seats also are both heated and cooled. The steering wheel also is heated on the Limited Ultimate, a major plus in winter.
Overhead is a panoramic sunroof that lets in a ton of light, nice on a winter’s eve, or afternoon. Keeping the shade drawn at night though helps keep the ute’s interior a bit warmer. There also are manual sun shades on the second row’s side windows to shield from sun, when needed.
Santa Fe’s interior is quiet too, maybe not up to the standards of say the recently tested Volvo XC60, but then the Santa Fe costs considerably less. It’s quiet enough for having easy conversations, even a highway drive.
Frequent readers may be tired of hearing it, but the Hyundai dash design is top notch. All the buttons and knobs are large enough to see and use and are logically arranged. In addition, Hyundai wisely uses blue lighting for all the controls so they are easy to see at night. I’d encourage all automakers to go this route.
The touchscreen for radio and navigation controls is large without being overwhelming at 8 inches and was easy to figure out and use while driving. Sound quality of the stereo was good too.
In back there’s a power hatch and if you’re in need of towing power for a sleigh full of gifts, the Santa Fe will pull a sturdy 5,000 lbs. and haul up to 80.0 cubic feet of goodies when both rear row seats are down.
Naughty bits? Yes, there’s always something that could be nicer. Here, the giant A-pillar and outside mirror combo creates a large blind spot. Good that there’s that 360-degree camera to help. But still I wish car makers would consider side visibility more when designing the roof’s pillars.
Pricing certainly remains in the mid-range of mid-size utes. A few cost more, a few less. The base Santa Fe SE with front-wheel-drive starts at $31,800, including delivery fees. Adding AWD to it, or any Santa Fe, adds $1,750.
There are four trim levels including Limited, SE Ultimate and the tested Limited Ultimate. The later top-end Santa Fe starts at $42,250, including delivery. This one with the tech package listed at $44,350. This model also comes with roof rails, 19-inch tires and fog lights standard.
Remember too that Hyundai has a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
So for folks wanting ultimate, or darned near, luxury along with room for six or seven passengers the Santa Fe just might be the sleigh you’re looking for.
FAST STATS: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Ultimate AWD
Hits: Good looks, power and handling. Well equipped with heated/cooled front seats, heated steering wheel, giant sunroof, multi-view camera, comfy supportive seats, quiet interior, well designed dash with blue-lit controls, plus power hatch. Can seat 7 and has AWD.
Misses: Steering feels heavy, especially in Sport mode. Giant A-pillar/mirror blind spot, plus poor fuel economy.
Made in: South Korea
Engine: 3.3-liter GDi V6, 290 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/Shiftronic
Weight: 4,169 lbs.
Length: 193.1 in.
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
MPG: 17/21 (EPA)
MPG: 16.2 (tested)
Cargo: 13.5 cu.ft. (40.9 cu.ft. third row seat down, 80.0 cu.ft. rear two rows down)
Tow: 5,000 lbs.
Base Price: $42,250 (includes delivery)
Invoice: $39,732 (includes delivery)
Technology package (smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking w/pedestrian sensing, lane departure warning system, HID dynamic bending high beams), $2,100
Test vehicle: $44,350
Sources: Hyundai, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage