2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited 2.0T FWD Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Perhaps the best buy in the SUV market
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
This Santa Fe has a sweet spot a mile wide. Because of its midsize dimensions, this American-built (Montgomery, Alabama) SUV combines a spacious interior with a potent drivetrain to move it to the head of its class. What we especially appreciated was the ease of use, in every facet from dash layout, to seatback reconfiguration, to shift operation to abundance of engine power. The $37,500 Santa Fe Limited we tested occupies the top echelon of Hyundai’s model range. About the only feature missing here is all wheel drive, which is optionally available for an extra $1,700.
Five levels of Santa Fe start with the base model SE ($26,125), and continue with the SEL ($27,875). In the Limited range, two engines are available. The first is a normally aspirated 185hp, 2.4 liter inline 4 ($35,875). An extra $1,850 buys you the model we drove, the 235hp turbocharged inline 4. The extra expense for the turbo motor is worth every extra penny you spend because it drops the horsepower to weight ratio of this 3920lb SUV from 21.1lb/hp for the non-turbo to just 16.6lb/hp for the turbo version. We recently tested a mid-size VW Tiguan SUV, identically priced to the Santa Fe Limited, with a power-to-weight ratio of 21lb/hp. The VW driving experience was underwhelming. The turbo Santa Fe is just the opposite. This engine, coupled to a well selected 8-speed Shiftronic automatic makes driving a pleasure because there’s always more than enough punch on tap to facilitate any passing maneuver. Another benefit of the abundant power supply is the Limited’s tow rating of 3500lbs.
The underpinnings of the Limited are well matched to the performance potential of the engine. Standard 19-inch alloy rims shod with Hankook Dynapro HP2 tires (235/55R19) are well calibrated to handle the explosive torque output of this engine, which churns out 260lb.-ft. from just 1400rpm all the way to 3500rpm. The engine comes up on boost with such alacrity that you need to be ready for the onset by having the steering wheel pointed in the right direction. This interplay between power curve and steering finesse makes the turbo Santa Fe unexpectedly entertaining to drive. You can choose several drive mode settings, with Sport being our favorite choice for backroads. However, the alternative settings work very well when a more relaxed gait is called for on the freeway.
But most potential customers for a mid-size SUV will be more attracted to practical and luxury features than sheer performance, and in those departments the Limited version leads the pack. Its most noticeable interior feature is a supersized panoramic roof that opens the inside to the outside like a twist key on a tin of sardines. One touch is all it takes to retract both the interior shade and the roof panel itself in one fell swoop. Likewise, buttoning up the glass top is also accomplished with the push of a single button. No need here to fiddle with a manual interior shade. The rear seats are illuminated by a fixed glass panel that reveals itself when you slide open the front panel and screen.
The 60/40 split rear seat backs drop in an instant to turn the aft area into a sizeable flat load floor which made bicycle loading a pleasurable snap. Such is rarely the case with similar sized SUVs which demand much fiddling frustration to accomplish the same task. With the rear seatbacks dropped, cargo space clocks in at a generous 35.5 cubic feet. If you go the 5-passenger route, you’ll discover that both front and rear occupants have plenty of legroom thanks to the airy 108.9” wheelbase. The dual automatic temperature control is ideally situated for quick action, as is the selection of entertainment or navigation information from the logically arrayed, easy to decipher, 8” touchscreen, which supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay usage.
In the heavily populated SUV market between $35,000 and $40,000, the Hyundai Santa Fe is a leading contender for best buy. In all the departments that count, not least of which is its 5 year/60,000-mile warranty and 5-year Unlimited Mile Roadside Assistance, the Limited version of the Santa Fe deserves your primary purchase consideration. It really is that good.
2020 HYUNDAI SANTA FE LIMITED 2.0T FWD
ENGINE: 2.0 liter inline 4, Gas Direct Injection, Turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 20MPG City/27MPH Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $38,730
HYPES: Delicious Power band, Fully Featured Interior
GRIPES: Slight Torque Steer
STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10