Road Test: 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Among midsize SUVs, the Hyundai Santa Fe stands tall. No, it doesn’t sit higher than the competition, rather it possesses certain attributes its competitors don’t offer, namely superior bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe.

In a crowded field, offering 5-year, 60,000-mile standard and 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranties might be considered the tiebreaker when comparing like vehicles. Throw in a 7-year, unlimited miles anti-peroration warranty and you have one more compelling reason to consider a Hyundai Santa Fe.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai offers its midsize model in two similar, but different arrangements. The five-passenger Santa Fe Sport is one model and was reviewed separately here. The three-row Santa Fe is the larger of the two, offering nearly four extra inches between the wheels as well as a two-passenger, third-row seat. The Santa Fe Sport seats five, the Santa Fe has room for up to seven — beyond powertrain choices and trims, there isn’t much else separating these two models.

Hyundai offers the 2017 Santa Fe in four trims: SE ($30,800), Limited ($34,950), SE Ultimate ($38,700), and Limited Ultimate ($39,400). The SE models offer seating for seven, the Limited holds six as the middle row bench seat is replaced with a pair of captain’s chairs.

All four trims supply standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. One powertrain combination is offered: a 3.3-liter, V6 engine making 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway for FWD and 17/23 for AWD. All models take regular gasoline and have a 5,000-pound towing capacity.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Premium Expression: Fluidic Sculpture 2.0

From stem to stern, there is something familiar, but different with the 2017 Santa Fe. The familiar is its size, a model that has a footprint corresponding to such competitors as the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Buick Enclave, Toyota Highlander, Dodge Durango, and the Honda Pilot, just to name a few.

The different becomes apparent in its presentation as the Santa Fe advances Hyundai’s design philosophy, currently known as Fluidic Sculpture 2.0. Hyundai likes to describe the design as “sculpture in motion,” underscoring product harmony with nature. Filled with curves and not right angles, each model is the antithesis of an earlier boxy design that once defined passenger vehicles, including some Hyundai products.

Across the exterior, the Santa Fe advances that look with an oversized trapezoidal grille pressed in by sleek headlamp assemblies and lower embrasures housing the fog lights. This SUV’s profile is marked by a rising belt line, a sweeping roofline along with distinctive character lines and body sculpting. Beautifully designed wheels add flair to the presentation.

From the rear, Hyundai has taken what is typically ordinary and made it extraordinary — the curved lift gate rear window is accented by a spoiler. Distinct wraparound combination lamps, reflectors, and dual exhaust ports supply a look that is at once sporty and elegant.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Room for Seven

Inside, the same flowing lines are evident everywhere: across the dashboard, down the center stack, and on the doors. As dramatic as the look is, it isn’t busy nor is it overwhelming. The layout is comfortable, even inviting — all controls are sensibly placed.

Standard 2-3-2 seating provides room for up to seven. Comfortable and supportive bucket seats in the first row give way to a 40-20-40 split folding bench seat in the second row. The third row has a 50-50 bench seat — it can hold a pair of adults in a pinch, but is best suited for young teens. Otherwise, keep the seat folded and you’ll have 40.9 cubic feet of cargo volume instead of the very limited 13.5 cubic feet. Drop the second and third-row seats and you’ll find 80 cubic feet behind the first row.

In the 2017 Santa Fe, Hyundai offers a long list of standard equipment, although the base SE trim lacks a few niceties such as side mirror turn signal indicators, LED fog lights and tail lights, a proximity key with push-button start, and a hands-free smart liftgate. The latter feature is a treat — simply hold the key fob somewhere on your person as you approach the lift gate from the rear and you’ll hear a succession of beeps before the lift gate automatically rises. No need to use your hands or to swish your foot underneath the rear bumper as the back door rises without personal intervention. This is an outstanding feature and not something other automakers offer without some drama, namely requiring you to kick your foot and possibly lose your balance.

All models offer roof rack side rails and provide cross rails as an accessory upgrade. You may also find alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, side-mirror turn signal indicators, LED lights, and keyless entry with push-button start.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

Standard and Available Equipment

This model comes with power accessories, a tilt and telescopic steering column, Bluetooth connectivity, four 12-volt outlets, USB and auxiliary audio ports, a six-speaker audio system, climate control, a power driver’s seat, and cloth seats. Upgrades include premium door sills, leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, manual rear side window sunshades, and an Infinity premium audio system.

As for technology, the two top trims offer a navigation system with an eight-inch touchscreen. The system now offers both Android Auto and Apple Car Play support, making it easier for you to listen to and dictate messages. Where navigation isn’t present a seven-inch screen is and comes in larger than the one offered last year.

On the safety front, the Hyundai Santa Fe earns a top grade. Well, at least with the 2016 model as the unchanged 2017 hasn’t been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) yet.

The IIHS gives this model a Top Safety Pick+ rating, its highest honor, in recognition both for its top crashworthiness rating and available advanced driver-assist safety equipment. All models are equipped with a rearview monitor.

Available safety equipment includes rear parking sensors, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking with passenger detection, high beam assist, and dynamic bending lights. A number of these features are available only on the two top trims and as part of a $2,100 technology package.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

On the Road…Again

Take the 2017 Santa Fe on the road and you’ll find an engine entirely suited to handle the job. It comes in slightly more power dense than most competing models and does so without forced induction. This means you’ll always find sufficient power at the ready from a cold stop up to highway speed and beyond.

The ride remains comfortable throughout with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar up front and a multi-link suspension with a stabilizer bar in the rear. Its unibody construction leads to a rigid frame — this SUV drives like a car and does a very good job of remaining planted even when cornering. Certainly, consider all-wheel drive for improved control, especially if you regularly drive on wet roads or live in a snowy climate. Braking is firm and certain to the touch.

Final Thoughts

All in all, the 2017 Santa Fe is a compelling product as it provides a rich blend of utility, premium features, technology, and safety equipment. Expect to pay just above $40,000 for a fully equipped model with the top safety features included.

Keep an eye out for current incentives and be ready to negotiate as you should find further savings on this premium, midsize SUV.

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe


Further Reading

Driven: Next-Generation 2017 Nissan Armada

Crossing Over With the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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