$18,128 - $31,695

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 8.0

If you’re looking for an SUV with a little more verve than the typical crossover, the 3-row 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and 2-row Santa Fe Sport might be just the ticket, especially if you equip the Sport with the turbocharged engine option. Most buyers will want to forgo the base engine option anyway, unless price is their only consideration, as it doesn’t have great power or refinement.

Both crossovers feature crisper handling than the previous generation, though the Sport has a more dynamic persona than the long-wheelbase Santa Fe. Some find the Santa Fe’s ride to be a bit stiff, without the smoothness of others in the class. It’s especially apparent to passengers who have to ride in the back row.

  • "The 3.3-liter V6 powertrain also manages to pick up roughly 1 mpg this year thanks to a little judicious tweaking. … From behind the steering wheel, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe has a composed feel. Solid, predictable handling and precise steering combine to inspire confidence on the road." -- Edmunds
  • "Hyundai's 2017 Santa Fe is comfortable towing up to 5,000 pounds of trailer, boat or anything else you'd like to haul." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

Santa Fe Sport

The smaller Santa Fe Sport comes standard with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder that most observers don’t feel is strong enough for this vehicle, especially when it is loaded with people or gear. A much better choice is the 2.0-liter turbo that generates 240 horsepower and has a wide power band, making it feel strong even when you first start to accelerate.

 There isn’t a significant difference in efficiency between the two power plants, with the 2.4-liter earning EPA fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway. The Turbo scores estimates of 20 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. Santa Fes equipped with either engine lose about 1 mile per gallon when equipped with all-wheel drive.

 Some manufacturers in this segment, notably Nissan with the Murano, have gone to continuously variable transmissions to squeeze additional efficiency from their engines. While that strategy does work, many drivers appreciate the more engaging driving experience offered by a traditional automatic transmission like the six-speed that Hyundai employs in both the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe.

Santa Fe

The 3-row Santa Fe only has one engine offering, but it’s a strong 3.3-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower. Most reviewers find the power to be more than adequate for hauling a full load of passengers and their stuff. Properly equipped, the Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and the crossover is pre-wired for the task. You just need to remove a plug in the rear bumper, install a receiver hitch, and you’re ready to tow. There’s no need to purchase a separate towing package like you have to do on a Honda Pilot.

  • "The standard 3.3-liter V6 provides abundant acceleration without a fuss. This sense of refinement carries over to the six-speed automatic transmission, which provides smooth shifts under a wide variety of conditions." -- Edmunds (Santa Fe)
  • "Equipped with the base 2.4-liter engine, the Santa Fe is the equal of Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, but it is the 240-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged engine option that brings the Santa Fe Sport to life." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • In FWD form, the SUV's 290-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 is very well matched to the 6-speed automatic transmission, with good throttle response, smooth pickup and clean, easy shifts. The AWD Santa Fe, though, could do with some more low-end grunt to get it moving." -- Kelley Blue Book (Santa Fe)

Handling and Braking

The Santa Fe’s sophisticated carlike suspension creates a ride that’s smooth in most conditions but firm enough to be driven more aggressively than many in the class. All-wheel drive models feature an active cornering system that helps the crossover track confidently through curves, even in less than perfect weather.

All Santa Fe models have four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes for excellent stopping power. In an emergency braking situation, the Santa Fe’s brake assist function will sense the urgency of your braking and automatically apply maximum braking power faster than you can depress the pedal.

Both the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport employ electrically assisted power steering systems. For 2017, they’ve upped the computing power in the steering controller for a quicker response with better steering feel for the driver.

  • "Solid, predictable handling and precise steering combine to inspire confidence on the road. The suspension also delivers the comfortable ride quality you'd expect from a car-based crossover." -- Edmunds
  • "While Mazda's CX-9 may have set a new standard for 7-passenger SUV handling, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV isn't far from this benchmark. The Santa Fe offers more horsepower than the Mazda and features Drive Mode Select … The Santa Fe's suspension settings permit confident cornering devoid of excessive sway while simultaneously avoiding too harsh a ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • “A stiff structure and sport-tuned suspension deliver a ride that is firm but not punishing, smooth over most surfaces and quite responsive in the turns." -- Kelley Blue Book (Santa Fe Sport)

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