2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 27, 2019

Buying tip

A fully-loaded Santa Fe Limited is a convincing near-luxury vehicle for less than $40,000.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe is a sure bet for safety, space, and swiftness.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe has finally found its niche. It floated between the compact and mid-size crossover SUV niche for years. With the latest Santa Fe, Hyundai has put the 2020 Santa Fe squarely in the mid-size category, as it makes way for its three-row Palisade and its smaller Tucson. 

The 2020 Santa Fe has admirable fit and finish in top versions, competitive performance and styling, and excellent safety ratings. All come without sacrificing its trademark value. We give it a 6.7 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2020 Santa Fe carries over with minimal package and option shuffling, but strangely, some desirable active safety features like rear cross-traffic alert and automatic rear braking are no longer standard; now they’re limited to the SEL trim and above.

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Compared to the outgoing model (the long-wheelbase version of which is still around as the Santa Fe XL), the new Santa Fe is sharper and more upscale. Borrowing the two-tiered headlight system from the rest of the lineup, it’s altogether more boxy, more upright, and tougher-looking than its predecessor. The interior is high-quality as they come, with contrasting stitching, handy storage cubbies, and fine materials.

A 2.4-liter inline-4 comes standard, and adequately motivates the nearly 3,600-pound Santa Fe with 185 horsepower, but the optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 is much better suited to the task. An 8-speed automatic transmission provides smooth (if slow) shifts, and optional all-wheel drive can be had for $1,700 while front-wheel drive is standard.

Thanks to a three-inch-longer wheelbase than the old five-passenger model, the Santa Fe fits all occupants comfortably with plenty of cargo space behind the rear seats and storage cubbies throughout.

Hyundai’s trademark value is present here too, with 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and automatic emergency braking all standard for around $25,000 on the base SE model.

The latest Santa Fe received a five-star crash test rating from the federal government last year, as well as a Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Styling

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe sports sharp sheet metal and a logical, high-quality cabin design.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe no longer looks like an also-ran, with a distinctive style that’s undeniably handsome. We give it 7 out of 10 for its sharp sheet metal and pleasant interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

A two-tier headlight system, taller proportions with a boxier roofline, and sharp detailing make the Santa Fe an attractive crossover. The trademark Hyundai grille looks better on its more upright front end, and even base models look the part with 17-inch alloys and as much chrome and plastic body cladding as top-tier examples. 

The interior is high-quality and comparatively curvy, with a broad dashboard that wraps around both the driver and passenger separately. A 7.0-inch infotainment screen (8.0-inch on higher-priced models) is standard and sits front-and-center, while climate controls are easy to access and clear to read.

Cloth upholstery is standard, and leather is optional but both the fabric and hides feel somewhat thin and flimsy.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Performance

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe handles predictably and rides smoothly; its base engine is just adequate.

The base 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe has an uninspiring powertrain, while its turbo-4 does a better job of generating enthusiasm. It’s also blessed with a pliant ride, no matter which model’s chosen. Based on the more popular versions with the lower-output engine, we give it 6 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Santa Fe comes standard with a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 185 horsepower. While it’s certainly not fast, this humble engine is adequate to get the Santa Fe moving. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 is available and makes 50 additional ponies for a total of 235 hp and is far superior to the base engine. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional on every trim level. An 8-speed automatic is the only gearbox option; it shifts with leisurely responses, even when it’s toggled into a more sporty mode. 

The Santa Fe delights in ride quality however, with an optional self-leveling rear air suspension for calm rides and more confident towing ability. Handling is well-managed if unexciting, and the steering is light for everyday use.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe can seat up to five adults in comfort, and surrounds them with plenty of cargo space.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe gained a few inches in length with its redesign last year, and the results are worth celebrating. We give it 8 out of 10 in this category as it easily seats five adults, and has the cargo space to double as an MPV when needed. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

In the last generation, the Santa Fe came in both short-wheelbase, 5-passenger “Sport” and 7-passenger standard form. The former is gone while the latter has been replaced by the new 2020 Palisade. The Santa Fe now is 5-passenger only. Got it? Good.

Thankfully, an additional 2.8 inches of length and 2.6 inches between the axles makes for plenty more passenger and cargo space, with over 40 inches of leg room for rear occupants.

The front seats are comfortable – even if the material feels a bit thin – and cushioning is ample. Hyundai offers a power liftgate, and with 36 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the load area is large and easily-accessible. That figure balloons to 71 cubes with the rear seats folded flat, and with plenty of storage cubbies throughout, the Santa Fe is plenty practical for families.

Material quality is generally top-notch across the range, including contrasting stitching, high-quality trim pieces, and good build quality, though some cut-rate materials are present.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Safety

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe earns excellent crash-test scores, but loses some formerly-standard active safety features this year.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe gets good crash test scores and includes automatic braking as standard. Unfortunately, while Hyundai has added optional safety features for this year, it’s taken away a few that were standard on the 2019 model. We rate it 8 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Last year, the Santa Fe was an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award winner, and the 2020 model receives five stars overall from the federal government. Automatic emergency braking is standard, and Hyundai has added blind-spot monitors on Limited models, as well as rear occupant alert for the base SE and SEL models.

However, in a curious move, the Santa Fe no longer comes standard with the blind-spot collision avoidance and rear cross-traffic alert and automatic braking systems, as those features are moved to the SEL trim and above—likely to save money. It’s a step backward, but doesn’t affect its strong crash-test ratings.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Features

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe comes well-equipped, and loads up its options list into near-luxury territory.

As is trademark Hyundai style, the 2020 Santa Fe is well-equipped as standard and even near-luxury at the top of the range. It scores 9 out of 10 here, with extra points for standard features, value, excellent warranty coverage, and good infotainment. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the Santa Fe loses the top-tier Ultimate trim and SEL Plus trim; Limited models gain options and packages to make up the difference. The trims now stand at SE, SEL, and Limited, with the latter offering Convenience and Premium packages.

The Santa Fe SE comes with cloth upholstery, 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and automatic emergency braking, though not a few other active features as we mentioned in the section above. Also standard is Hyundai’s excellent 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, still an advantage over the competition.

The top-tier Limited trim includes leather upholstery, premium audio, keyless ignition, heated front seats, and dual-zone climate control. The Ultimate model is gone, but in its place are the Convenience and Premium packages, which add back features like an 8.0-inch touchscreen, premium audio, heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, a surround-view camera system, heated steering wheel, wireless cellphone charger, a head-up display, and automatic wipers. At nearly $40,000 fully-loaded, it’s not cheap, but the Santa Fe is a convincing near-luxury SUV for less than competitors.

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2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe is reasonably fuel-efficient for a mid-size SUV.

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe manages average fuel economy for a mid-size SUV. We give it 4 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Base, 2.4-liter Santa Fe models manage 22 city, 29 highway, and 25 combined mpg while all-wheel drive comes with a slight penalty, resulting in 21/27/24 mpg.

The turbocharged 2.0-liter model makes 20 city, 27 highway, and 23 combined mpg. The all-wheel-drive version manages 20/26/22 mpg, but does include 50 more horsepower over the base model.

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7.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 9
Fuel Economy 4
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