$16,607 - $26,756

2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe was new.


Performance: 8.1

You'll probably find that both the two-row 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and three-row Santa Fe are a bit more fun to drive on winding roads than other midsize SUVs. The Santa Fe Sport will also keep you comfortable thanks to its smooth ride over less-than-perfect road surfaces. The three-row Santa Fe, by contrast, won’t. The Santa Fe Sport's base four-cylinder engine is underpowered and it gets unimpressive fuel economy, but the available turbocharged engine provides more power and almost identical fuel economy. The three-row Santa Fe's base V6 engine delivers plenty of power.

  • "Most drivers don't associate crossover SUVs with fun-to-drive characteristics, but the 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe might just change a few minds." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • Despite a ride that isn't as absorbent as some rivals, both Santa Fes are dynamically satisfying overall." -- Consumer Guide (2015)
  • "Overall, the Santa Fe Sport provides composed and responsive -albeit not highly engaging - driving dynamics." -- Left Lane News (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The two-row 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport has a standard 190-horsepower four-cylinder engine that provides decent power even on the highway. But if you frequently load it up with camping gear or family gear, you’ll notice the extra weight slowing you down. So if you’re hauling people and equipment regularly for day trips, consider opting for the 265-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder. You’ll get more power, and you won’t pay a heavy penalty at the gas station, as both engines get about the same fuel economy: 20/27 mpg city/highway for the Sport, and 19/27 for the three-row Santa Fe. But be aware that both ratings are low for the class.

The three-row Santa Fe is only available with one engine: a 290-horsepower V6. Luckily, it delivers lively acceleration that should make passing maneuvers a breeze. It gets 18/25 mpg city/highway, which is decent for the class, though some rivals, including the Honda Pilot, are just as powerful and more fuel efficient.

See a full list of specs »

  • "By far the most striking thing about driving the Hyundai Santa Fe is the brisk acceleration provided by the standard V6 and smooth-shifting automatic transmission." -- Edmunds
  • Although the base 2.4-liter engine doesn't provide much thrust, the 265 horsepower from the turbocharged 2.0-liter unit significantly increases both acceleration and passing abilities." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • While the 2.4-liter doesn't feel overwhelmingly fast, it is a decent engine that puts out respectable power -- 15 hp more than last year's model." -- Motor Trend (2013)

Ride, Handling, and Braking

The Santa Fe Sport has a smooth ride, even if you’re riding over the rough pavement that is common on many secondary roads. However, the larger three-row Santa Fe will jostle you around on these same byways. The problem is especially noticeable in the rear seats. For commuters who routinely face potholes and similar road damage, you may want to consider the Honda Pilot and its smoother ride.

The Santa Fe's brakes, however, are quite smooth, so your passengers won't feel too unsettled as you brake in stop-and-go traffic. Both Santa Fe models offer fairly composed handling for SUVs, which should give you confidence if your journey includes twisting roads.

Like most SUVs in this class, both the two-row Santa Fe Sport and three-row Santa Fe come standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional. Whether you have to contend with places where rain-slicked roads are common or wintry roads a fact of life, you’ll discover that all-wheel drive provides more traction. However, the all-wheel-drive model has slightly lower fuel economy than the front-wheel-drive model (about 1 to 2 mpg lower), and it costs more, so you'll have to weigh the pros with the cons to see what's best for you.

  • "The Santa Fe's stiff structure allows Hyundai engineers to tune a suspension that is both capable in tight corners yet compliant over rough pavement." -- Kelley Blue Book (Sport)
  • "The 3-row Santa Fe rides firmly and can get a bit harsh on rough roads, particularly in the rear suspension." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "Handling is fine for the class and Santa Fe Sport is responsive enough to inspire confidence. Braking is smooth with an easy-to-modulate pedal." -- Consumer Guide (2013)

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