Back in 2015, Hyundai Canada sent us their Santa Fe Sport crossover for a long-term evaluation. That vehicle was decked out with all of the available goodies and stickered for just under $40,000, and we were able to determine that the Hyundai is one of the best possible options when shopping in the crossover segment. The thing is, the Santa Fe was last redesigned for the 2013 model year. For 2017, the popular Korean has been given a significant refresh. Spending a week with the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL allowed me to figure out just what it is that buyers like so much about the truck.
Three rows are becoming increasingly important to growing families, as we live in a generation where some people think that having a second child requires the purchase of a monster like the GMC Yukon XL (reviewed here). The Santa Fe comes in two sizes – the five-seater is called the Santa Fe Sport (reviewed here), and the XL tested here is the three-row six-passenger model. It looks very similar to its shorter sibling, but with a bit more substantial profile and a little bit more length (100mm in the wheelbase). The refreshed model gets a new fascia with a new grille, crisper edges and a more aggressive overall stance.
The shorter Santa Fe gets the choice of two powertrains. Base models get a 2.4L naturally aspirated four-cylinder, while upper trims get a punchy turbocharged 2.0L. The XL goes for smoothness and refinement over sheer power, so the 3.3L direct-injected V6 is still the only available choice. The 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque are sent to all four wheels via Hyundai’s sleek six-speed automatic transmission. We would like to see an eight-speed make an appearance – perhaps the excellent unit they use in the Genesis sedan (reviewed here).
Regardless, power delivery for the Santa Fe XL remains smooth and acceleration more than adequate. Throttle response is a bit dull, but the crossover tackles the daily commute with ease, all the while keeping all occupants in decent comfort. The last time I drove a Santa Fe XL I was a bit disappointed with the suspension. Ride quality was less than stellar, and uneven road surfaces resulted in unnecessary choppiness throughout the cabin. Suspension and ride quality have been improved significantly for 2017; the XL trundles along the highway with evenness and, dare I say it, charm.
Hyundai has partnered with Magna Powertrain for the all-wheel-drive system on the Santa Fe XL. This AWD also uses Active Cornering Control, which applies the brakes to the rear inside wheel to maintain stability through turns. The all-wheel-drive system is electro-hydraulic and works perfectly for Canadian buyers. There is a front-drive XL offered, but it’s the absolute base trim and will have a very low take rate in Canada. If anything, I would guesstimate that the vast majority of FWD Santa Fe XLs will be sold to fleets.
Hyundai rates the Santa Fe XL at 12.9L/100km in the city and 9.4L/100km on the highway, for an average of 11.3L/100km. The Drive Mode Select allows conservative drivers to make use of the “Eco” mode, dulling response, short shifting the transmission, and maximizing efficiency. After driving it around for a week, we averaged 11.1L/100km. The Santa Fe takes regular-grade fuel, and on one particularly long highway run I was able to beat the suggested highway efficiency.
Pricing for the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL starts at $31,099, and current incentives in Canada allow base models to be had for as little as $28,667. However, our vehicle was the fully-loaded Limited six-passenger version. Stickering for $44,799, highlight features for this model include a gigantic panoramic sunroof, 19” alloy wheels, a navigation system controlled via an 8” touchscreen, HID headlights, and LED taillights. It also includes leather seats (heated and ventilated for the fronts), a smart power liftgate, and blind spot detection. The car is also equipped with autonomous braking with pedestrian sensing, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Santa Fe XL has some pretty strong competition in this segment, namely the new Honda Pilot (reviewed here). The Toyota Highlander is also a very important player that boasts unmatched quietness and overall refinement superior to the others. The Santa Fe XL has a decent interior, but it hasn’t aged as well as it could have. The fluidic styling on the previous-generation Elantra (new model reviewed here) and Sonata were ditched in favour of more conservative look, and these vehicles had significant interior overhauls as well. The Santa Fe should benefit from this in the coming years, and this should help it get back to the top.
Over the past half-decade or so, Hyundai has excelled at packaging their products nicely. In the case of the new Santa Fe XL, access to the third row has been made very simple by means of quick-folding captain’s chairs in the second row, with a generous pass through area in the center as well. It’s worth noting that with both rear rows of seats folded, there is a cavernous 2,265L cargo capacity. All trim levels of Santa Fe XL also include a factory tow hitch capable of pulling 5,000lb, which means those camping getaways will be effortless.
Right now, the Hyundai presents great value for what it offers – reliable and dependable transportation for the family that isn’t bland to look at and isn’t a minivan. In fact, the sharp exterior styling is what keeps it at the top of my crossover favourites list, but the dated interior puts a bit of a damper on that. Build quality and long-term ownership experiences for recent Santa Fe models have been nothing short of stellar, and this means we can recommend a few more to our crossover-shopping friends.
The 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL offers a great deal of technology, safety features, and unique options (ventilated seats!) that some other vehicles in its segment haven’t made available yet. An interesting adversary for the Santa Fe is its own cousin, the three-row Kia Sorento (reviewed here). The Kia uses the platform as the Hyundai, but uses its own sense of style to develop its own identity. Shopping in this segment is often difficult because of the plethora of good choices, but if style is up there on your priority list along with dependability, you may want to give the refreshed Santa Fe XL a decent test drive and see if it’s the right one for you.