Overview: The current-generation Hyundai Santa Fe crossover debuted for 2013, at which point the model line grew to include the smaller, five-passenger Santa Fe Sport and the larger Santa Fe proper—the model we’re reviewing here—with seating for seven. The larger version is available only with a 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic gearbox, along with either front- or all-wheel drive ($1750). The 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe is a direct competitor to other prominent three-row utes such as the Chevrolet Traverse, the Ford Explorer, the Kia Sorento, and the Honda Pilot, among several others. Sleek yet understated, the Hyundai isn’t as glitzy as the Kia but is more interesting than the dowdy Chevy. As with other Hyundais, standard and optional equipment is extensive for both of the available trims, with base prices for 2015 ranging from $31, 045 for a front-drive GLS to $36, 895 for a Limited AWD like the one we drove. Overall performance and drivability are adequate for this size of vehicle, and while it lacks the stuff-hauling versatility of a minivan, the Santa Fe does have available all-wheel traction and the capability to tow 5000 pounds. With its relatively small engine powering more than two tons of SUV, however, our test truck’s EPA combined rating was only 19 mpg.
What We Don’t Like: Driving pleasure isn’t really in the equation for vehicles like the Santa Fe, save for the relatively entertaining but aging Mazda CX-9, and piloting the Hyundai is a boring experience. Plus, at times it struggles to accelerate without downshifting through multiple gears, which means fuel economy can suffer from all the work the engine has to do. And although the third row is fairly accommodating once you’re back there, climbing over and around the second row is a pain. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that the Santa Fe—and other crossovers of its ilk—trade rugged-ish styling for the greater practicality and interior versatility of something like a minivan.