2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Performance


#2 out of 23 in Midsize SUVs

MSRP
$25,900
U.S. News Best Price Program

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 6.9

The 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe is fine for daily commuting, but it won't get your pulse pounding. The base engine is lackluster, though it does deliver good gas mileage. The available turbocharged four-cylinder engine is more energetic, and Santa Fe models with this option still get decent fuel economy. The Santa Fe rides smoothly and handles with composure, but it isn't as dynamic as many vehicles in the class.

  • If there's one main complaint it's that the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine isn't more widely available across the less expensive trim levels. … In general, though, the 2020 Santa Fe should be an appealing, right-sized SUV for many with compelling value and a lengthy warranty." -- Autotrader
  • "The handling is quite responsive; the Santa Fe feels taut and agile, something not often said about SUVs. There's limited body roll when it's pushed through turns, and the steering response is prompt, which gave our drivers confidence. The ride is a touch firm, though it absorbs impacts well and the vehicle remains planted." -- Consumer Reports (2019)

Acceleration and Power

The Santa Fe comes standard with a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, and a 235-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is available. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The base engine is uninspiring. It delivers lackluster acceleration and generally feels weaker than many rival powertrains. The turbo-four is a better choice, though it could be more responsive when you hit the gas pedal. Models with this engine are noticeably quicker, and they have ample power for most driving situations.

According to EPA estimates, the base Santa Fe gets 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Those are some of the best ratings in the midsize SUV class. With the turbocharged engine, ratings drop slightly to 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

  • "All that said, we have doubts that the standard engine will be sufficient. It has less power than compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5 and the Toyota RAV4, but it's bigger and heavier. Most midsize SUV competitors come standard with something similar to the Santa Fe's upgrade." -- Autotrader
  • "We tested the turbo and found its performance to be pleasantly peppy. The torque peak happens all the way down at about 1,400 rpm, which makes the compact SUV feel very responsive off the line and around town." -- CNET (2019)
  • Powertrain performance is something of a mixed bag. We spent the bulk of our drive time with the 2.0T engine, and while it delivers more-than-sufficient power overall … there is a frustratingly lackadaisical response upon initial throttle application. It's especially apparent when pulling away from a stop, but it happens at speed as well — say, when you want to accelerate to pass a vehicle on the highway. This is probably a combination of turbo lag, the 8-speed transmission, and throttle-pedal tuning; the power eventually comes, but it often takes its sweet time. The naturally aspirated 2.4-liter base engine has a more linear feel than the turbo, but its 50-horsepower deficit is apparent. It's fine in around-town driving, but it struggles to provide decent acceleration up steep grades, or for highway passing maneuvers." -- Consumer Guide (2019)

Handling and Braking

The Santa Fe delivers a composed, comfortable driving experience. It has a smooth ride and absorbs most road imperfections with ease. While this Hyundai isn't as athletic as some of its classmates, it remains poised on winding roads and doesn't exhibit much body lean around turns. Front-wheel drive comes standard, and all-wheel drive is available. Some models also come with hill start assist and hill descent control.

  • It's definitely not sporty, but also clearly more competent than before and generally average for the segment. We also appreciate the standard driving modes (Normal, Sport and the aptly named Smart) that ably adjust steering effort, and throttle and transmission responses. Ride quality is good, but there's generally less of a solid, big-SUV feel to it than other midsize models like the Honda Passport or the Ford Edge. It feels more comparable to compact models." -- Autotrader
  • "Aside from the straining 2.4-liter, the Santa Fe was extremely quiet, and its structure felt solid even over miles of washboard dirt roads. Compared with the outgoing model, the suspension has repositioned dampers with revised valving, redesigned bushings, and new knuckles and carriers, and it delivers a composed ride and minimal body roll. The steering is quicker than before and is nicely weighted and confidence-inspiring." -- Car and Driver (2019)
  • Over rain-weakened dirt roads it wouldn't slide until I went full Scandinavian Flick and at the end of the day I was looking at a 300-or-so-foot climb up a deeply rutted and rocky trail. … The Santa Fe climbed, slipped and gripped its way up the slope, only pausing to figure out which wheel needed power. It also has hill descent control, which keeps your speed steady on slick declines, making this more SUV than almost anyone needs." -- Autoweek (2019)
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