There are a lot of three-row crossovers on the market to choose from, with the segment having largely replaced the minivan as the preferred family option found in suburban garages across North America. Among the plethora of choices, the Santa Fe is neither attention-getting nor is it exciting. It is, however, highly competent.
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is no show-stopper in its looks department, but it's not ugly either. Instead, the Santa Fe falls somewhere in the middle with contemporary good looks that will offend no one. The current-generation of Hyundai crossover-SUVs carry a good overall look that emphasizes utility over sport, while not ignoring the sporty end altogether.
Most of the action in a three-row SUV is with interior design, and the exterior's non-offensive demeanor continues inside the 2018 Santa Fe. The vehicle is decidedly short on bling factor, with very little that grabs attention or elicits an "oooh" or "ahhh." Everything is, instead, well-made and competent. This could win over some buyers who aren't as interested in the showroom sparkle, but probably not as many as Hyundai would hope.
Where the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe shines is in its everyday goodness. Nothing about it jumps out, but nothing seems seriously amiss either. We found the three rows inside to be very useful for a family of five that occasionally adds a grandma to make six. When three of the five are children, a three-rower like the Santa Fe makes a lot of sense. When it's designed to be ergonomic for those five or more passengers, it's even better.
The third row is accessible either by tilting forward the middle row bench or by moving between the captain's chairs that are optional in some trims. The third row is definitely only for kids, but most who are looking in this category probably aren't planning it as an airport shuttle. This soccer dad found getting kids in and out to be easy thanks to the way the Hyundai Santa Fe is designed. Other three-rowers offer similar ergonomics, but the Santa Fe is definitely as good at this as is any other option you might name.
The driver and front passenger have good seats that are both solid and comfortable. The second row is similar, especially with the optional captain's chairs in place. The added adjustment options these add makes that second row a near-limousine experience for those seated there. Especially given that headroom in the middle row is almost the same as that in the front seats, at almost 40 in (101.5 cm). Legroom is similarly equitable at just about an inch less for that second row than what's enjoyed by the front passenger. Our chief complaint towards the rear would be the second doors not opening to a full 90-degrees, which can make getting in and out a little more difficult when child safety seats or large objects are involved.
Speaking of large objects, the 2018 Santa Fe is well-suited to cargo hauling duties as well. A nice-sized 80 cu.ft (2,265 L) of cargo space is available when the second and third rows are folded. That moves to 40.9 and 13.5 cu.ft (1,158 and 382 L), respectively, when the second row and third row are in use. The large rear hatch and flat-folding seating make this a useful space for objects large and small. Towing in the Santa Fe is rated at up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), if so equipped.
Powering the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is a 3.3-liter aluminum V6 that outputs 290 hp (216 kW) and 252 lb-ft (342 Nm) of torque. This runs through a six-speed automatic transmission that powers the front wheels, with all-wheel drive available as an optional upgrade. The V6's power delivery is good, with an even push through most of the transmission's gears. The transmission's downshifts to add umph during a pass are sometimes hesitant, but trend towards the sporty side; especially in the lower gears.
The chassis is well-matched to that middle-road sporty feel the engine and transmission give, but steering is not as tight as some might want, with a full three revolutions being required to go from full lock to full lock. The Santa Fe is just over 193 in (490 cm) in total length and has a wheelbase of just 110 inches (279 cm), giving significant overhang. Its turning circle is about two-and-a-half times its length. That's tight for the vehicle's size, perhaps, but rivals like the Mazda CX-9 and Kia Sorento are a bit tighter with a better steering feel in general.
On the road, though, we found that the 2018 Santa Fe is a solid, competent drive with a goodly amount of appeal. It may not be fun, per se, but it's comfortable and well-mannered. Any parent will attest to kid-friendly ergonomics for seating and entry/egress to be a huge stress reliever when it comes to trips both short and long. Fuel economy is EPA-rated at 21 mpg (11.2 L/100km) combined in front-wheel drive and 20 mpg (11.8 L/100km) combined in AWD. Our real-world use of the Santa Fe in varied driving conditions saw numbers similar to that, averaging about 19 mpg (12.4 L/100km) combined with our AWD-equipped model at high altitude.
But rather than fuel economy, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is focused on reliability, safety, and comfort – all things family buyers are more likely to consider important. On those fronts, the Santa Fe delivers handily with some of the best safety scores available from both of the bodies that rate safety in the United States. Hyundai's 10-year powertrain warranty also goes a long way towards assuaging any reliability concerns.
Our ultimate finding is that, all round, the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe delivers in every way important to three-row crossover buyers shopping based on pricing and family needs. It's middle of the road in every way and that, despite our magazine-cover desires for muscle cars and huge trucks, will sell more vehicles to families than anything else.
The base model 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe starts at US$29,850. Our test model was a Limited Ultimate trim with nearly all options at $44,500, delivered.
Product Page: 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe
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