2024 Hyundai Santa Fe: First Drive Review

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceAll New
It’s a big deal when you introduce a completely redesigned version of one of your most popular models, and that’s exactly what Hyundai has done with the popular Santa Fe. Introduced more than twenty years ago, the Santa Fe is a midsize crossover SUV that slots between the Tucson and Palisade in the Hyundai lineup. With all-new styling, a refreshed interior, and standard three-row seating, the Santa Fe should easily maintain its popularity in this competitive market segment.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceTransformation of the Brand
“The original Santa Fe was our very first SUV in the U.S. more than two decades ago,” said José Muñoz, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor North America. “With the 2024 Santa Fe, we continue our impressive transformation of the Hyundai brand and the broader SUV landscape. Our newest Santa Fe will attract even more customers with its bold, distinctive design identity, spacious interior design, and unique ability to fuse urban customer lifestyles with the natural outside environment.”

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceNew Look
Luckily, the new Santa Fe has its name proudly displayed in large letters across its rear hatch because otherwise, it would be unrecognizable, looking nothing like the previous version. The new look is best described as boxy, but not in a bad way. The Santa Fe has a squared-off front end with a high hood, wide grille, flush LED headlights, signature H-shaped running lights, and a light bar spanning the grille.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRear View
In addition to the prominent naming at the rear, the taillights carry the same H style and the rear hatch is the full width of the vehicle.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceBold Look
The Santa Fe has clean lines with bold fender flares, a nice look with the available 21-inch wheels.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceModel Lineup
The 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe is available in five trims: SE, SEL, XRT, Limited, and Calligraphy. The XRT comes standard with all-wheel drive, while the rest of the lineup has front-wheel drive and the option of adding all-wheel drive. The base-level SE is priced at $35,345, including the $1,395 destination charge. At the other end of the scale, the top-level AWD Calligraphy starts at $49,695.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSanta Fe XRT
Many crossover SUVs have a more rugged trim that looks like it can tackle an off-pavement adventure, but it is often just a styling exercise with no additional capabilities. This was the case with the previous Santa Fe XRT, but the 2024 variant is more than just a pretty face. In addition to its standout styling, the XRT gets higher ground clearance, standard all-wheel drive, and all-terrain tires. With improved engine cooling, the XRT can tow up to 4,500 pounds – 1,000 pounds more than the rest of the lineup.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceInner Space
Hyundai has revamped the interior of the new Santa Fe, giving the SUV a clean, high-tech look. A wide, curved display sits on the dashboard, housing the digital driver display and 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen display. While most physical controls have been eliminated from the cabin, the panel below the screen features buttons and knobs for temperature control, volume and tuning, and shortcuts to the infotainment home screen. Vehicle functions and drive modes are also located here.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceGood Storage
As part of the redesign, the gear selector has been moved to the steering column, freeing up space in the center console for additional storage. A large space below the console offers room for a large bag or purse, while dual cupholders and available dual wireless phone chargers are easily accessed.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceKeep it Clean
A unique feature of the updated Santa Fe is the available second compartment above the typical glove box. Not only does this space offer additional storage, but it also features a UV-C sterilization system. After about ten minutes, items placed in the compartment will be free of bacteria and viruses. But you’ll still have to clean the fingerprints off the screen.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceDual-Hinged Storage
There’s plenty of storage in the center bin under the armrest, and in the Santa Fe, that space is accessible by front and rear-seat passengers. The lid is dual-hinged so that it can open forward or backward.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFront Seats
We spent most of our time in the top-level Santa Fe Calligraphy and found the Nappa leather-trimmed seats quite comfortable, with good support and thick padding. Multiple adjustments make it easy to get the seat in the correct position. The driver’s seat also features a power leg rest that extends up, making it a very comfortable place to lounge. Keep in mind that the leg rest is only available when the vehicle is parked.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceSecond Row
A three-passenger bench seat is standard in all trims except the Calligraphy, which has dual captain’s chairs. There’s plenty of legroom and headroom, and rear seat heaters are available for added comfort. Dual USB ports keep devices charged for rear seat passengers.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaThird Row
Hyundai has brought back the third-row seat for the Santa Fe, and it is standard on all trim levels. While the seat is a bit tight for adults, it does provide more legroom than most other three-row SUVs in this size class. Additional USB ports, ventilation controls, and cupholders take the sting out of being relegated to the back of the bus.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceCargo Space
With its square design, the updated Santa Fe gets added cargo space vs. the outgoing version. The larger rear hatch provides a wide opening for easy loading and unloading, and with all seats in place, there’s a usable 14.6 cubic feet of storage.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceMore Room
The third row folds quickly and easily, increasing the space to over 40 cubic feet. With both rows flat, there’s almost 80 cu-ft of space – plenty of room for that trip to the home store.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaUnder the Hood
The standard engine for all 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe trims is a 2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine delivering 277 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque, teamed with an 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Hyundai also offers a hybrid powertrain on the SEL, Limited, and Calligraphy. A 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is teamed with an electric motor, putting out 231 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid gets a 6-speed automatic transmission. The H-TRAC all-wheel drive system is available with either engine option.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceFuel Economy
According to the EPA, the 2024 Hyundai Santa Fe is rated at 20 mpg city / 29 mpg hwy / 24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive models drop to 23 mpg combined, while the off-road-ready XRT returns a 19 / 26 / 22 rating, respectively. During my drive in the AWD Calligraphy, the trip computer indicated 23 mpg, matching the EPA combined rating exactly. The EPA has not yet released ratings for the hybrid powertrain.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
Hyundai invited us to Nashville, Tennessee, to spend time behind the wheel of the 2024 Santa Fe. Our test vehicle was a Calligraphy AWD with the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine. Power is more than adequate to get this SUV moving quickly with satisfying throttle response, and it easily gets up to highway speed after pulling into traffic. Passing slower vehicles on a two-lane road is no problem, and the 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox delivers quick, smooth shifts.

© Hyundai Motor AmericaGood Handling
The Santa Fe handles well for a three-row SUV – it’s not a sports car (nor is it trying to be), but the steering response is good, and it delivered a confident ride when tackling the backroads outside of Franklin, TN. There’s a bit of road noise at higher speeds, but it’s not enough to cause an issue. The high-end Bose audio system easily conceals any noise infiltrating the cabin.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceOff-Road
Hyundai provided us with the opportunity to take the new Santa Fe XRT off-roading at Bell’s Reserve just west of Nashville, TN. While the Santa Fe isn’t going to climb rocks like a Jeep Wrangler, it is certainly up to tackling a rough forest road, and the ride remains smooth and confident even on the loose surface. More impressive was how well the Hyundai climbed a steep track covered in dirt and loose rocks without any problem. The Santa Fe also has hill descent control, which did a fine job keeping the vehicle at a steady pace down a slippery slope without needing to apply the brakes.

© Perry Stern, Automotive Content ExperienceRating: 9.0
Hyundai took a big chance with Santa Fe’s significant design change for the 2024 model year, but we like the look and expect consumers will embrace the new style. Besides its new look, the Santa Fe offers up a roomy, comfortable interior, an array of high-tech features, the latest advanced driver assist systems, and a solid turbocharged powertrain. For shoppers looking for a three-row SUV but don’t want anything too large, the Santa Fe may be the ideal solution, and is certainly worth a look.

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