Automotive manufacturers are embracing electrification in a big way, but the paths taken by them are not identical. Hyundai may have fully electric vehicles in its future, but for now, this automaker is embracing hybrids. For 2021, the midsize Santa Fe crossover utility vehicle gained a standard hybrid option. In 2022, a plug-in hybrid joins the fleet. Both options deliver a combination of added performance and improved efficiency, with the latter supplying 30 miles of all-electric drive.
Hyundai offers the 2022 Santa Fe in five trims, ranging from the SE ($27,200) to the Calligraphy ($40,960). Add $1,700 for available all-wheel drive. The standard hybrid comes in three trims ranging from Blue ($33,750) to Limited ($40,160). As for the plug-in hybrid, it is available in SEL Convenience ($39,350) and Limited ($45,360) trims. Uniquely, the last choice comes with an available $6,587 tax credit. It is not a rebate, but it can lower your tax burden accordingly. Both hybrids come with standard all-wheel drive. Add $1,225 for the destination charge.
For discussion purposes, we are limiting this review to the standard hybrid, our test model.
With the many changes accomplished recently, the Santa Fe may seem like a new model. But it is not. Instead, Hyundai took advantage of the usual mid-product-cycle upgrade to expand its powertrain offerings and make changes inside and out. The result is a more formal, yet sporty look thanks to its updated nose and other exterior tweaks. Some elements of the range-topping Palisade were included, including certain lighting elements, but there are enough distinctions remaining to clearly identify the vehicle as a Santa Fe. LED lighting, alloy wheels, roof rails, and a power liftgate are some of the available features of note.
The Santa Fe’s interior is roomy with ample space for five. Good outward visibility, comfortable seats, and a generous list of standard features make this model a strong competitor in its segment. Both rows offer plentiful head- and legroom. There is also 36.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 71.4 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Under the cargo floor is a compartmentalized storage area, which is ideal for hiding valuables or perhaps holding wet clothes following a splash in the lake.
The list of standard features includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth seats, a power-controlled driver’s seat, and heated front seats. Ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, a power-controlled passenger seat, heated rear outboard seats, and a heated steering wheel are among the available upgrades.
As with most models in this class, soft-touch materials are at eye level with hard plastics underneath. But the look and layout are pleasing, as all cabin controls are sensibly placed and easy to decipher. Little things, such as an available and upright wireless charger save space and are easy to reach. There is no lack of storage compartments throughout the cabin – in the doors, between the seats, and in seatback pockets. An available power sunroof spans the interior and transforms the cabin at a touch of a button. The available rear side window shades ensure privacy.
Tech and Safety
The Santa Fe’s tech features include an 8-inch touchscreen display and a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel. The panel is customizable and supplies clear and crisp readouts. Other standard features include smartphone connectivity. Bluetooth, wireless device charging, and four USB ports are also included. The list of upgrades covers a 12-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system, a 10.25-inch touchscreen display, and navigation.
Nearly every driver-assist safety feature comes with the Santa Fe Hybrid. These include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, and lane control. Adaptive cruise control with full stop and go is standard. Other features include automatic high-beam headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors. Front parking sensors, remote parking assist, a surround-view parking system, and highway driving assist are available.
Hybrid systems are typically geared toward efficiency. This means combining a modest gas engine with one or more electric motors for propulsion. In brief, that combination delivers average power and stellar fuel economy, a trade-off that pleases some.
Hyundai, though, takes a different approach with its gas-electric system. A small 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is utilized, but a turbocharger is included that boosts power when you need it. Electric power is stored in a 1.49-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. As a result, a robust 226 horsepower is on tap. Hyundai utilizes a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission to shuttle power to all four wheels.
The system works well as the transmission taps electric power at low speeds and activates the engine at higher speeds. Under full throttle, the two combine to deliver laudable performance ratings. Even so, the most efficient hybrid earns 36/31/34 mpg city/highway/combined, averaging 7 mpg better than the gas model.
Drivability is good with direct steering, responsive handling, and firm brakes at the ready. The ride is smooth and the cabin is generously shielded from outside noises. Thus, the Santa Fe is a strong competitor in a segment that includes the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Chevrolet Blazer, and the Honda Passport.
Though the standard hybrid is commendable, we believe that the plug-in version is the superior choice thanks to the federal tax credit. You do not have to plug it in to get you where you are going, but that option remains and it is a great way to save on fuel when running errands. Talk with your tax representative to find the best option for you.
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