Full-size SUVs and crossovers are hardly vehicles for typical enthusiasts to get excited about. Their three rows of seating and (typically) all-wheel-drive makes these vehicles excellent choices for family hauling, but they aren’t exactly weekend toys. Although we do try to focus on cars that our specific enthusiast readership likes, we often pick the best of the best in family motoring to write about. This 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe XL is no exception – the 2013 model won the Best Family Vehicle category in our Annual Awards last year. I decided to revisit the 2014 to see if anything that we’ve driven since holds a candle to it.
The Santa Fe XL is our pick as a family hauler for a few reasons, the first and foremost being value. This loaded-up Limited trim with the Saddle Leather package comes in at just under $44,000. This puts it about $5,000 beneath the Honda Odyssey Touring, another excellent family choice. Also, it’s almost as versatile as a minivan without the stigma of having rear sliding doors. Also, I personally love the way the Santa Fe XL looks. Vehicles targeted towards family versatility often forget that aesthetics are usually somewhat of a priority for buyers. The Santa Fe’s face and profile also help reiterate the fact that Hyundai has come a long way from the “cheap Korean car” stigma they were formerly known for.
While its smaller two-row sibling, the Santa Fe Sport is powered by either a 2.4L 4-cylinder or a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, this XL soldiers on with the 3.3L GDI V6. It may not be turbocharged or packed with horsepower, but it gets the job done quite nicely. It puts out 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. This proven engine combined with the 6-speed automatic means Santa Fe XL carries its own weight unnoticeably. In fact, it feels very light on its feet for a large SUV. The ride is very comfortable, and even on some uneven pavement, I heard no complaints from rear seat passengers. All-wheel-drive helps make the XL an excellent choice year round, even with the brutal winters we see here in Toronto.
Being a relatively young bachelor, I don’t usually have the opportunity to make the most of large passenger vehicles. I don’t have children to strap to pesky car seats or strollers to stuff into small trunk areas. However, during my week with the Hyundai Santa Fe XL, I was fortunate to have a family wedding to attend to. Typical South Asian wedding itineraries span as far as 4 days, all involving lots of family, friends, and food, so I had a packed long weekend. This also meant I had to shuttle family members and friends around quite a bit, which allowed me to make great use of the Santa Fe. I received more than one compliment on the saddle leather on my test vehicle, and one family friend asked if this was the new Lexus SUV. This only speaks to how far Hyundai‘s interior quality has come.
The Limited trim loads the Santa Fe XL up to the gills – everything is on board from leather interior, a power panoramic sunroof, navigation with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, a power rear liftgate, a decklid-mounted spoiler, automatic dual-zone climate control, front and rear heated seats, front cooled seats, and lots more. I also got multiple compliments about the huge sunroof and how nice it was to be able to see the beautiful night sky from the rear seats. The Hyundai infotainment systems is one of the easier ones to use, and made browsing iPod tracks as well as Bluetooth streaming audio very simple. Navigation controls are straightforward, and destination entry is easy as can be.
I didn’t find much not to like about the Santa Fe XL. A huge issue I previously had with older models was that my iPod would only be compatible with the stereo if I connected it via the proprietary Hyundai iPod cable. This is no longer the case; a standard Apple-branded USB cable works just fine. With regards to the styling of the rear end of the XL model, I feel that it could be a bit sharper looking. The rear end of this extended wheelbase version seems like a bit of an afterthought and a bit bland – the shorter Santa Fe Sport looks much more “finished”. Regardless, I still consider the Santa Fe XL to be one of the best looking vehicles in its class.
We’ve driven a couple of family vehicles over the past little while, and some, such as this 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe XL, have had that premium twist without the luxury nameplate. If I had to pick a family SUV and lacked the budget to buy something in the sub-$50,000 price range, the Santa Fe XL would be at the top of my list. It only goes to show that you don’t need to spend $65-70,000 to have a family car that feels upscale. This Santa Fe does a great job of making you feel like you spent Lexus RX or Acura MDX-levels of money without actually having done so.
2014 Hyundai Santa Fe XL Gallery