Craig and Deanne Conover
As it turned out, we had the opportunity to drive the newest version of the Hyundai Santa Fe early in January, as the New Year and holidays had just gotten over.
We needed a boost for the mid-winter blues that so often come with the changing of the year. It is still getting dark early and light late in the morning, it’s cold and there is not much to look forward to until maybe mid-February when Mother Nature could throw us a couple of warm days.
With all of that in mind, we were thrilled to drive one of our favorite new SUVs from 2017 — the Hyundai Santa Fe. The naming convention really says it all, with Hyundai not just content to call its SUV’s top trim the ‘Limited’ trim as others have. Since 2017, it has been known as the ‘Limited Ultimate’ trim.
This is for good reason. As we found out last year, they have left nothing out of this trim level that we could have wanted. After a week of driving, we would have expected to pay way more for the creature comforts that are afforded to the new Santa Fe.
We would have to think that the focus on upgrading the Santa Fe just makes sense, as mid-sized SUVs are the hot item right now in the market. Case in point, would be us — the empty nesters. Yes, we have an SUV along with each of our sons who also have mid-sized SUVs.
Last year with the mid-cycle update, Hyundai said that, all in, there are almost 350 part changes to the Santa Fe, or 25 percent of the total parts in this year’s SUV. Many of these are visual changes, but many are things that to most of us would go unnoticed, except in the case of an accident where these changes would make quite a difference, and Hyundai has really focused on the overall safety of the Santa Fe. The 2018 model year will carry over all of these changes with only a few modifications.
One of the changes is that Hyundai’s Blue Link safety system, which is quite similar to GM’s OnStar system, is now included with Blue Link, Connected Care and Guidance packages for free for three years. A super-cool feature here is that an Amazon Alexa can control your properly equipped Santa Fe out in the driveway. It is as simple as “Hey Alexa, start my Santa Fe and set the temperature to 75 degrees.” What an easy way to get going in the morning.
Standard on the Santa Fe is a blind spot monitoring system, an option that is finding its way into becoming a standard feature on many new vehicles. We have found this to be a great addition and have avoided many a collision or near collision because of this system. Our test ride came with only one upgrade, the addition of the Ultimate Tech Package that included all kinds of safety features, including a smart radar cruise control that would actually stop the vehicle and start it again in stop-and-go traffic.
Also included was automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam, high-intensity headlights with dynamic bending light. The latter being a strange name for lights that turned into the corner as the Santa Fe turned thus appearing to bend around the corner, again an option that we usually see on much higher-end luxury vehicles. All this extra safety was only a $2,100 add-on, and would be worth every penny if it did nothing less than avoid one collision.
We did have the opportunity to load up the Santa Fe with five passengers and take advantage of the third row of seating. It all came about quite by accident as we had taken the train into Salt Lake for a lunch on Saturday as part of a deal we are doing with UTA at the newspaper and trying out different buses, and trains using public transportation. It seems like kind of a strange thing to talk about in an automotive story however.
After traveling by train from Provo to the City Creek Center for lunch, then returning to the train we met one of our neighbor’s daughters with two of her friends who were traveling on the same train with us back to Provo, they had never done it before and were glad we were there to help. When we offered to take them from the train station to home, they were even more ecstatic to get a ride and not to call mom and dad to come get them.
At this point, we were ecstatic that Santa Fe Limited Ultimate came with three rows of seats as the rear two seats are captain’s chairs. We had put the rear seats down because Craig had hauled some large boxes home from the UPS Store the day before, but getting them back up was quick and easy and the girls said the fit was just fine and completely comfortable.
Inside, it comes standard with a 7-inch touchscreen, but in the Limited Ultimate edition that gets an upgrade to an 8-inch screen. Still, the 7-inch is the largest standard in the class. Of course, there were also the many included creature comforts that we would have expected in this elegantly named Hyundai — heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, Bluetooth technology, leather power seats, and captain’s chairs in the rear on the second row. These were a great addition — something we have not seen in this mid-size class as of yet. They did, however, make getting into the third row seat a little easier and if someone were in the center of the third row leg space was enhanced.
The display in the middle of the dash cluster consisted of a color information display that could be changed to meet any driver’s needs or wants during the drive. The gauges were also displayed in what Hyundai called “Electroluminescent,” a big word we came to know as just very good looking gauges, especially at night.
The hands-free smart-lift gate was of course very nice when leaving the grocery store with our hands full of grocery bags. It opens by just sensing the key is in your pocket and you are behind the SUV — no kicking or trying to remember where to place your foot to make the gate come up — which is very cool and easy to use. It worked much better this time. When we had a Tucson last March, it seemed to sometimes come open unexpectedly.
On the powertrain side there is only one option: a 3.3-liter V6 engine that produces a nice 290 horsepower with 252 foot-pounds of torque, which is connected to the drivetrain via a 6-speed automatic transmission. We found this combination to be more than adequate and never felt that we were lacking power, even when accelerating to get into traffic. It handled very well on the freeway, easily keeping up with surrounding traffic. The radar cruise control playing a critical role every time we were on the interstate.
Gas mileage is not a strong point in the Santa Fe, with the EPA estimating 19 combined mpg. We were able to do a little better at 20.4 combined mpg for the week. We have to wonder if maybe adding an 8-speed transmission might help along these lines as we have seen much of the competition change over to more speeds to get better mileage numbers.
If you are looking for a great new SUV, best to check out the new 2018 Santa Fe. And if you want everything possible included go for the Limited Ultimate trim level. See them today at Murdock Hyundai at 452 S. Lindon Park Dr., Lindon, (866) 623-1120.
Base Price: $41,300
Price as Driven: $44,500